It didn’t get a lot of press this week but leaders from 20 different countries that fought in the Korean War gathered together in Vancouver this week to discuss further options on North Korea. According to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, all options remain on the table, though, the leaders of the summit encouraged the continuation of the dialogue between the two Koreas and further negotiations with the North. “We all need to be very sober and clear-eyed about the current situation … We have to recognize that the threat is growing and if North Korea does not chose the pathway of engagement, discussion, negotiation, then they themselves will trigger an option,” Tillerson said.
The only problem with this, though, is that it represents more of the same–and you cannot continue doing the same thing and expect to get different results. Everyone agrees that a negotiated settlement is the best outcome but the two sides are at diametrically opposite opening positions: The US and its allies indicate that the NORKs need to first abandon their nuclear ambitions before talks can begin; as I’ve mentioned earlier, Kim Jong Un isn’t about to accept this fully mindful of what happened to Colonel Muamar Qaddafi & Saddam Hussein–both agreed to give up their nuclear ambitions and have now been relegated to the ash heap of history. Bill Clinton tried negotiations and ultimately reached a settlement in the mid ’90’s, only to have the NORKs continue working on their nuclear program. Throughout both the Bush and Obama administrations, though economic sanctions have dramatically increased, the results have remained the same–well, actually, they haven’t–North Korea is now on the verge of achieving their ambitions of having a nuclear tipped ICBM.
The bottom line, here, is that while everyone in Washington agrees that a nuclear armed Hermit Kingdom is unacceptable, very little in the way of new ideas has emerged. The idea of a naval blockade, I believe is gaining momentum, but one thing is quite definite: we cannot continue with more of the same and expect a different result.