Siegfried Hecker on Why We Should Talk to North Korea

January 12, 2017

In a New York Times op-ed, Stanford University's Siegfried Hecker argues that the incoming Trump administration should move quickly to engage in bilateral negotiations with North Korea. Hecker, also director emeritus at Los Alamos National Laboratory, says that reestablishing communication with North Korea could help prevent a nuclear crisis, and could also garner support from China and other countries in the region.

The crisis is here. The nuclear clock keeps ticking. Every six to seven weeks North Korea may be able to add another nuclear weapon to its arsenal. All in the hands of Kim Jong-un, a young leader about whom we know little, and a military about which we know less. Both are potentially prone to overconfidence and miscalculations.

These sensitive nuclear issues require focused discussions in a small, closed setting. This cannot be achieved at a multilateral negotiating table, such as the six-party talks.

Mr. Trump should send a presidential envoy to North Korea. Talking is not a reward or a concession to Pyongyang and should not be construed as signaling acceptance of a nuclear-armed North Korea. Talking is a necessary step to re-establishing critical links of communication to avoid a nuclear catastrophe.

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