Right now, we stand as a country more divided and fractured than we have in decades. The wisdom of American policy is being questioned around the world and is considered by many a source of profound uncertainty and international instability.
President Trump and our nation's leaders are threatening to unravel the Iran deal, calling for colossal increases in nuclear arms spending, and risking armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea recently tested its most powerful missile yet — one capable of hitting the entire continental United States. The United States and our ally South Korea must wisely and firmly respond to North Korea's outrageous provocations and threats. At the same time, we must understand that our response — whatever it is — could determine whether we are on a path to war or peace.
Recently, I was at a high-level conference in South Korea with former senior international policymakers and analysts. A conference that Ploughshares Fund co-sponsored, in hopes of devising concrete, practical strategies to address the crisis with North Korea.
With North Korea, the preventive use of force is not an option. It could easily lead to all-out war, putting South Korea's capital Seoul, a city of 25 million people, at immediate risk. North Korea has thousands of artillery tubes, missiles, chemical and biological weapons, and as many as 30 nuclear weapons at its disposal. They would not hesitate to use all these if attacked. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, could die.
I personally worked on North Korea nuclear and missile issues during the Clinton Administration. I know that diplomacy can work and we have not yet exhausted all viable options.
There are other alternatives we can pursue first.
One possibility that I hope to discuss in Seoul is a diplomatic opening ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
The Olympic Games have historically been a place of international unity and peace. South Korea has asked the United States to reschedule its annual joint military exercises, which would overlap with the Olympics. Previously, the North has used these US-South Korea war games as justification for increasing its nuclear and missile tests.
Our hope is that an American agreement to reschedule will result in North Korea agreeing to suspend its provocative activities. This would drastically reduce tensions and set the stage for all parties to explore in earnest a diplomatic solution.
Meanwhile, Ploughshares Fund continues to build a broad coalition of experts, military validators, former diplomats and activists. They are searching for new solutions, dispelling misinformation in the media, and providing policy makers with sound analysis.
As former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry recently said, "You have an organization in Ploughshares [Fund] that can rally people together on this issue."
- Our grantee the Arms Control Association recently held a press briefing featuring Secretary Perry to discuss pathways to negotiate with North Korea.
- Win Without War is promoting legislation that just activated the first Congressional hearing in over four decades on the American President's authority to launch nuclear weapons.
- 38North is developing diplomatic solutions that are bolstered by the Track II back-channel activities of the National Committee on North Korea, Stanford's Center for International Studies and Cooperation, and New America.
Our grantees are doing tremendous work, but we are just getting started. We need to do more.
Ploughshares Fund's role is to push our leaders to do the right thing and to generate ideas that government alone has had a hard time producing. The reality is we have an administration under great pressure, a contradictory policy approach to North Korea, a hollowed-out State Department, and an unpredictable president who has personalized a nuclear crisis with an equally inexperienced leader in North Korea.
You and I, along with millions of people across the country and around the world, have a responsibility to step in where our leaders cannot.
Your contribution is more important than ever. I hope you will consider giving today. We encourage you to make a monthly donation. We cannot leave this problem for another generation.
Photo: Former Secretary of Defense, William J. Perry (right) and Philip Yun at "Nuclear Weapons Policy in a Time of Crisis," a Ploughshares Fund conference at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC, October 26, 2017. Photo by Allison Shelley