There’s still room for diplomacy with North Korea

By Nirmal Ghosh, The Straits Times/ANN

WASHINGTON — Despite fears of a showdown between the United States and North Korea, analysts by and large believe that, barring accidents, saber rattling will yield to pragmatism. They note that pre-emptive strikes by the U.S. or North Korea could be catastrophic. Seoul, which has about 10 million residents, could be wiped out in the event of war. Ash Carter, a former U.S. defense secretary, warned that a preemptive strike by the U.S. on North Korea’s nuclear weapons facilities could trigger an invasion of South Korea. “I am confident of the outcome of that war, which would be the defeat of North Korea,” Carter told ABC News last Sunday, but added that “even though the outcome is certain, it is a very destructive war.” Korean studies experts maintain that there remains room for a diplomatic way out of a showdown, most likely through the increased use of economic sanctions to put pressure on North Korea. U.S. President Donald Trump’s bellicose rhetoric and the dispatch of a carrier-based strike group to the Pacific may have the effect of pressuring Beijing to try harder to rein in Pyongyang. On Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Trump that Beijing was willing to work with Washington on the North Korean nuclear issue, Chinese broadcaster CCTV reported. Professor Inderjeet Parmar of City, University of London, an expert on U.S. foreign policy, told The Straits Times: “There are levers China could use, and there is a growing voice within China which is saying, maybe regime change engineered by us is better than that engineered by the U.S.”

The worst scenario is if the U.S. faces a binary choice between acquiescence to North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, and the use of military force to stop it, Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council for Foreign Relations in Washington, told The Straits Times. “I think what the North Koreans have calculated is that the U.S. will acquiesce, but we haven’t reached that point,” he said. “The Trump administration is trying to use every instrument short of war to prevent that.”