November 8, 2017
Writing in the New York Times, Suzanne DiMaggio and Joel Wit draw on their experience in Track II dialogues with North Korean officials to argue that the Trump administration should try to quietly restart dialogue with Pyongyang, saying that North Korea might soon feel confident enough in its nuclear capabilities to shift its internal priorities toward economic growth.
This potential opening for dialogue needs to be explored. We believe the best way to proceed would be to first hold bilateral “talks about talks” without preconditions. The objective of these talks would be to clarify the policies of each country, discuss where there might be potential compromises and what each side considers nonnegotiable, and prepare the groundwork to move on to negotiations.
Ideally, this would be done through under-the-radar meetings by diplomats, similar to the initial contacts between American and Iranian officials that took months and eventually led to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. In the current atmosphere of crisis, we should accelerate this process by appointing a senior presidential envoy to work with the State Department and with top-ranking North Koreans.
A nuclear-free Korean Peninsula should remain the United States’ main priority. The Trump administration wants this to happen immediately, while some experts argue this objective should be dropped since it will be impossible to achieve.
We don’t agree with either position. The United States has to be realistic. Denuclearization cannot happen overnight. It must be framed as a long-term objective of any diplomacy, an approach the North Koreans have hinted they would accept.
The op-ed is available here.