The North Korean dictator’s dreams of his father and grandfather
Posted on March 13, 2018 16:30 pm CDT
By Congressman Billy Long,
President Obama penned "Dreams from my Father," and now North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is rapidly fulfilling the dreams of both his grandfather and father of a nuclear North Korea. He has accomplished more on this front in a few short years than both of his predecessors did combined. North Korea now has nukes and has successfully tested intercontinental ballistic missiles. If it has not developed the technology to marry a nuclear warhead to one of their missiles today, it will soon, according to most experts.
I just returned from a three-day in-depth conference at Stanford University focusing on finding a diplomatic solution to the North Korean crisis. We drilled down on U.S.–North Korea relations from a historical perspective, studying how previous administrations attempted, but failed, to prevent a nuclear North Korea. On Sunday, March 4, I had dinner with former Ambassador Chris Hill, who served under Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Our conversation covered not only his time in South Korea as our ambassador but his time as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. It was truly insightful getting his perspective on the long and troubled history of North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
In 1985, North Korea signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Since North Korea joined, it made no effort to follow through on its treaty obligations and eventually withdrew from the treaty. Intelligence reports indicated that North Korea was procuring material for nuclear weapons as early as 1993. The U.S. promised aid and lifting of sanctions, but nothing seemed to work. An interesting fact is North Korea can produce its own nuclear weapons but cannot produce its own gasoline.
Previous administrations have tried to make a deal stick, but ultimately failed. During the Clinton years, a deal was struck between the U.S. and North Korea that stated the U.S. would give 500,000 tons of oil and $4 billion in aid to build light-water reactors to produce nuclear energy but not nuclear weapons. North Korea’s part of the deal involved ending its weapons program and destroying its major nuclear facility. However, things slowly began to fall apart. North Korea went back on its end of the bargain and resumed its weapons program once again. After several years, the agreement was completely ignored.
Because of this, President Bush took an approach rooted in tougher sanctions to help curb North Korea’s ballistic missile capabilities. The U.S. also engaged China, Japan, North Korea, Russia and South Korea, known as the Six-Party Talks, to negotiate a deal that would hopefully stick. But like previous efforts, North Korea once again failed to hold up its end of the bargain. Sanctions alone were not enough to force North Korea to cooperate, and in 2006, North Korea tested its first nuclear warhead. President Obama tried something new: the waiting game. Hoping sanctions were enough, Obama’s approach was "strategic patience." Unfortunately, this method did not work and another round of sanctions was imposed.
President Trump has taken a strong approach that includes putting all options on the table, including military action. Unlike past administrations, President Trump is dealing with a different set of challenges. According to intelligence reports, North Korea’s sixth nuclear test last September was eight times stronger than the bomb dropped in Hiroshima. Intelligence reports from North Korean ballistic missile tests also show that North Korea is capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. Following these tests, President Trump worked through the United Nations Security Council to place even more sanctions on North Korea, and even more importantly, has engaged China to implement these international sanctions.
In 2011, when Kim Jong-Il died and Kim Jong-Un took the reins, he rapidly accelerated their nuclear development program. Kim Jong-Un has continued his grandfather's and father’s work at a furious pace in hopes to accomplish what they could not. I’ve long argued that Kim Jong-Un wants reunification, but he wants it to be on his own terms.
President Reagan was criticized for talking tough and putting all options on the table. He scared friend and foe alike and was accused of being a war-monger. Many people warned he would start WWIII; however, what actually happened was the Berlin Wall came down. Many are now criticizing President Trump for the same thing and for throwing around insults like "Little Rocket Man." After dinner in Palo Alto with Ambassador Chris Hill on March 4, I had breakfast with him on March 7 back in Washington. His first comment was, “Wow, a lot has happened in North Korea since we had dinner Sunday night.” He was referring to the fact that North Korea seems to be changing its tune on negotiations. Last week, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un said he would be willing to talk with the U.S. about ceasing production of his country’s nuclear weapons. While those words are encouraging, we must be mindful that given decades of instability between the U.S. and North Korea we should remain cautious, but hopeful, that this could lead to a lasting solution. President Trump has also indicated he’s willing to talk with the Kim regime. This has to be looked at as a positive development. A conventional war on the Korean Peninsula would be a total disaster, leading to potentially millions of deaths. A nuclear war is unthinkable. We don’t know what caused the change in Kim Jong-Un or if his new "ready to negotiate" stance is even real. We can only hope it is for all mankind.