September 26, 2022

Why won’t the U.S. negotiate with North Korea?

Would another nuclear test make Obama's strategy more proactive?

It is curious that so few people ask why the Obama administration has refused to negotiate with North Korea. The Clinton administration did, and even signed a de-facto treaty, the Agreed Framework, which had it been left to run its course would have produced a very different situation from what we have today. North Korea would not be a nuclear weapons state, it would have light water reactors (LWRs) alleviating its electricity shortage, and if the U.S. had normalized relations, as promised, then peace, of a sort, would have broken out.

True, Clinton did not do it willingly – he was outmaneuvred by Jimmy Carter giving an interview to CNN from Pyongyang saying that Kim Il Sung had told him that he would be happy to do a deal on the nuclear program. Even the much-maligned George W Bush negotiated. True, he did tear up the Agreed Framework, and renege on various commitments, but through most of his period in office negotiation was, if not on the immediate agenda, on the near horizon. Two steps backward, and one step forward. But Obama has steadfastly refused to negotiate, apart from the brief, strange, Leap Day talks in New York in 2012. Why?