It’s Time To Make a Deal With North Korea, by John Feffer

North Korea is not the first time that the US has confronted a newly nuclear-armed communist dictator. From John Feffer at antiwar.com:

The United States faces a new nuclear power ruled by a communist dictator. Washington is worried that the leadership of that country is crazy enough to use its new weapons – even against the United States. Meanwhile, other countries fear that the “madman” in the Oval Office might just launch a preemptive nuclear attack.

This description captures the situation today, with US President Donald Trump facing off against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

But it also describes a similar conflict in the late 1960s, between the United States and China. That confrontation ended not in war but in détente and a close economic relationship between the two countries. It’s an important reminder that diplomacy can work even in seemingly intractable situations.

In the early 1960s, the United States was terrified that Communist China would acquire a nuclear weapon. By 1964, China tested its first nuclear bomb. Two years later, the Cultural Revolution began, and China descended into political chaos.

Even though the Cultural Revolution would last for the next 10 years and Chinese leader Mao Zedong became increasingly senile during this period, the United States made a strategic decision at the beginning of the 1970s to engage the leadership in Beijing.

This détente started out with highly secret negotiations conducted by national security adviser Henry Kissinger. The United States was still deeply involved in the Vietnam War, and President Richard Nixon didn’t want to give the impression that he was weak on communism.

Indeed, the president was projecting the image of a “madman” on the theory that North Vietnam would accede to US demands for fear of being hit by a nuclear strike. Since he had credibility as a hardliner, Nixon ultimately could sell a deal with China to Congress and the American public.

Today, the United States faces a leadership in Pyongyang that is rhetorically aggressive – and a terrible abuser of human rights at home – but a good deal less ideological than Beijing was in the late 1960s. North Korea wants a nuclear weapon for quite rational reasons: to deter any possible attacks from outside and to balance the overwhelming conventional military edge maintained by the United States and South Korea.

To continue reading: It’s Time To Make a Deal With North Korea

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