Non-Proliferation Expert Calls for Freeze Deal and Peace Treaty with North Korea

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.

The Joshua Ramos Freeze Deal Strategy

Here is yet another example of a freeze deal being circulated around Washington, D.C.

My first question is what would the US give up to get North Korea to freeze their nuclear weapons for 26 months?  They are not going to freeze their nuclear weapons program out of the goodness of their hearts.  Additionally this does nothing to solve the ICBM issue which is actually more concerning than the nuclear program right now.  Their nuclear weapons cannot be used against the US homeland if they don’t have a reliable delivery system.

Andrei Lankov On Why the United States Should Pursue A North Korean Freeze Deal

A ROK Drop favorite Dr. Andrei Lankov has an article published in NK News that once again advocates for a “freeze deal” with North Korea:

Andrei Lankov

Of course, it is politically impossible to be excessively frank about such a plan, as the admission that North Korea is a de facto nuclear state would damage international non-proliferation efforts and bring about a tidal wave of virtue signaling behavior from U.S. hard-liners, including many legislators.

To cushion these problems, a freeze deal will have to be presented as merely the “first step on the long and winding road to North Korea’s denuclearization” which will surely happen at some point in a rather distant future.

So far, the idea of a freeze, while widely discussed among the mid-level officials, remains a taboo at the higher levels of the U.S. bureaucracy. This is vital: this is exactly the levels where such decisions have to be made.

This author is skeptical about the immediate prospects of a freeze. It will take some time (probably, years) before U.S. decision makers get over their natural tendency to deny the unpleasant truth. Nonetheless, serious discussion of a freeze as a theoretical possibility has already begun, and numerous opponents of this idea have already made good arguments about what is problematic about such a plan.

Unfortunately, in spite of being a long-time proponent of the freeze idea, I cannot help but admit that many of their arguments are correct, but on balance, there are still valid reasons to accept the freeze solution as a deal which, while flawed and imperfect, is still better than its alternatives.  [NK News]

You can read more at the link, but as I have said before I think any freeze deal should include robust inspections and the risk of a retaliatory bombing strike if it is not complied with.  The risk of war on the peninsula by noncompliance by the Kim regime would give motivation to the Chinese to make sure the Kim regime is complying with the deal.

China Once Again Pushing for Freeze to US-ROK Military Exercises

CNN has a long article published advocating for a freeze deal with North Korea by suspending US-ROK military exercises.  As I have long said suspending or degrading the US-ROK alliance is a long term goal of China.  Suspending the upcoming UFG military exercises will only invite more belligerent behavior by North Korea by rewarding bad behavior and further advance China’s strategic goal of ending the US-ROK alliance:

In an editorial Tuesday, nationalistic state-run tabloid Global Times said South Korea should “act as a buffer” between the US and North Korea and urged Seoul to halt the upcoming joint military exercise.
The dual freeze approach put forward by China and Russia often “gets a bad rap” in Washington because of who backs it, said Delury. “But it’s a way for both sides to take a step back, lower the temperature (and) explore a diplomatic option.”
Zhao said such a freeze could “have prevented North Korea from fast advancing their missile programs, especially from acquiring an ICBM capability so quickly.”
However, Pinkston described such a deal as a “completely asymmetric,” pointing out that regular military exercises held by North Korea and China would not be covered by it.  [CNN]
You can read more at the link, but what I think the US should do is say they would sign up for a freeze deal if the punishment for non-compliance by North Korea is the authorization of preemptive strikes to take out their nuclear and missile programs.  The North Koreans would never sign up for such a deal because like past agreements they fully intend to violate it at a time of their choosing.  However, offering this condition shows the US attempted to negotiate and the North Koreans were the ones that would not agree to a deal.

ROK Presidential Advisor Recommends Scaling Back US-ROK Military Exercises In Return for North Korea Nuclear Freeze Deal

It looks like the Moon administration is still pushing for Sunshine Policy 2.0 and a peace treaty with North Korea:

Moon Chung-in, special presidential adviser for unification, foreign and security affairs. (Yonhap)

South Korea may consult with the United States about scaling back joint military exercises and deployment of American strategic weapons if North Korea suspends nuclear and missile activities, an adviser to President Moon Jae-in said Friday.

Moon Chung-in, a foreign affairs scholar and special presidential adviser, made the remark during a Wilson Center seminar in Washington, saying President Moon has proposed the idea.

“He proposed two things. One, if North Korea suspends its nuclear and missile activities, then we may consult with the United States to (on) scaling down ROK-US joint exercises and training. I think what he has in mind is we may scale down deployment of American strategic weapons over the Korean Peninsula,” the adviser said.

“Another one is linking North Korea’s denuclearization to creation of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula,” he said.  (……..)

During the seminar, the adviser said that President Moon pursues “incremental, comprehensive and fundamental” denuclearization with North Korea, beginning with a freeze on its nuclear and missile programs and a verifiable dismantlement of its nuclear facilities and materials.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but here is my view on a freeze deal.  Any freeze deal should not include a peace treaty and only include the scaling down of US-ROK military exercises.  A peace treaty should only be offered in return for the complete dismantlement of their nuclear and ICBM programs which we know they will never do.

The freeze deal should then have strong language in it that any non-compliance by North Korea opens them to a kinetic strike to ensure compliance.  Including language that includes the use of force to ensure compliance gives the US world opinion on its side if it needs to strike North Korea.  It additionally puts pressure on China to ensure that Pyongyang is complying with the deal to avoid the use of force being used against North Korea.