Joel S. Wit

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President Trump’s 50-minute-long meeting on Sunday with Kim Jong-un, leader of North Korea, in the Korean Peninsula’s Demilitarized Zone was, in typical Trumpian fashion, good television. But it has the potential to be something much more significant.

While meeting in the thin buffer zone established after the end of the Korean War, the two leaders agreed to resume talks about Pyongyang’s nuclear program. That may not sound like much. But following March’s failed summit in Hanoi, it could provide the basis for detailed talks between real negotiators, signifying an important step toward reaching an agreement to address the global threat of North Korea’s nuclear program.…  Seguir leyendo »

For the last several months, the United States and North Korea have been stuck in a mutually reinforcing cycle of escalation. The possibility of the confrontation spiraling into a horrific, full-scale war — either by design or by accident — has become increasingly likely.

President Trump has portrayed North Korea as uninterested in finding a peaceful way out of this standoff. On Tuesday, during a visit to South Korea, the president took a different tone, declining to reaffirm his previous statements that negotiations are “a waste of time.”

The approach he showed in Korea was certainly better than his past bluster, but it still falls far short of what is needed.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pyongyang, North Korea, April 17, 2017. Credit Damir Sagolj/Reuters

I have been meeting with North Korean government officials for over two decades, first for almost 10 years as part of my job at the State Department, and then as a researcher working at universities and think tanks. This experience has made me familiar with the North Koreans’ views on safeguarding their country’s security. I believe that President Trump is making a big mistake if he thinks that the threat of a military strike and escalating sanctions will persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Following a two-month review, the Trump administration has moved to implement a policy that emphasizes pressure — including the threat of military force and new sanctions against North Korea, as well as new restrictions intended to punish Chinese businesses with ties to Pyongyang.…  Seguir leyendo »

How the Next President Can Stop North Korea

It’s been a banner year for North Korea. The government in Pyongyang has already conducted 17 missile tests and two nuclear tests, including the most recent nuclear explosion on Friday. And there are still three and a half months left in 2016.

Satellite photos of North Korea’s nuclear test site indicate that at least three more tests are possible at a moment’s notice. Since North Koreans often celebrate important dates with spectacular shows, the approaching 10th anniversary of its first nuclear detonation on Oct. 9 might be the perfect occasion.

Even more alarming is that at this rate, Pyongyang may be able to deploy more powerful nuclear weapons and more dangerous delivery systems more quickly than previously expected.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile activities have once again been making headlines, prompting much speculation over the country's capabilities and intentions.

But is young dictator Kim Jong Un really, as some experts have ominously suggested, now engaged in a nuclear sprint?
The short answer is, no.

Rather than coming as a surprise, North Korea's recent activities are actually the predictable result of years of work. Meanwhile, the North's concerted effort to advertise these developments for its own political reasons has proven to be an information bonanza for outside analysts, providing greater insight into the status of North Korea's WMD programs.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korean military personnel in Pyongyang last week. Credit Jon Chol Jin/Associated Press

As someone who has spent most of the past 25 years of his professional life in the United States government, think tanks and academia trying to stop the North Korean nuclear weapons program, I found last week’s nuclear test and the events that followed depressingly familiar. They reminded me of Captain Renault’s famous line from “Casablanca” just before he shuts down Rick’s Café: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” The reactions to North Korea’s 2006, 2009 and 2013 nuclear tests were the same — shock. Yet a decade has gone by and the North Korean nuclear threat has only grown.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Obama's defense of his emerging nuclear deal with Iran as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” reminds his critics of an earlier landmark agreement, intended to end the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and others have argued that the eventual collapse of that agreement, resulting in North Korea’s building nuclear weapons, proves that a deal with Tehran is a big mistake. Those of us who negotiated the North Korea deal know that important lessons can be learned from that experience. But they are not the ones based on the critics’ fundamental misreading of history.…  Seguir leyendo »

In 1998, I led a team of American government experts to an underground installation to determine if North Korea was cheating on a 1994 agreement to eliminate its nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang had recently tested a long-range missile, and relations were tense.

For a week, we passed barking guard dogs and shouting soldiers doing their synchronized morning exercises to wander through a maze of tunnels. Once, when a team member violated the rules for the inspection (by sketching some of the buildings) we were locked in a room surrounded by troops with bayonets drawn while I argued for hours with the base commander.…  Seguir leyendo »