Diplomacy-Minded President Moon Complicates Trump’s North Korea Strategy

New president urges diplomacy on peninsula - “South Korea's new president launched international efforts to defuse tension over North Korea's weapons development on Thursday, urging both dialogue and sanctions while also aiming to ease Chinese anger about a U.S. anti-missile system,” write Ju-min Park and Christine Kim for Reuters. “Moon first spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping and later to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with how to respond to North Korea's rapidly developing nuclear and ballistic missile programs, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, dominating talks.”

--“‘The resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue must be comprehensive and sequential, with pressure and sanctions used in parallel with negotiations,’ Moon's spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, quoted Moon as telling Xi. ‘Sanctions against North Korea are also a means to bring the North to the negotiating table aimed at eliminating its nuclear weapons,’ Yoon told a briefing, adding that Xi indicated his agreement. Moon has taken a more conciliatory line with North Korea than his conservative predecessors and advocates engagement.” For the full article, click here.

See also - “Moon to seek dialogue with N.K., but Pyongyang’s nukes limit his leeway,” by Kim Soo-yeon for Yonhap News here.

In between a Kim and a Trump - “The steady escalation of tensions could become worse over potentially sharp differences on strategy between Mr. Moon and President Trump, with his fast-shifting views on North Korea,” writes The New York Times Editorial Board. “In general, Mr. Moon has tried hard to reassure Washington. In an interview with The Washington Post this month, he said the American-South Korean alliance ‘is the most important foundation for our diplomacy and national security.’ And while he argued that it was desirable for South Korea to take the initiative in dealing with the North, and that he was prepared to meet with Mr. Kim if it might help, he said he believed that he and Mr. Trump were ‘on the same page.’”

--“In the end, neither carrots nor sticks have diverted North Korea so far from its single-minded pursuit of a nuclear deterrent, and a rift among the United States, South Korea and China would only encourage the North to barrel ahead. Mr. Moon’s openness to dialogue need not be at odds with a tough stance in Washington, if Mr. Moon and Mr. Trump meet and forge a clear and common overall strategy. The two leaders need to make sure this happens as quickly as possible.” For the full article, click here.

Take action - Ready to restore checks and balances to the nuclear codes? Inspired by the legislation proposed by Rep. Ted Lieu and Sen. Ed Markey, Ploughshares Fund, along with sixteen other public interest groups, has created a new petition urging Congress to keep America safe by preventing any U.S. President from unilaterally launching a nuclear weapon. Sign and share the petition today.

Sunshine policy vs. Trump - “President Trump has made the denuclearization of North Korea a top priority of his new administration, pursuing — sometimes erratically — a strategy of sharply raising the pressure on the regime of Kim Jong Un while holding out the prospect of negotiations,” writes The Washington Post Editorial Board. “Mr. Moon has advocated a more dovish approach — and he has expressed unhappiness with what looked like a U.S. race to put a new missile defense system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), in place before the election took place.”

--“Mr. Moon also sounded unhappy with Mr. Trump’s strategy of aggressively pursuing cooperation on North Korea with Chinese President Xi Jinping, saying South Korea should ‘take the lead on matters in the Korean Peninsula’ rather than ‘take the back seat and watch discussions between the U.S. and China.’ The new president has long been an advocate of rapprochement between the two Koreas and has advocated reopening two joint projects that provided North Korea with valuable streams of hard currency — a step that would run directly counter to Mr. Trump’s strategy of tightening sanctions.” For the full article, click here.

Moon may constrain Trump’s options - “The Trump administration claims it’s considering all options, including military force, to restrict and reverse North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program. It has promised to apply ‘maximum pressure’ on Kim Jong Un’s government by, among other things, ratcheting up sanctions, pressuring China to cut off economic support to the North, and rapidly installing the THAAD missile-defense system in South Korea. One slight problem with this plan is that North Korea’s neighbor, a U.S. ally for more than six decades, just chose a leader who opposes much of it,” writes Uri Friedman for The Atlantic.

--“These differences probably won’t upend U.S.-South Korean cooperation on North Korea. The alliance has weathered previous disagreements between the White House and the Blue House, including a period when George W. Bush pursued policies that resemble Trump’s and two South Korean presidents (one of them was Moon’s former boss) supported policies that mirror Moon’s. But Moon’s election probably will constrain Trump’s options on North Korea, making the use of military force and the wholesale economic and diplomatic isolation of Pyongyang less likely. Trump may be boxed into the lengthy nuclear negotiations with North Korea that the Chinese government and South Korea’s new leader prefer.” Full article here.

See also - “South Korea’s new leader faces some big challenges - one named Trump and one named Kim Jong Un” by Matt Stiles and Laura King for Los Angeles Times here.

Tweet - @KingstonAReif: So Jim Comey thinks Trump-who can launch 100s of nukes w/in minutes-is “outside the realm of normal,” even “crazy”

Teen Vogue strikes again - “On Friday, an elite group of the world’s nuclear experts and advisers launched a Nuclear Crisis Group, to help manage the growing risk of nuclear conflict. The group includes leading diplomats with decades of experience, and retired military officers who were once responsible for launching nuclear weapons if given the order to do so,” writes Rachel Bronson for Teen Vogue. “The group is one of the better things to come out of a terrible spiral in nuclear security that we are currently witnessing. Their goal, to help reduce the ‘alarming rise of tensions involving nuclear-armed governments,’ is worth our attention.”

