Monday, May 30, 2016

Make North Korea ‘stare into the abyss’

I received the following comment from a friend and below is my response that I thought I would share.

I wonder if this "putting at risk" might be a problem, wherein what looks like deterrence ends up just being an aggressive move toward regime collapse, and thus not deterrence at all?

​My response:

This is what leads to our strategic decision making paralysis.

First thing is we should remember that the Kim Family Regime views every action by the US as a threat to its survival to include the very presence of US troops on the peninsula as well as nuclear umbrella of extended deterrence.

Second, the north expects us to support destabilization efforts even if we never in fact have.

Third, in conjunction with a strategic strangulation campaign (and remember that nK is not the most sanctioned regime in the world) that cuts of the flow of hard currency and luxury goods as well as proliferation activities, a campaign that supports internal resistance (and of course one of the best ways to support internal resistance is through a sophisticated and aggressive information and influence activities campaign and it does not require putting US or ROK personnel on the ground at all in nK), this could provide a real coercive threat that might just cause Kim Jong-un to rethink his position.  Since we have tried the Sunshine policy, conventional engagement, (e.g., 1992 ARNE, 1994 Agreed Framework, 1999 Perry Policy, SEP 2005 Joint Statement, and the Leap Day Agreement, among others,  none of which have been successful) and the current unofficial administration policy of strategic patience (the administration does not use that name for its policy but the pundits do) perhaps a policy of coercion may be effective in influence the regime.  We will not know unless we try and to date we have been unwilling to try.

And of course the drawbacks are two threats:  War and regime collapse.  We should consider that both of these could happen without our attempt at a policy of coercion due to conditions and decision making inside north Korea and therefore we need to plan and prepare for both.  Deterring war has been one of the alliance's great strengths and successes but the decision to go to war will be Kim Jong-un's alone and we cannot predict how he will act or react in any situation (though if he is a rational actor and gets sound advice from his military experts he has to know that the ROK/US alliance has far superior military capabilities, less quantity).  Therefore, the foundation for any policy must rest on our deterrence and defense capabilities.   In terms of regime collapse, we can track the indicators of the seven phases of regime collapse as postulated by Robert Collins and we should know that the conditions leading to collapse will be as much if not more so dependent on internal conditions than external actions.  In any case we have to prepare and not simply plan for the potential of regime collapse.

The bottom line is we have never really executed a policy and strategy based on coercive diplomacy that is backed up by putting real pressure on what really motivates the regime: internal stability and regime survival (of course our declaratory policy is a threat to regime survival but only if we use our nuclear weapons or have a conventional war).  Evans Revere, a lifelong engager now sees the need for trying something different which i think is quite significant.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: David Maxwell <>
Date: Mon, May 30, 2016 at 8:49 AM
Subject: Make North Korea ‘stare into the abyss’

Quote a turnaround.  Holding something at risk is a key element of a coercive policy.  Evans Revere wants to put something near and dear to the regime at risk; namely internal stability and regime survival.  It is quite a change for the engagers to become regime changers.  One of the ways to put internal stability and regime survival at risk is through support to internal resistance as I wrote here "Korean Unification Options and Scenarios: Assisting A Resistance."    I think he is also advocating a policy of "strategic strangulation" and I have written about ways to support such a campaign here "Can South Korean-made TV dramas prepare the North for reunification?" and here"The North Korean Threat: Where Do We Go From Here?"  But Evans is right that we have not tried sometime different and perhaps it is time to consider something different.

Key excerpt below.  

Revere: The policy the United States has begun to implement in recent weeks, especially since the nuclear test, is essentially the policy I have been advocating for the last several years.
I have long since come to the conclusion – after seeing everything else we have tried fail to achieve the objective of freezing and then eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons program – that we need to try something different.
And that “something different” is to begin to put at risk the one thing that the North Koreans treasure more dearly than their nuclear weapons, which is the stability and the future prospects for survivability of the regime.
Now I know that sounds very ominous, but we have tried engagement, we have tried removal of sanctions, we have tried commitments to normalize relations, we have tried the establishment of liaison offices. On the dark side we’ve tried threats and sanctions and pressure, etc., and none of this has worked, except on a temporary basis.
So I have come to believe over the years that the only thing that is likely to get the North Koreans to focus on the importance and the necessity of denuclearization is to convince them that if they do not return to serious denuclearization discussions, they are putting at risk the survivability of their regime.

Make North Korea ‘stare into the abyss’
Evans Revere says he is more pessimistic than ever about the future of U.S. - DPRK relations

Make North Korea ‘stare into the abyss’
Chad O'Carroll 
May 30th, 2016

When a former negotiator once known for advocating dialogue with North Korea says it’s time to force the Pyongyang regime to ponder its own demise, it’s hard not to pay attention.
But that’s exactly what Evans Revere, one of the State Department’s former top Asia hands and a long-time Korea watcher, is saying today with increasing urgency.
Having watched “everything else we have tried fail” over recent decades, Revere said that following May’s Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang he is now more pessimistic than ever about the future of U.S.-North Korea relations.
As a result, Revere says only an “unprecedented” level of sanctions designed to threaten the very system Kim Jong Un defends through nuclear weapons can have any chance of bringing about denuclearization.
And without credible efforts toward denuclearization, Revere thinks “serious dialogue” is all but impossible with North Korea, meaning there is little way to see any path to an improvement in relations between the U.S. and North Korea.
Evans Revere in Seoul. | Picture: NK News

NK News: North Korea has recently indicated an increased willingness for discussions with both the U.S. and South Korea. What is your reading of this?
Revere: Behind all of this “openness” and willingness to “engage” is a presumption on the part of the North Koreans that any future dialogues that take place with either the United States or other parties will be based on an acceptance of North Korea’s status as a de facto nuclear weapons state.
That is obviously not acceptable to the United State and is unlikely to be acceptable to the ROK. Accepting the goal of denuclearization is a prerequisite to improvement in relations between North Korea, South Korea and the United States.
So the idea that somehow we can have a serious dialogue with North Korea that doesn’t touch on the nuclear issue – that doesn’t address the specific issue of denuclearization – is just not on.
… the idea that somehow we can have a serious dialogue with North Korea that doesn’t touch on the nuclear issue … is just not on
And so I think our friends in Pyongyang are seeking to gain tacit acceptance of this new status. Indeed, one of the central outcomes of the Party Congress was their self identification as a de facto nuclear weapons or nuclear-armed state, and that’s just not acceptable for the United States and others.
NK News: It appears we have a situation in which North Korean long-term objectives and U.S. long-term objectives really couldn’t be further apart. What will be the impact of this contradiction?
(Continued at the link below)

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