Diplomacy has failed and it’s time to “take a different approach” to North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Tokyo, as the North Korean Embassy in China warned that American military threats were bringing the region to the brink of nuclear war.
Tillerson’s comment–that 20 years of diplomacy have been unable to persuade the regime in Pyongyang to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons–alluded to a 1994 deal between the United States and North Korea. Under it, Pyongyang would have received aid and two proliferation-resistant nuclear power plants in return for freezing and eventually dismantling its nuclear weapons program. That deal collapsed in 2002, and years of stop-start efforts to reach a new deal have amounted to little, with North Korea actively pursuing nuclear weapons and the missiles with which to deliver them.
In the meantime, the United States gave North Korea a total of $1.35 billion in assistance “as an encouragement to take a different pathway,” Tillerson said, but the largesse was met with continued weapons development.
He declined to go into specifics about what a different approach might entail. The Trump administration is now conducting a review of North Korea policy, and some in Washington are advocating “kinetic options”–a euphemism for military action.
There are sharply different views in the region about how to achieve that goal, with China in particular unwilling to do anything that might destabilize its ally and neighbor.