The Next President’s Strategy for North Korea

Engaging North Korea - “Donald Trump could have an opportunity early in his presidency, if he follows his instincts instead of all the wrong advice he is likely to get on how to deal with North Korea, to prove his Promethean negotiating skills on one of the most serious national-security challenges the United States will confront over the next four years,” write Joel Wit and Richard Sokolsky for The Atlantic. “Efforts over the past eight years to slow the North down and prevent it from achieving this goal, relying on a mix of puny sticks and carrots plus otherwise trying to ignore the problem, have been unsuccessful.”

--“There may be a deal to negotiate with the North, but it will take the kind of strong leadership and negotiating prowess that Trump boasted about incessantly during the presidential campaign… There is a great deal that can be done to freeze and then maybe eventually reverse [ICBM and missiles] programs, bringing the world closer to that ultimate objective. In the meantime, as long as everyone understands that denuclearization is a process that won’t happen immediately, such an initiative would not mean that the U.S. is accepting North Korea as a nuclear state.” Full story here.

CIA director on Iran agreement - “The director of the C.I.A. has issued a stark warning to President-elect Donald J. Trump: Tearing up the Iran nuclear deal would be ‘the height of folly’ and ‘disastrous,’” writes Dan Bilefsky for The New York Times.

--“In an interview with the BBC that was published on its website on Wednesday, Mr. Brennan warned that scrapping the nuclear deal would undermine American foreign policy, embolden hard-liners in Iran and threaten to set off an arms race in the Middle East by encouraging other countries to develop nuclear weapons. ‘First of all, for one administration to tear up an agreement that a previous administration made would be unprecedented,’ Mr. Brennan said.” Full story here.

See also - “Pressure Mounts On Trump To Keep The Iran Nuclear Deal,” by Sam Stein and Jessica Schulberg for The Huffington Post.

Iran sanctions - “The U.S. Senate will vote this week on a bill that would renew sanctions on Iran for 10 years, Senator Mitch McConnell, the chamber's Republican leader, said on Tuesday in remarks as he opened the daily session,” writes Patricia Zengerle for Reuters. “If the extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) is passed as expected, it would be sent to the White House, where President Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law.”

Tweet - @plough_shares: ICYMI: "No, You Can’t Have a Small Nuclear War" by @NuclearWilson and @WillSaetren #NoLRSO @warisboring

Time to cancel MOX program - “Buried in the fine print of the defense authorization bills is a $50 billion earmark for an obscure facility in South Carolina. The facility, called the Mixed Oxide Facility or ‘MOX’, is a classic example of a good idea gone awry. Initially estimated to cost $1 billion to $2 billion, MOX is now estimated to cost $50 billion. On top of that, the Russians have just withdrawn from the arms control agreement on which MOX is based. So why is Congress funding this?” writes Mark Cancian for Breaking Defense.

--“Nonproliferation advocates, who once supported the program, now mostly oppose it, fearing that it will divert funding from a wide range of other nonproliferation programs… As the Congress finalizes an authorization bill, it should do what many of its own members, Democrat and Republican, have advocated: put the facility into cold storage and just keep the plutonium where it is. There is no way the U.S. taxpayers will pay $50 billion over four decades to complete it. Eventually, the Congress will terminate it. The nation has already wasted $5 billion on a good, but failed, idea. It’s time to cut our losses and move on.” Full story here.

Chance to improve India-Pakistan relations - “The Donald Trump White House will have a fairly crowded foreign policy roster to deal with... South Asia does not seem to have made this list [of priorities]. And yet, the region presents some of the gravest threats to global security. Islamist terrorists and the conflict in Afghanistan remain huge challenges. But even greater is the danger posed by the threat of nuclear war between India and Pakistan,” writes Mooed Yusuf for War on the Rocks.

--“The many competing foreign policy demands for the next U.S. administration notwithstanding, the Trump White House must make a normalized India-Pakistan relationship a top foreign policy priority. No other issue risks causing as much damage to the world, and to America’s credibility as its effective leader, as the prospect of an India-Pakistan nuclear exchange... Normalization would also transform a jaundiced nuclear relationship that has held India back from becoming a truly global power.”

