Talks Still Possible with North Korea

Backchannel to diplomacy - “Despite escalating tensions which appear to be approaching a violent breaking point, there might be a peaceful way out of what some pundits are calling a ‘slow-motion Cuban missile crisis’,” writes Joel Wit for The Atlantic. “Reports emerged last week that American and North Korean diplomats were holding secret meetings in New York City. Almost immediately after the election of President Trump, North Korean government officials, meeting with myself and other former U.S. officials in Geneva, stated that they were willing to wipe the slate clean and revive the New York channel. It is unclear whether backchannel contacts can still take us down this peaceful road and help ease tensions.”

--“Aside from pressing security challenges, the Trump administration is rightly concerned about securing the freedom of three Americans still detained in North Korean jails. If the three remaining detainees are freed, that might also pave the way to a further easing of tensions and provide some momentum to diplomacy. Most Americans have forgotten or never knew that the Cuban missile crisis, which brought the United States and Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war, was not solved by public threats or by playing a successful game of nuclear chicken. Rather it was solved through quiet backchannel diplomacy. Let’s hope for the same peaceful outcome today.” Full article here.

See also - “Trump's tough talk threatens U.S. backchannel with North Korea” by Nahal Toosi, Austin Wright and Bryan Bender for POLITICO here.

Negotiations could and should work - Former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry writes for U.S. News saying, “we are now intensely engaged in the third nuclear crisis with North Korea, with the possibility looming of a second Korean War. The first Korean War led to more than a million casualties, but a second Korean War would be even more catastrophic, likely involving the use of nuclear weapons. So we should make a serious effort to resolve this crisis without war.”

--“I believe that a diplomatic solution is possible to today's crisis, working closely with China, which should be possible. We could not get the same results today that I was able to get 17 years ago. Then we were trying to prevent the North from building nuclear weapons; today we have to get them to give up an arsenal they already have. But I believe that today we could get a freeze on nuclear testing and long-range missile testing. That agreement would be worth having.” For the full article, click here.

See also - “The Once and Future Framework” on The Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation’s podcast Nukes of Hazard, featuring Jon Wolfsthal, Joel Wit and Ambassador Robert Gallucci here.

Tweet - @amjoyshow: .@CIRINCIONE: "We don't want this to turn into The Missiles of August" ... #AMJoy [video]

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Faulty deterrence vs. North Korea - “Would the United States be able to intercept a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launched at the American homeland? The answer is probably not,” writes Dave Majumdar for The National Interest. “‘We have as much chance of intercepting a North Korean missile as the president does of scoring a hole in one,’ arms control expert Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund [said]. ‘The flight test record of the system is 10 for 18 and these tests have occurred under scripted and controlled conditions—meaning the realism of the tests is limited,’ Kingston Reif… at the Arms Control Association said.”

--“‘Rushing to expand the existing GMD system is not a cost-effective strategy to stay ahead of the North Korean threat,’” says Kingston Reif. “Cirincione notes that during a real wartime scenario, THAAD would be facing against hundreds on incoming missiles—and it might not be effective in those scenarios. It is only a matter of time before North Korea has an operational ICBM combined with a working reentry vehicle and miniaturized nuclear warhead. Missile defenses will need to actually work under operational conditions; the stakes are too high.” Full article here.

See also - “Will North Korea's New Long-Range Missiles Let It Coerce the United States?” by Adam Mount for The Diplomat here.

The Iran Deal and North Korea: Hill Perspective - “Diplomacy is the only path to stop Kim Jong Un from obtaining a nuclear weapon capable of striking the United States,” writes Senator Dianne Feinstein for USA Today. “Unfortunately, as President Trump grapples with the North Korean threat, he seems to have forgotten that same lesson we learned with Iran. Prior to the latest recertification, the president’s top national security advisers had to walk him back from unilaterally abandoning the agreement just to fulfill his campaign promise. Such an irrational decision would have isolated the United States and allowed Iran to resume its nuclear activities.”

