KCNA via Reuters
While Trump has certainly talked tough — threatening North Korea with
“fire” and “fury” among other things — these ultimatums have rarely if ever been backed up with action.
And some analysts say these hollow warnings have only emboldened North Korea.
“The United States has not mounted a coherent and visible response to several thresholds that have been crossed,” Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told MSNBC on Sunday.
When North Korea achieved several important milestones in its weapons program, such as
test-firing two intercontinental ballistic missiles, this “did not provoke a specific response from the Trump administration,” Mount said. “That’s been a mistake and quite frankly it’s allowed these missile tests to continue.”
Nilsson-Wright, who is also a senior lecturer at Cambridge University, agreed.
“It seems that Donald Trump’s tactic of using rhetorical brinkmanship is not working and failing pretty dramatically,” he said.
The other option open to the international community is more sanctions.
But as Smith at SOAS pointed out, “sanctions are not a policy in and of themselves. The question is, what do you want them to actually achieve?”
Judging by North Korea’s increasing nuclear and missile capabilities, the measures imposed so far have been unsuccessful in halting the regime’s technological advance. In addition “any food sanctions would be directly affecting 25 million people who are living in one of the poorest countries in the world,” Smith said.
Military conflict and sanctions aside, that leaves the option of negotiation.
Despite North Korea’s appalling human-rights record, any talks would be “a good thing and an important thing to consider,” according to Nilsson-Wright.
North Korea is unlikely to launch a preemptive attack on the U.S. or its allies, but its weapons program worries analysts because of the scope for
miscalculation and miscommunication from both sides.
Entering into diplomatic talks with historical enemies is nothing new. In 1997, British Prime Minister Tony Blair started negotiations with the Irish Republican Army, a banned terrorist group that committed waves of attacks against civilians and the U.K. government.
There’s also precedent between the U.S. and North Korea. In 1997, three years before Blair shook the hands of IRA leaders, former President Jimmy Carter flew to Pyongyang to persuade the regime to negotiate with Bill Clinton over its nuclear program.
“These gestures at the 11th hour can sometimes work, but I haven’t seen any sign that Donald Trump is willing to do something as bold as that,” Nilsson-Wright said.