Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for a “new approach” to North Korea after 20 years of failed policy.
Two decades of bipartisan efforts to rein in North Korea and derail its nuclear program have failed. Speaking in Japan, Tillerson said that President Donald Trump is going to try something new, but he did not provide any specific details.
“The diplomatic and other efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to a point of de-nuclearization have failed,” explained the secretary of state. “In the face of this ever escalating threat, it is clear that a different approach is required.”
Former President Bill Clinton signed an agreement with North Korea during the reign of Kim Jong-il that would offer financial assistance for de-nuclearization. “This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world,” Clinton announced in 1994. “It’s a crucial step toward drawing North Korea into the global community.”
The plan was to give North Korea billions of dollars in exchange for the suspension of North Korea’s nuclear activities.
“North Korea will freeze and then dismantle its nuclear program. South Korea and our other allies will be better protected. The entire world will be safer as we slow the spread of nuclear weapons,” the former president explained.
Despite assurances from Pyongyang, the North continued its nuclear experiments, and during the Bush administration, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test. The 2006 test was not particularly successful, but it was a shocking first step towards nuclear weapons for the regime.
Former President Barack Obama tried to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, and yet, during his administration, North Korea withdrew from the six-party talks and conducted a total of four nuclear tests.
Past presidents have tried diplomacy, sanctions, military pressure, but nothing has worked. North Korea actually appears to be accelerating its nuclear weapons research. The North conducted two successful nuclear tests last year.
With each test, the explosive yields have increased, expanding from around one kiloton with the first test, to a full 20-30 kilotons in the most recent test carried out in September, 2016.
Furthermore, the North is striving to develop a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental U.S.
North Korea insists that nuclear weapons are necessary to defend itself from the U.S. and its allies, which it believes intend to invade at some point. Pyongyang recently called the ongoing Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills — joint exercises involving U.S. and South Korean troops — “the most undisguised nuclear war maneuvers.”
North Korea “has nothing to fear” from the U.S., Tillerson said Thursday, encouraging the reclusive regime to abandon its tireless pursuit of bigger and better nuclear weapons.
Towards the end of his Asia trip, Tillerson will meet with Chinese officials, and North Korea is expected to be featured prominently in the bilateral discussions. Reports suggest that the secretary of state is likely to put pressure on China to help rein in North Korea, just as he did during his meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers meeting, where he called on the Chinese to use “all available tools” to prevent North Korea from advancing its nuclear weapons program.
Putting pressure on China has been tried before as well, so hopefully the new administration under Trump has something else planned to address the North Korean nuclear threat.
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