No military solutions for U.S.–North Korea stand-off

North Korea DMZReckless, juvenile threats from President Donald Trump toward North Korea have escalated the acrimonious relationship between the two nations and undermined attempts, even within his own administration, at securing a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire, fury, and, frankly, power, the likes of which the world has never seen. – Donald Trump

Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path! – Donald Trump

The bellicose rhetoric coming from the U.S. does nothing but reinforce the fears of the North Korean regime, which has developed its nuclear program as a means of defence against what it perceives as American aggression.

It is vital that Canada work alongside its international partners to encourage constructive negotiations between the two nations. In a recent statement, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter made a thoughtful and balanced series of recommendations based on his experiences in Pyongyang:

In addition to restraining the warlike rhetoric, our leaders need to encourage talks between North Korea and other countries, especially China and Russia… All parties must assure North Koreans that we will forgo any military action against them if North Korea remains peaceful… When this confrontational crisis is ended, the United States should be prepared to consummate a permanent treaty to replace the ceasefire of 1953. – Jimmy Carter

Canada has an important role to play in facilitating discussion and promoting restraint. To that end, Canadian diplomats have reportedly begun preliminary discussions with North Korean officials. Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has commented on the situation, maintaining that Canada should seek multilateral diplomacy while also decrying North Korean nuclear development and, unfortunately, side-stepping the issue of U.S. culpability.

It is of absolutely pressing concern for Canada and we are very involved working with our international partners to seek a resolution, a de-escalation, to really get North Korea to understand it must get off of this path. – Chrystia Freeland

It serves no one’s interest to overhype the threat posed by North Korea.

The Kim regime is ruthless and brutal, but it is not reckless. Nor is it suicidal. Instead, its priorities and nuclear arsenal are designed to preserve the ‘divine’ Kim Dynasty and North Korean sovereignty. – Dr. Joseph Gerson

Despite the challenges, there is a credible and progressive path forward in North Korea–U.S. relations, if cooler heads can prevail. Joseph Gerson puts it thusly:

There is no military solution to the dangers posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.  We need to do all that we can to bring reason to bear with Common Security diplomacy that can bring these two nuclear powers back from the brink … the Common Security approach seeks a near-term freeze in North Korea’s nuclear and missile arsenals in exchange for halting threatening U.S.-South Korean military exercises and finally ending the Korean War by replacing the Armistice Agreement with a Peace Agreement. Negotiations for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula could then be pursued on the basis of improved relations and increased trust.

And lest we forget, Scott Taylor reminds us in a recent (paywalled) article in the Hill Times (“Scariest part of U.S. – North Korea showdown isn’t Kim Jong-un,” 16 August 2017):

… the only nation to have ever actually used a nuclear bomb against humans is the United States.

For those interested in delving further into the history and motivations of the secretive North Korean regime as well as some possible ways forward, see the insightful paper prepared by former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament Marius Grinius (North Korea: A New Great Game, Canadian Global Affairs Institute, August 2017).

Photo credit of North Korean Demilitarized Zone: Wikimedia Commons

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to “No military solutions for U.S.–North Korea stand-off”

  1. Howard DoughtyAugust 17, 2017 at 10:30 am #

    On Tuesday afternoon, Steve Bannon telephoned Robert Kuttner of the left-leaning “American Prospect.” Kuttner published his account of the conversation yesterday. (See:

    In the piece, Bannon is quoted as saying: “Korea [is] just a sideshow. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

    It may be that the world has gone clinically crazy or maybe that President Trump’s chief adviser says so much that it’s inevitable that he’d eventually get something right; but, in any case, the time is right for all Canadians – and especially those in positions of power and authority – to speak up in support of a diplomatic resolution of a war that has not been officially ended almost 70 years after it was begun.

    Whether Mr. Trudeau, Ms. Freeland, Mr. Sajjan or any other elected or appointed official in the Government of Canada has the wit and the will to do something useful in support of an as yet undetermined peace process is up for grabs; however, is unambiguously incumbent on us as citizens to make it plain that the Korean question deserves attention, commitment and the applied wisdom of people with insight and experience to reset the course of events.

    The main participants in the process, of course, should be North and South Korea; however, with the United States, China and Russia all lurking in the corners or, perhaps, hovering above pulling geopolitical strings, it is required of us that we do what little we can to influence those who may actually be interested in avoiding immediate and eventual catastrophe.

  2. Don KerrAugust 16, 2017 at 8:21 pm #

    The only long term policy is to eliminate nuclear weapons. The current nuclear powers have failed to act on their NPT obligations even going so far as to boycott the recent UN vote on elimination of nuclear weapons. Canada was back voting with the big guys. A stepwise approach could be useful such as nuclear-free middle east. It seems that the nuclear powers feel that the current nuclear deterrent status is the best we can do. It won’t last forever. There will be more N. Koreas and unstable leaders.

    • Barbara BambigerAugust 17, 2017 at 1:21 am #

      Yes, yes, & yes to every word of this!


  1. Highlights – August 17, 2017 | Blog - August 17, 2017

    […] “No military solutions for U.S.–North Korea stand-off” ( […]