President Trump’s “fire and fury” threats, nor his “historic” summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have made him give up his nuclear arsenal. President-elect Joe Biden is now advised to take a more realistic approach: gun control.
Until now, Trump and his predecessors have insisted on the complete dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. But all the sanctions, rewards and promises of friendship have not prevented the country from now having an estimated 30 nuclear weapons.
Trump’s attempts to entice his ‘friend’ Kim Jong-un to a ‘historic agreement’ have also yielded little concrete, according to Sico van der Meer, nuclear weapons expert at the Clingendael Institute. “On the positive side, North Korea has stopped its nuclear tests and most of its missile tests. But the country continues to develop nuclear weapons and is now even working on submarines capable of launching nuclear missiles. That would make it really invulnerable. ”
In addition, he says, Trump has hoisted Kim Jong-un on the shield by treating him as his equal. “In fact he has recognized North Korea as a nuclear power.” According to Van der Meer, this makes it more difficult to convince the North Korean leader to give up his nuclear arsenal, but that was probably an illusion anyway. Why would Kim Jong-un just give up his life insurance ?, Antony Blinken, Biden’s candidate for the post of Foreign Minister, also wondered two years ago.
Rather than insist on full denuclearization, some experts say Biden should come to terms with the reality – North Korea is a nuclear force – and try to make concrete agreements with North Korea to reduce the risks of a nuclear conflict. “The danger is of course that you will create a precedent with that,” says Van der Meer. “You can give other countries, such as Iran or Saudi Arabia, the idea that it apparently pays to work on nuclear weapons. If you go on with it long enough, despite all the sanctions, you end up in a position that you can blackmail it. ”
“On the other hand, there is little else for it under the current regime in North Korea,” Van der Meer fears. “As long as Kim Jong-un is in the saddle, I don’t see it happening that North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons. Or you should start thinking about overthrowing the regime, but there are also all kinds of snags. ”
The advantage of an approach that is based on the actual situation, according to Van der Meer, is that the US would thus create some peace, so that no accidents can happen. “Then you focus more on managing the risks, so that no core conflict arises due to misunderstandings or the lack of mutual communication.”
As with the arms control agreements with the Soviet Union and Russia, it should then be about mutual inspections and the opening of hotlines, so that both parties are in constant contact with each other and can ascertain each other’s intentions. “I think there is a lot to be gained in that area, as there is unreasonable fear in North Korea of a possible American nuclear attack. That can lead to dangerous misunderstandings. ”
The strategy of ‘Fire and Fury’, with which Trump initially threatened North Korea, was perilous, he said. Van der Meer: “You shouldn’t think that things would accidentally escalate and North Korea would deploy its nuclear weapons. Too much is at stake, we are too late: the reality now is that North Korea has nuclear weapons, so you have to keep those nuclear missiles in their silos. ”
The US could also offer North Korea economic aid in exchange for giving up all details of its nuclear weapons program and ceasing further development of its nuclear arsenal.
Whether Biden will actually opt for such a form of arms control is still unclear, according to Van der Meer. “Strategic patience” was the motto of President Obama and Vice President Biden’s policies toward North Korea. It boiled down to increasing the pressure of international sanctions to such an extent that the North Korean regime would eventually collapse. But that also yielded nothing.
Van der Meer: “I have no idea what Biden’s North Korea policy really entails. He recently had an opinion piece in a South Korean newspaper, but it was hardly about North Korea. He did, however, make it clear that he attaches great value to military cooperation with South Korea, while Trump always talked about the costs of the US force there. But what to do with North Korea, he didn’t really get around to that. ”
In any case, it seems that Biden does not really see North Korea as a top priority, but according to Van der Meer vchange from one day to the next. He does not rule out that Kim Jong-un Biden’s regime will soon treat Biden to a provocation – such as a missile test – to draw attention to itself. “They want to be taken for granted. And the best way to ensure that you are taken seriously is to show that you are a threat. The great frustration of North Korea is that it is actually a poor developing country. But it does have a great weapon it can swing with. ”
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