Exploring Peaceful Coexistence with North Korea

The United States and South Korea’s prioritization of denuclearization above all else needs to change to fit the new reality. Publication Type: Analysis and Commentary The United States and North Korea coexist today in an antagonistic, high-risk stalemate. The Kim Jong Un government, feeling besieged by a “ hostile ” U.S. policy and fearing the potential for regime change , has centered its national defense strategy on strengthening deterrence through nuclear weapons . Facing this intractable nuclear threat, the Biden administration has reinforced a coercive, pressure-based approach that relies on diplomatic isolation, military deterrence and economic sanctions to contain, if not change, North Korea’s defiant behavior. South Korean soldiers stand facing North Korea at the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom, in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, on Feb. 7, 2023. (Chang W. Lee/The New York Times) As a result, the two sides have not talked in over four years, have only engaged in official security discussions in one out of the last 11 years and do not appear to be prioritizing future diplomacy seriously . Similarly, their citizens are largely prohibited from visiting and interacting with each other. More worrisome, the two sides are intensifying their military postures to perilous levels. North Korea has developed and tested an array of new nuclear weapon delivery systems, including hypersonic glide vehicles and solid-fuel long-range missiles, emphasized the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons and enacted the automatic use of nuclear weapons in its nuclear doctrine . Likewise, the U.S.-South Korea alliance has accelerated the deployment of nuclear-armed submarines , B-52 bombers and other U.S. strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula, increased the scope and scale of bilateral military exercises (and trilaterally with Japan), and sharpened provocative rhetoric about the end of the North Korean regime . The United States […]

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By Donato