The drum beat continues for the Trump administration to sign a “freeze deal” with North Korea. The latest academic to push this is non-proliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis:
If Washington wants to depart from this cycle, it is time to talk to the North Koreans—not about denuclearisation, but about other ways to calm fears and improve relations. The two antagonists, along with South Korea and Japan, need to find a way to reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula. This may include a freeze on the testing of both nuclear and conventional missiles in exchange for limits on US and South Korean military exercises. They also need to think about crisis communications, such as hotlines, and transparency measures related to military activities. And ultimately, they need to think about replacing the armistice, under which the US and North Korea remain at war, with a peace treaty. If all this sounds like a victory of North Korea’s campaign to develop thermonuclear weapons that can strike America, well, it is. China’s first nuclear test was in October 1964. By February 1972, Richard Nixon had famously gone to China. By 1979, the US had diplomatic relations with China and Deng Xiaoping had made a state visit to America. Nuclear weapons confer power and status, whether we like it or not.
If hosting Kim Jong-un, the dictator of a starving nation, for a sumptuous state dinner seems hard to accept, that is the triumphalism of 1991 clouding judgment. In the insecurity of 2017, Americans have to accept that they do not have the power to simply topple dictators who abuse human rights or threaten their neighbours. If one looks closely, it becomes clear that it was the illusion of omnipotence, born in a moment of triumph and sustained by desperate efforts to extend it, that brought us a nuclear-armed North Korea. Powell could not see the threats of the future because he was looking in the wrong place. The villains that beset America and the demons that led Washington astray, were never to be found in Cuba or North Korea. They were to be found at home, within America itself. [Prospect Magazine]
You can read more at the link, but signing a peace treaty would mean the end of the US-ROK alliance because if there is “peace” then why does the US need troops in Korea? This would play into the North Koreans strategy of separating the US from South Korea to set the stage for coopting South Korea with their nuclear weapons:
A lot is now being said here, in other words, which indicates the North has reason to fancy its prospects of decoupling the alliance and subjugating the rival state. But I can hardly fault Keck or any other American observer for not knowing things the foreign press corps in Seoul prefers not to write about. (…….)
Should push come to shove, texts and tweets would be more likely to drive Seoulites to peace or pro-confederation demonstrations than to the flag-waving rallies of the security-minded. Hasn’t President Moon himself called on candlelighters to help prevent a war on the peninsula? Not to prevent or deter a North Korean attack, mind you, but to prevent a war, an exchange of fire. [B.R. Myers]
Myers’ point above is the weakness of Mr. Lewis’ argument for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Lewis focuses solely on North Korea pursuing nuclear weapons for regime survival when the regime has survived just fine with the threat of a massive artillery strike on Seoul. The ultimate goal of the North’s nuclear weapons program is to co-opt the ROK into a confederation on North Korean terms. A freeze deal followed by a peace treaty plays right into the Kim regime’s hands.