David Kang Advises Obama on North Korea

The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) has published a special roundtable in which members of its editorial board offer their expert insights and recommendations on a wide array of topics and issues, including China, North Korea, Japan, Mongolia, economic nationalism, terrorism, energy, S&T, and human rights.

Among those providing advice is David Kang, coauthor of Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies and author of China Rising: Peace, Power, and Order in East Asia.

In his piece, “Give a Little to Get a Lot from North Korea,” David Kang argues, “Some believe that coercion will eventually cause North Korea to capitulate, and that ‘just a little more’ pressure on the regime will force it to submit. Unfortunately, past history reveals that this is unlikely.”

Kang concludes,

The North Korean issue is closer to resolution than is generally recognized. But the two sides have not realized this basic agreement in over a dozen years because they disagree about how to implement that agreement. The United States has generally wanted North Korea to move first by both completely dismantling its nuclear weapons programs and satisfying U.S. suspicions about its support for other nations before the United States formally recognizes North Korea. In contrast, the DPRK has generally refused to disarm until it has security guarantees in the form of normalization from the United States.

Although progress has been halting and frustrating and has required enormous patience on the part of the United States and other countries, the rewards of solving the North Korean nuclear issue are potentially enormous, including reduced security concerns for all states in the region, enhanced trade and investment on the peninsula, and the potential to bring North Korea back into the world community and thus prepare the way for a more “normal,” and perhaps even unified, Korean Peninsula. But to do so, the United States must realize that negotiation is a two-way street and that making progress will require giving as well as getting.

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