Although the Biden administration has but to current its North Korea coverage, the brand new president’s cupboard contains many profession diplomats and enterprise lobbyists advocating the Cold War coverage towards Asia and personnel from hawkish suppose tanks financed by the navy industrial advanced, main many Korea specialists to foretell that an aggressive militaristic policy with respect to the Korean Peninsula is on the horizon.
In sensible phrases, this could translate into the projection of US navy energy over the Korean Peninsula via a de facto trilateral navy alliance between the US, Japan and South Korea as a part of the enlarged “Indo-Pacific plan.”
It would additionally imply returning to the doomed strain insurance policies of Obama’s “strategic patience” method towards North Korea, which emphasised containment through sanctions and deterrence whereas demanding substantial concessions from Pyongyang up entrance.
Moreover, it could entail utilizing ongoing stress on the Korean Peninsula to justify large navy spending in order to advance the pursuits of the military-industrial advanced: As Sara Lazar notes, “One-third of Biden’s Pentagon transition team alone lists as their most recent employment think tanks, organizations or companies that are either funded by the weapons industry or are directly part of this industry.” Meanwhile, in his newest op-ed, John Bolton–former nationwide safety advisor and saboteur of previous US-DPRK agreements–exhorted Biden to incorporate a navy choice as a part of US coverage on North Korea.
The renewal of a hawkish stance in opposition to the North will certainly be met by a hardline response from Pyongyang, which has vowed to strengthen its nuclear deterrent capabilities as a assure in opposition to US “hostile policies” and navy intervention.
North Korea’s fears are usually not unwarranted. Having misplaced over 20 percent of its population to indiscriminate US carpet bombing during the Korean War, it has lived underneath the shadow of the US nuclear menace since 1958, when Washington first launched nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula. This existential menace in opposition to the North continues via the current day: in response to Bob Woodward, the Trump Administration earmarked some 80 nuclear weapons for deployment in opposition to North Korea ought to hostilities erupt.
The conflict of hardline insurance policies on each side might outcome in a harmful standoff state of affairs, pushing the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear battle of unimaginable magnitude. To stop such a disaster, a rising refrain of specialists, together with quite a few former US officers, emphasize a pragmatic approach towards arms management that might intention to restrict or cut back the North’s arsenal whereas working towards the eventual aim of full denuclearization. Even Secretary of State Antony Blinken–a famous hawk–has in the previous known as for such an interim settlement, arguing in a 2018 New York Times editorial that Trump ought to use the Iran nuclear deal as a mannequin for negotiating with Pyongyang.
For their half, worldwide peace organizations in South Korea and US are more and more advocating a “peace-first policy” which might entail normalization of relations between the US and North Korea, the lifting of crippling financial sanctions in opposition to the North’s civilian inhabitants, and the establishment of a treaty formally ending the Korean War.
In formulating his administration’s North Korea coverage, Biden ought to embrace an method conducive to attaining arms management with out abandoning the eventual aim of full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula via diplomacy and bilateral concessions. In order to take action, he may take the next steps:
First, Biden ought to suspend the costly and provocative annual US-South Korea combined military drills which might be scheduled to begin on March 8. While the proponents of the drills declare they’re mandatory in order to keep up readiness in the occasion of a North Korean assault, the overwhelming sensible navy functionality fielded by the US undermines this declare. General Vincent Brooks— former USFK commander– famous that these drills are ”not only a present just like the parades in Pyongyang”, they’re in truth provocative reveals of power with the potential to set off open battle on the Korean Peninsula.
The continuation of those workouts is a contentious subject in South Korea: In his New Year press convention, President Moon urged the opportunity of cutting down the drills via a joint inter-Korean navy committee, and simply final week, a gaggle of 35 South Korean lawmakers known as for the postponement of the drills. Both of those choices had been flatly rejected by the US.
Second, Biden ought to overtly help these provisions of 2018 Singapore Declaration calling for the whole bilateral denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a formal end to the Korean War, and the return of the stays of US troops killed through the battle. Thus far, whereas North Korea has but to launch an ICBM or conduct a nuclear take a look at because it introduced a self-imposed moratorium on the onset of the 2018 peace course of, the US, moderately than taking even symbolic steps towards implementing the Singapore Declaration, imposed over 200 new sanctions on the North. On January 1, North Korea responded to the brand new US sanctions and the continuation of joint navy drills on its border by terminating its moratorium on nuclear assessments ICBM launches. According to a report this week by the International Atomic Energy Agency, North Korea might have begun reprocessing nuclear gas in preparation for a nuclear weapon take a look at. The clock is ticking for Biden to make the primary diplomatic transfer.
In abstract, Biden ought to reject calls to resume a hawkish coverage towards the North, and select as a substitute the trail of diplomacy and peace. In sensible phrases, this could entail suspending the provocative annual US-South Korea military drills, supporting key provisions of the Singapore Declaration and embracing a peace-first coverage on the Korean Peninsula. Continuing the vicious cycle of escalation can solely finish in a renewed navy battle on the Korean Peninsula, which might nearly definitely set off a full-scale battle. More than 300,000 South Korean and U.S. military casualties, and tons of of hundreds of civilian deaths, would happen inside the first 90 days of a Second Korean War. Should the battle widen to a regional battle, because it very probably would, the loss of life toll would shortly climb to the thousands and thousands.
The new president has an ethical responsibility to have interaction North Korea through diplomacy and dialog and keep away from taking steps that solely enhance the chance of plunging the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia into the abyss of yet one more bloody battle.