Cooperating with Russia - “The most important foreign policy task President-elect Donald Trump will face when he is inaugurated will be to restore cooperation with Russia to reduce the danger to the world posed by nuclear weapons,” writes Jack Matlock for The National Interest. “Restoring cooperation with Russia on nuclear issues will be possible only if we overcome the confrontational mentality that pervades much interaction between the United States and Russia today. ”

--“The Obama administration attempted a ‘reset’ that had some important positive results, notably the New START treaty, but eventually failed following the developing civil war in Syria and, above all, the shock of the Maidan revolution and its aftermath in Ukraine. President Trump’s challenge will be to work with President Putin to transcend differences over these issues so that both countries, along with the European Union, can concentrate on dealing with the global challenges that face us all... The way Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev found their way from confrontation to cooperation may provide an example for Presidents Trump and Putin to emulate.”

Tweet - @AmbassadorPower: Unanimous #UNSC vote imposes unprecedented restrictions on hard currency sources – esp coal exports – the #DPRK has used for nuclear program

UN moves forward with DPRK sanctions - “The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday imposed a ceiling on North Korea’s coal exports to deprive it of hard currency three months after Pyongyang conducted its fifth nuclear test,” writes Carol Morello for The Washington Post. “The resolution ratchets up the sanctions in a previous resolution that passed in March in response to Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test, conducted in January.”

--“In addition to capping coal sales, the resolution also bans exports of copper, nickel, silver and zinc. It prohibits the sale of bronze monumental statues, which North Korea sells primarily to authoritarian rulers in Africa and the Middle East...The resolution also adds bone china, rugs and tapestries to the list of banned luxury items that cannot be sold to North Korea... and it suggests that countries reduce the number of North Korean diplomats accredited in their capitals... U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the latest resolution was the ‘toughest and most comprehensive’ ever passed by the Security Council and called on Pyongyang to cease ‘further provocative actions.’”

Tweet - @NSquareCollab: At Santa Fe Nuclear Weapons summit, @CreativeSantaFe looks to bring innovation & disruption to #nuclearweapons issue

Parallels between Trump and Nixon - “Donald Trump’s narrow victory could bring a reprise of President Richard Nixon’s ‘madman theory’ of deterrence – except on steroids. Nixon and Henry Kissinger believed that projecting an image of readiness to use nuclear weapons could provide negotiating leverage. They tested this assumption in the 1973 Middle East crisis and during the Vietnam War — with no apparent bearing on Hanoi and Moscow’s choices,” writes Michael Krepon for Arms Control Wonk. “Nonetheless, Trump’s reputation for belligerent behavior could reinforce caution by potential challengers.”

--“If [Trump] is tested and brandishes the Bomb, the international standing of the United States will decline further, and some allies will scurry for cover. Alliance solidarity could crack if he uses his two favorite Generals, George Patton and Douglas MacArthur, as his lodestar in dealing with nuclear challenges… Trump’s lack of knowledge with the geopolitics of nuclear danger is cause for concern, but only two Presidents in the Atomic Age – Nixon and George H.W. Bush – could claim familiarity with these issues before entering the White House. Trump, however, is particularly unprepared, making his choice of advisors critical. The key question at the moment is whom else he will hire and which of these hires he will fire.” Full story here.

Quick Hits:

--“Chairman Xi abandons banning the Bomb,” by Gregory Kulacki for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

--“Trump will face tough questions on future of nuclear arsenal,” by Robert Burns for The Washington Post.


--“Global Security Forum 2016,” by Center for Strategic and International Studies on December 1, 2016 from 8:00am to 4:00pm. The forum will be held at CSIS Headquarters, 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20036. List of panelists and registration here.

--“Report Launch: Russia Policy for the Trump Administration,” by Center on Global Interest on December 1, 2016 from 5:30pm to 8:00pm. The report launch will be held at City Club of Washington, 555 13th Street Northwest, Lincoln Room, Washington, DC 20004. Register here.

--“Advising the Next U.S. President on Korea,” with Victor Cha and Robert Galluci, hosted by the Korea Society. December 12, 2016 at 10:00am with reception beginning at 9:30am. The Korea Society, Eighth Floor, E. 57 St., & Third Ave., New York. RSVP here.

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