President Clinton made a deal with North Korea when Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il was “Dear Leader.” He was offered about $4 billion in incentives. The deal was basically that if North Korea diminished aggression, the United States would provide money and call it energy aid. North Korea would have to freeze and gradually dismantle its nuclear weapons development program. This all took place in October 1994.
The agreement collapsed in 2002. Some people say North Korea was not meeting its agreed upon objectives, but others say Congress refused to give Bill Clinton all the money for the agreement, so it collapsed shortly after President Bush took office. Others say Congress did not appropriate the money at all. What matters is, then-President Bill Clinton wanted to buy our way out of North Korea growing into a nuclear power. It might not have been a bad deal, and it would have been worthwhile for the safety of the U.S. and the world.
Later, during the George W. Bush administration, there were back-and-forth warnings and a lot of talk between the U.S. and other channels. Kim Jong-un’s father died in December 2011, making Kim Jong-un the next leader. The Hudson Institute says, under President Obama, there was a new nuclear agreement with Kim Jong-un, and it was a signed agreement. The agreement says North Korea agreed to a moratorium on nuclear weapons and missile-delivery activities in exchange for the U.S. agreeing to provide food aid. Nothing stopped North Korea – not warnings or third-party negotiations. Then, the Obama administration tried to get China to change North Korea’s behavior but to no avail.
We now know nothing has worked, the Clinton buyout, food aid, threats, back-channel communications. We have done it all. We have tried every mechanism. Anything that has worked has been temporary and has fallen apart because North Korea simply does not comply.
Now we have a new President Donald Trump, and there is a heightened level of aggressive activity, such as missile launches and testing and very aggressive verbiage by Kim Jong-un. He has threatened attacks toward the U.S. as well as other countries such as Japan and South Korea.
There has never been a reason to start any war or bombing just because of one person, such as Otto Warmbier, over accusations of taking a poster. However, his murder clearly cemented the view of North Korea in the minds of many of the American people.
There are now some North Korea experts who believe taking out North Korea’s missile sites might not work if we don’t get them all. Even if all of their missile sites were taken out, they could still launch a ground war and kill people in South Korea or even Japan. There is a growing thought that if the United States had support of at least one significant ally, it would make sense to take out Kim Jong-un and people around him. In other words, targeting him and the people around him and killing him and perhaps his family and major aides.
If there is a move to retaliate for the recent actions and new actions of North Korea, then it might be even more aggression for the U.S. to remove its missile bases and military personnel. Military personnel might welcome the end of Kim Jong-un. It might also give the North Korean military a chance to really lead the country into a more reasonable regime and protect its people as well as giving them food.
This brings up another debatable issue: Should the U.S. engage in assassination of a head of a country? The CIA used to engage in that kind of thing, and it was not to a good end. However, without the beginning of a regional war with China, there may be no other alternative but to take out Kim Jong-un. I personally do not like that alternative, but I like war with China as an adversary even less.
The wild card in this is a brand new American president. A more aggressive North Korea may bring an outcome that many thought wouldn’t take place. The only entity that can avert North Korea from continuing its nuclear/ missile program is China. So far, it has done nothing, leaving Donald Trump to be the action taker.
Media wishing to interview Ellen Ratner, please contact [email protected].