Dealing with BoltonNorth Korea argues it is developing nuclear weapons to protect itself from U.S. attack. That is a convincing lie. The North has developed nuclear weapons to threaten the South and unify the two Koreas.
About 15 percent of South Koreans appear to believe the North’s argument that its nuclear arms are the two Koreas’ mutual assets and the Korean people’s crucial weapons to protect the peninsula from superpowers like the United States, China, Russia and Japan.
Choe Son-hui, director general of the North American department at North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, has long insisted at international conferences that its weapons program is the only way to protect its sovereignty. “We will not follow the precedents of Iraq and Libya,” she said.
This argument about Iraq and Libya was newly developed under the reign of Kim Jong-un, but Kim’s perception about the collapse of these two regimes is wrong. The United States claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, even though it didn’t, and started a war. As a result, Saddam Hussein was toppled. But the United States promised regime security for Libya when Muammar Gaddafi promised denuclearization, albeit belatedly, and he followed through with his promise.
The standard of the United States against rogue states is not whether it actually owns weapons of mass destruction or not. The standard is how hostile a rogue state is toward the United States and whether it actually follows through with its denuclearization promise or not. For Kim to win a U.S. guarantee of regime security, he must not seek to complete nuclear weapons technology. He should weaken his hostility toward the United States, confirm his will for denuclearization at the upcoming summit with Trump and keep his promise.
Gaddafi’s brutal death in 2011 had nothing to do with the nuclear issue. That crisis was completely resolved in 2006 when the United States formed diplomatic relations with Libya and established an embassy. No, Gaddafi’s death was the result of a democratization movement in the Middle East and North Africa, five years after the nuclear crisis ended. Gaddafi was killed by people from his own country because his decades-long dictatorship generated fierce resistance.
Kim ought to first give up his nuclear program to build a peaceful relationship with the United States and then implement democracy from the top down to win people’s hearts. That is the key to his longevity. He must follow the footsteps of China and Vietnam, which maintained their party systems while enjoying the prosperity of a market economy.
Trump recently named John Bolton as his national security adviser. He is the one who decided the fates of Iraq and Libya, when the United States started a war against Iraq and denuclearization in Libya in 2003. At the time, he served as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs under President George W. Bush. He stood at the center of security policy — and he was a cold-blooded realist.
Bolton led the decision to attack Iraq even when it had no weapons of mass destruction. He will not hesitate to attack the North, a country which has conducted six nuclear tests and declared it has mastered the technology to produce an intercontinental ballistic missile that can attack the U.S. mainland.
At the same time, Bolton would stop a military option and immediately begin a diplomatic process if Kim accepts complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. According to The New York Times, Bolton said the upcoming summit between Kim and Trump should “be a fairly brief session where Trump says: ‘Tell me you have begun total denuclearization, because we’re not going to have protracted negotiations. You can tell me right now or we’ll start thinking of something else.”
The newspaper said Bolton made clear that the “something else” is a pre-emptive strike against North Korea. Unless the Moon Jae-in administration keeps step with Washington, South Korea could face danger.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 26, Page 30
*The author is a columnist at the JoongAng Ilbo.