--“The good news is that citizens are mobilizing to reverse this frightening situation. Last Wednesday, a petition was delivered to Congress to block President Trump from being able to be the first to use nuclear weapons without congressional approval in a crisis. The petition had nearly a half-million signatures. And this June, a major women’s march to ‘ban the bomb’ is being planned in New York City. In other words, the leaders' group that met on Friday is backed by a newly engaged and motivated group of ordinary citizens.”

--“Building on grass-roots support, the Nuclear Crisis Group could serve as a brake on nuclear escalation and be an early step in reversing the downward nuclear security spiral. Not only will they be able to offer expertise to inexperienced leaders who are dabbling in nuclear security, but they will be able to develop and endorse proposals that could make the world safer such as expanding the decision time that leaders have to respond to a nuclear threat, further protecting nuclear systems against cyber attacks and unintended escalations, reenergizing the appetite for arms control negotiations, and questioning global nuclear upgrade programs.” For the full article, click here.

Tweet - @TimFarnsworth: Can you trust @realDonaldTrump with the #nuclear codes? Spoiler alert: You can't! #NoRedButton http://bit.ly/2pBFlmM

Workers take shelter after radioactive cave-in - “Thousands of workers at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Richland were forced to take cover indoors after a tunnel containing radioactive waste collapsed Tuesday morning, government officials said,” writes David Gutman for The Seattle Times. “There was no indication of a radiation release, but crews were continuing to survey for contamination. ‘The Department of Energy informed us this morning that a tunnel was breached that was used to bury radioactive waste from the production of plutonium at the Hanford nuclear reservation,’ Gov. Jay Inslee said. ‘This is a serious situation and ensuring the safety of the workers and the community is the top priority.’”

--“The incident was initially declared an ‘alert emergency,’ the lowest level of emergency classification at the site, but was later upgraded to a ‘site area emergency.’ About 8,000 people are currently working on a massive cleanup that is expected to cost more than $100 billion and last through 2060. ‘This is sort of a forgotten legacy of the nuclear age,’ said Paul Carroll, who is the director of programs for the nuclear-nonproliferation group Ploughshares Fund and previously worked on nuclear cleanup programs for the Department of Energy. ‘We don’t know how to deal with this stuff.’” For the full article, click here.

See also - Ploughshares Director of Programs Paul Carroll interviewed by BBC’s Newshour last night - program starts at 30:55 here.

Tweet - @SeanUCS: Connecting threats/concerns @UCSUSA podcast bridging #nuclear weapons & racial justice w/@VincentIntondi @damethad https://t.co/biQsJQzHX7

Quick Hits

--“Trump on Collision Course With South Korean Leader on Dealing With North” by David E. Sanger for The New York Times here.

--“Diplomacy with North Korea Can Work” by Bernadette Stadler for Defense One here.

--“North Korea learned how to test nukes from the U.S.” by Keegan Hamilton for VICE News here.

--“Trump plays into hands of Iranian hardliners” by Ariane Tabatabai for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists here.


--“Securing a Future for the CTBT: Science and Diplomacy.” Featuring Dr. Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). Thursday, May 11, 2017, 2:00p.m.-3:00p.m. Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington 20036. Details here.

--“Evaluating the Iran Deal.” Featuring Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Senior Counselor, Albright Stonebridge Group; Laura Rozen, Diplomatic Correspondent, Al-Monitor; moderated by Benjamin H. Friedman, Research Fellow, Cato Institute. Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 10:00a.m.-11:30a.m. Hayek Auditorium, Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001. Details here.

--“Strategic Competition in Southern Asia: Arms Racing or Modernization?” Wednesday, May 17, 2017. 10:00a.m.-1:45p.m. Stimson Center, 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW, 8th Floor, Washington D.C. 20036. Details and RSVP here.

--Alliance for Nuclear Accountability's 29th annual DC Days. Featuring key Armed Services and Appropriations Committees as well as the Government Accountability Office and Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board and others. May 21-24, 2017. Details here.

--“Debate: Modernization of Nuclear Missiles.” Hosted by Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) and Ploughshares Fund. Featuring: Jon Wolfsthal, Christine Parthemore, General C. Robert Kehler (Ret.) and Heather Williams. Tuesday, May 23, 2017, 4:30p.m.-7:00p.m. at CSIS Headquarters 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036. Details here.

--Public Discussion on North Korea hosted by Council of Korean Americans and featuring Ploughshares’ Philip Yun and Ambassador Wendy Sherman. Wednesday, May 24, 2017, 6:00p.m.-8:00p.m. PT. The Jonathan Club (Reagan Room), 545 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071. Details and RSVP here.

--“Off-Ramps to War: Paths to Building Peace with North Korea.” Featuring William Perry and Bruce Cumings. Tuesday, June 13, 2017, 9:00a.m.-4:00p.m. Lindner Commons at George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs. Details and RSVP here.

--“The Women’s March to Ban the Bomb.” Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Saturday, June 17, 2017, 12:00p.m.-4:00p.m. Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, Greenmarket, 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Details here.

--“PONI 2017 Summer Conference.” Hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Wednesday, June 21, 2017 11:30a.m.-Thursday, June 22, 2017 8:30p.m. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Center for Global Security Research. Details here.

Edited by