As the North Korean nuclear threat looms ever larger, it has been suggested that Japan support the US and stabilize the region by obtaining nuclear weapons. But does it make sense for Japan to abandon a long-held pacifist stance and take this dramatic step? GRI asked AEI resident scholar Michael Rubin, diplomacy expert and author of Dancing with the Devil, to weigh in.
North Korea and the United States increasingly seem to be on a collision course. Almost 65 years since both countries signed an armistice pausing (though not technically ending) the Korean War, and more than two decades after both sides reached the Agreed Framework which was meant to resolve concerns over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, tension is again on the rise. In recent months, North Korea has tested ballistic missiles that could potentially hit the United States, and it claims the ability to develop nuclear warheads small enough to fit on them. Every nuclear or missile test, even if failures, brings the hermit kingdom one step closer to the ability to make good on its rhetoric.
President Trump, meanwhile, has approached North Korea with bluster. He signaled both at his UN General Assembly speech and in tweets directed at his own Secretary of State that diplomacy with Pyongyang is a waste of time.
Some former diplomats and prominent officials disagree. State Department veterans Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky took the Washington Post to argue that diplomacy can work with Pyongyang. Former Secretary of State George Schultz, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, headlined former senators and negotiators in a letter likewise seeking more diplomacy.
Diplomacy isn’t working
The problem is, however, that diplomacy with Pyongyang has a poor track-record. North Korea has systematically cheated or shredded every single agreement they have reached with the United States and its regional allies. As I argue in Dancing with the Devil, a history of a half-century of U.S. diplomacy with rogue regimes like North Korea, talking for the sake of talking can have a very high cost, especially when an adversary is insincere from…
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