With all due respect to GEN Wickham the north is not going to be swayed by the Burma model because it has not yet played out and they are convinced that when it does play out the Burmese junta will end up like Qaddafi and Saddam. That said I am all for hard nosed diplomacy and engagement (based on the foundation of a strong ROK/US military alliance) but we absolutely have to be realistic about how north Korea has cheated and broken every previous agreement (and will likely do so again and again). I fear that a peace agreement will be only one sided and as soon as it removes US forces from the Peninsula and South Korea takes the "peace dividend" from military readiness we will see a very bad outcome. If we could reach a realistic peace agreement it would have to include maintenance of the ROK/US military Alliance or we would see an eventual attack on the ROK (and in a seeming paradox, it would be more likely to occur then than it is ever likely to occur without a peace agreement).
Guest Column: Gen. John Wickham: US must engage North Korea in talks with an eye toward a peace treaty
Recent threats by North Korean leaders to attack America with nuclear weapons raise alarm. North Korea, despite impoverishment, can inflict great harm, and persists with hostile actions as well as unnerving rhetoric. Youthful leader Kim Jong Un appears in full control, but evidence suggests the military calls the shots.
We believe North Korea has six nuclear weapons, the makings of several more, plus reproduction potential. Moreover, they have exploded weapons to assure yield and tested missiles that with further engineering could be fitted with nuclear weapons to reach America.
Would they be crazy enough to attack? No, I do not believe they would given risk of major retaliation, but their threats must be taken seriously because they have dangerous weapons and behaved recklessly in the past.
Moreover, North Korean actions have raised prospects for nuclear proliferation. South Korea abandoned development of nuclear weapons when Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger persuaded former President Park Chung-hee in 1974 to accept protection of the U.S. nuclear umbrella. During my tour as commander of all forces in South Korea from 1979 to 1982, I verified that nuclear programs had stopped even though the North Koreans were avidly pursuing them.
A recent poll in South Korea reveals that two-thirds of citizens believe they should acquire nuclear weapons due to ominous behavior of North Korea, and because of political statements by President Obama and officials such as Henry Kissinger, George Shultz and Sam Nunn that call for the United States to pursue a global goal of zero nuclear weapons. Such a policy would take away the U.S. nuclear umbrella. A few legislators in the Japanese parliament have spoken about acquiring nuclear weapons. So unless change occurs in the situation with North Korea, nuclear proliferation could emerge with dangerous implications.
For years we have tried to persuade the North Koreans to abandon their nuclear weapons program. We have urged the Chinese, who retain an alliance with North Korea, to join this persuasive effort. During several trips to China, including one as U.S. Army chief of staff, I was told by political and military leaders that they valued their relationship with North Korea but, frankly, the relationship was difficult and North Koreans did not take kindly to advice.
Obviously, our policy of trying to persuade the North Koreans to abandon their nuclear program has failed. Given recent statements by North Korean officials, no basis exists for any optimism about persuading them to give up nuclear weapons because they are convinced the weapons guarantee security and national independence.
Our policy for decades has been to impose severe sanctions and to isolate the country in hope that suffering will force leaders to abandon hostility and abide fully with the United Nations Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty they signed years ago. We persist with this tough policy and conservative voices argue we must not reward bad behavior by easing sanctions or negotiating bi-laterally.
However, I believe our policy now must be revised.
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