US seeks dialogue with North Korea

US seeks dialogue with North Korea
The US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has said that the country is willing to engage in dialogue with North Korea to seek a diplomatic resolution..

The US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has said that the country is willing to engage in dialogue with North Korea to seek a diplomatic resolution.

The statement comes during a period of increased tensions between the two nations.

Background

In July 2017, North Korea successfully test launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). The state media announced that the first ICBM, which was launched on July 3rd, was a “gift” to America. At the time, experts said that this ICBM could reach Alaska.

America condemned the test and US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced that the US would not rule out war.

In the fourth week of July, North Korea conducted another ICBM test. This time, experts said that the missile could hit a number of major US cities like Chicago, New York and Boston. The test was once again condemned by US, Japan, China and South Korea.

The relationship between the US and North Korea has always been fractious. North Korea, which has largely isolated itself from the world, benefits greatly from diplomatic ties with Russia and China.

Analysis

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly called upon China to be more aggressive in dealing with North Korea. The US has also conducted joint military exercises with South Korea in retaliation to North Korea’s tests.

Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) recently warned of resorting to nuclear options if the United States attempted to remove Kim Jong Un as the Supreme Leader.

The administration has floated various options from seeking to impose harsher sanctions to military conflict. Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham said that military options are “inevitable” if the situation continues. During an interview he said, “There is a military option to destroy North Korea's (missile) program and North Korea itself. If there's going to be a war to stop them, it will be over there. If thousands die, they're going to die over there, they're not going to die here and (President Donald Trump) told me that to my face.”

However, Tillerson struck a decidedly more conciliatory note while addressing North Korea. He said, “We do not seek a regime change, we do not seek the collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel. We're not your enemy, we're not your threat but you're presenting an unacceptable threat to us and we have to respond.”

Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer has urged the President to block Chinese investments to put pressure on China to into reining in North Korea.

Assessment

Our assessment is that when it comes to military options against North Korea the US might follow the ‘Pottery Barn’ rule of foreign relations, which was professed by former Secretary of State Colin Powell. The rule simply means – ‘if you break it, you own it’.  Having said this, a military operation against North Korea will further burden the US with expanded costs and responsibilities in the Peninsula. If there is a war, the theatre will be in the Korean Peninsula. It will be difficult for the US to accept North Korea having both an ICBM that can target the US and a leader who consistently speak about targeting their homeland. An alternate response is for the US to lay out a war-games scenario which would entail destruction of North Korea itself. We are reminded of the US bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended the World War II. 

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