Jeffrey Lewis

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It’s Time to Accept That North Korea Has Nuclear Weapons

The 30-year U.S. effort to compel North Korea to give up its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons capabilities has rested on offering Pyongyang a simple choice: a relationship with the United States, or weapons and isolation.

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has made his choice. His government passed a law in September declaring the country a nuclear weapons state. Mr. Kim called that designation “irreversible” and ruled out further talks on denuclearization. The North has fired a dozen ballistic missiles in the past two months, is boasting of the ability to deploy tactical battlefield nuclear weapons and is expected to conduct another nuclear test — its seventh — perhaps as early as next week.…  Seguir leyendo »

A military parade in Pyongyang in 1992 celebrated the 60th anniversary of the North Korean Army, as documented in a government photo. Credit Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service, via Associated Press

There has been a lot of talk lately about Kim Jong-un’s willingness to discuss the “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. It’s a cumbersome word and one that has given rise to more than a few misunderstandings.

Many people, including President Trump, seem to hear “denuclearization” and imagine a promise by Mr. Kim to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, recently acquired at great cost. But the term means more than the North’s disarmament. It imposes obligations on the United States, too — even if Americans don’t want to hear that part.

The word “denuclearization” is more or less native to the Korean Peninsula.…  Seguir leyendo »

Soldiers gathered this month at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, to celebrate the test launch of North Korea’s first intercontinental ballistic missile. Credit Jon Chol Jin/Associated Press

It seems impossible to imagine the most impoverished, backward communist regime in Asia, run by a madman and recovering from a crippling famine, should set out to build a long-range missile that could deliver a nuclear weapon all the way to the United States. And yet Mao Zedong’s China did it.

In 1964, as today, Americans had trouble accepting the new reality of their vulnerability. United States officials were slow to realize that China was on the verge of testing a nuclear weapon that year, and later were surprised to learn that Beijing was not willing to settle for only short-range missiles that could strike neighbors like Japan.…  Seguir leyendo »

U.S. intelligence officials speculated that Pyongyang’s nuclear test may have been prompted by China’s treatment of North Korean pop band Moranbong, pictured here. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

North Korea sometimes seems less of a place than an idea or an absurdist fantasy. The latest New Yorker depicts Kim Jong Un on its cover as a child playing with toy missiles. What other world leader gets this treatment? What other country is so alien, so downright weird, that it celebrates the anniversary of its independence by creating its own time zone? What other country could prompt U.S. intelligence officials to seriously speculate that a nuclear test was retaliation for disrespecting a state-run all-female pop group? What other country has a state-run all-female pop group?

The North Koreans don’t think they are absurd.…  Seguir leyendo »