The Singapore Summit between the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong-un, and US President Donald Trump—preceded by an historic border crossing and sit-downs with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping—is a tremendous moment by any measure. Almost exactly 55 years after the Korean Armistice Agreement, the prospect of a formal end to the Korean War and significantly thawed relations on the Korean Peninsula seems possible. Just a few months ago, North Korea and US were threatening each other with war.
The United States may soon have a shot at talking directly to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Given this unique opportunity, what foreign policy tactics should US negotiators use in the effort to denuclearize the Korean peninsula? It may seem strange, but negotiators might consider taking a lesson from the FBI and the field of Crisis Negotiation to show us a better path to de-escalation.
America’s leadership in the Asia Pacific was founded in the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and on its status as the first atomic power. Nuclear weapons thereafter defined Asian geopolitics. Today, on the Korean Peninsula, nuclear technology is again set to feature in a dramatic shift in Asia’s power balance. With a summit meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un now in prospect, future historians may come to see North Korea’s nuclear-armed ballistic missiles as the trigger that unravels America’s strategic leadership of Asia.
This graphic provides an overview of estimated global nuclear warhead inventories from 1945 to 2017. To find out about the Trump administration’s ‘Nuclear Posture Review’ and what it means for US nuclear policy, see Oliver Thränert ‘s recent addition to the CSS’ Analyses in Security Policy series here. For more CSS charts and graphs on proliferation, click here.
The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) is a thoughtful, deliberative report that captures the big strategic issues facing the United States in the area of nuclear force structure. This is surprising and welcome in my view. The previous two NPRs, in 2002 and 2010 respectively, were ideological tracts with little policy analysis of the strategic issues facing the United States. This one is different.