--“It would also severely undermine diplomacy with North Korea. Why would North Korea trust the United States if we abandon the Iran agreement with no justification? Why would our negotiating partners place faith in American leadership if we cannot be trusted to keep our word? While we cannot turn a blind eye toward many of Iran’s policies, especially its support for Hezbollah, it would be foolish to unilaterally abandon a diplomatic agreement that prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. That's especially true as we pursue similar diplomacy with North Korea toward a similar goal.” For the full article, click here.

See also - “Approaching the North Korea challenge realistically” by Robert Einhorn for The Brookings Institution here.

Ploughshares in the media - President Joe Cirincione discusses President Trump’s dangerous rhetoric on The Rachel Maddow Show. Watch the clip here.

Don’t mess with the Iran Deal - “Opponents of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal often complain that the deal doesn’t address the nefarious ways in which Iran is expanding its influence and further destabilizing the Middle East,” reports The New York Times Editorial Board. “Such concerns, while valid, are no reason to blow up the agreement, as President Trump is recklessly trying to do by pressing his administration to declare, with absolutely no evidence, that Iran is in violation of the terms. Instead of questioning the deal, Washington could turn its attention to concerns about Iran’s nonnuclear activities.”

--“In Syria, Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces, backed by Russian air power, are keeping Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime in power. In Yemen, Iran is supporting Houthi rebels in a fight against the internationally recognized government, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s firepower. In Lebanon, Iran funds Hezbollah, which threatens Israel. In Afghanistan, as the United States reduces its role, Iran is seeking to turn a onetime enemy, the Taliban, into a proxy ally so it can shape the country’s future and ensure that foreign forces, Americans included, leave. Iran is too big to be ignored. And if Washington pursues regime change, as some officials seem to favor, the risks will be huge.” Full article here.

Tweet - @jwcglaser: New @CatoInstitute study by @ArianeTabatabai on the need to preserve the Iran nuclear deal [video]

Leave well enough alone - “The U.S. Congress is on the verge of authorizing new nuclear weapons, trashing a major Reagan-era arms control agreement and putting us on the road to a new arms race with Russia,” write Tom Collina and Rose Blanchard for POLITICO. “This is a huge mistake that would put U.S. and global security at risk, and proves the old saying: Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. These agreements provide the “rules of the road” so arsenals can be reduced in a safe, stable and predictable way. No one wants surprises when it comes to nukes. They set equal limits on weapons, and allow for inspections so both sides can trust, and verify, the process.”

--“Now, all of this is at risk. Republicans in both the House and Senate are promoting legislation to authorize a new nuclear-capable ground-launched cruise missile that would, if tested, violate the INF Treaty. The House language goes so far as to set a time limit for U.S. withdrawal from INF and, if Russia does not comply, to prevent extension of New START in 2021. Congress’ tit-for-tat response to Russia’s INF violation is counterproductive. This is not a military threat, but overreacting to it might make it so. The INF Treaty is the foundation of all subsequent arms reduction agreements, like New START. Let’s leave the INF brick in the wall, not throw it through Russia’s window.” For the full article, click here.

Quick Hits

--“Former US director of national intelligence: Denuclearized North Korea isn’t ‘in the cards’” by Madeline Conway for POLITICO here.

--“The axe murder incident and North Korea 1976” with Phillip Adams featuring Peter Hayes of the Nautilus Institute for Australian Broadcasting Corporation here.

--“North Korea’s Kim Jong Un appears to ease rhetoric in standoff over nuclear weapons” by Anna Fifield and Dan Lamothe for The Washington Post here.

--“North Korea’s Missile Success Is Linked to Ukrainian Plant, Investigators Say” by William J. Broad and David E. Sanger for The New York Times here.

--“Both Korean leaders, US signal turn to diplomacy amid crisis” by Foster Klug and Kim Tong-Hyung for Associated Press here.

--“Sen. Ed Markey seeks to limit president's ability to launch nuclear strike” by Shira Schoenberg for MassLive here.

--“Iran threatens to quit nuclear deal if new sanctions imposed” by Mallory Shelbourne for The Hill here.

--“Should the U.S. give up on a nuke-free North Korea?” by Bryan Bender for POLITICO here.

--“What Experts Have to Say About the Path to War with Iran” for Diplomacy Works here.

--“How Trump could improve U.S.-Russia relations — and head off an arms race” by Josh Rogin for The Washington Post here.

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