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Opinion: Trump Just Walked Away From The Best North Korea De

edit:casino time:2019-03-03

Jeffrey Lewis (@ArmsControlWonk) is a scholar at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and author of a novel about how a nuclear war with North Korea might begin, The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States.

A bipartisan consensus seems to be forming that President Trump was right to walk away from the deal offered by Kim Jong Un at the two leaders' summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The consensus is a strange one, given that the deal itself was exactly the same as what had been reported to be North Korea's position heading into the negotiation, a position that many commentators had praised. North Korea would offer to shut down facilities at its Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center that were involved in making plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. In exchange, North Korea asked the United States to lift sanctions that had been imposed on its civilian economy since 2016.

The U.S. position — that North Korea must unilaterally abandon its nuclear capabilities in exchange for promises of some different future — is a kind of American fantasy about power that is more suited to an action movie than the reality of international negotiations. - Jeffrey Lewis, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Of course, North Korea would retain its nuclear weapons, long-range missiles and many other facilities after such an agreement. And the United States and other countries would also retain many sanctions on North Korea. The agreement on offer was hardly the disarmament that the president had hoped for, but it would have been another step away from the taunts and threats of 2017 and toward some other future. That was the deal the U.S. should have taken.

For the North Koreans, the logic of the offer was obvious. The United Nations had tightened existing sanctions in 2016 in response to a series of tests of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. North Korea has now stopped such tests, closed its nuclear test site, partially dismantled a rocket-engine test stand and offered to dismantle some of the facilities at Yongbyon. Surely an adjustment in sanctions was warranted.

Trump and his team disagreed. One State Department official explained that North Korea must not merely end testing but also give up all the weapons developed on the basis of those tests.

"Testing was part of a process of developing nuclear weapons, and the weapons themselves need to be on the table," the official explained. "It's not the testing of the weapons; it's the actual presence of the nuclear weapons — and, by the way, likewise in the case of missile testing, the ICBMs as well that are central to this discussion."

The U.S. position — that North Korea must unilaterally abandon its nuclear capabilities in exchange for promises of some different future — is a kind of American fantasy about power that is more suited to an action movie than the reality of international negotiations.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump, shown in a handout photo provided by the Vietnam News Agency, meet at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel on Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Handout / Getty Images

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