Diplomacy, Not Overheated Rhetoric, is the Best Way to Engage North Korea

Statement by David Wright, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Sep 27, 2017

Cambridge, Mass. (September 27, 2017)—The war of words between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is at best counterproductive and at worst, dangerous, putting both countries on a collision course toward military engagement. Below, David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a recognized expert on North Korean nuclear and missile technology, explains why diplomacy is the only way to ease tensions between the United States and North Korea.

“There is a growing risk the United States will stumble into a war with North Korea.

“Irresponsible and inflammatory statements by both leaders are ratcheting up tensions and fears, increasing the chance that mistakes or miscalculations could spark a conflict. The resulting war could devastate the Korean peninsula, killing hundreds of thousands of people, including U.S. civilians and soldiers living in the south.

“President Trump’s reckless statements are also undermining prospects for diplomacy that could ease the crisis and set the stage for future negotiations. Even the president’s advisers have acknowledged the lack of good military options. Diplomacy remains the best approach and proved successful in the past in shutting down Pyongyang’s ability to produce plutonium for weapons.

“Senator Ben Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recently called for the United States to initiate a 'diplomatic surge' to defuse the situation and begin constructive engagement between the countries. He joins a growing number of people, including a bipartisan group of former high-level government officials, who are emphasizing the need for diplomacy, not military action.

“The Trump administration should heed these calls. It should start by toning down its rhetoric and stopping personal attacks. It should open a channel of direct communication with Pyongyang and offer to begin talks with no preconditions. To jumpstart this process, it should send a high-level envoy, possibly Secretary of State Tillerson, to meet with North Korean diplomats.

“The United States is gambling with lives in an increasingly unstable situation. The only responsible thing to do is to talk to North Korea.”