US Midterm Elections and North Korean Denuclearization Calculations
Photo Credit: Reuters
By Stephen R. Nagy

US Midterm Elections and North Korean Denuclearization Calculations

Sep. 21, 2018  |     |  22 comments

There has been little evidence of progress in the denuclearization process since the Singapore Summit in June 2018. On the contrary, we have seen Pyongyang baulk at demands from Washington to give up a portion of its nuclear arsenal either directly to the US or a third country. At the same time, Pyongyang has been engaged in a maximum engagement strategy meeting with President Xi Jinping of China and high-level delegations from Seoul.

The third Inter-Korean Summit between South Korea President Moon Jae-in and North Korea leader Kim Jung-un in Pyongyang from September 18-20 had the difficult task of attempting to make the ambiguous Panmunjom Declaration more concrete through a series of tangible commitments by the North to convey to Washington and other stakeholders that the Kim regime is indeed serious about the denuclearization process.

The outcome of the Summit was mixed. Kim promised to dismantle a missile test site — under the eye of international inspectors — and start the process of scuttling North Korea’s main Yongbyon nuclear production site. Kim also made a commitment to visit Seoul as soon as possible. The Summit ending with the so-called Pyongyang Joint Declaration of September 2018 made the “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain.”

We are left with a plethora of questions when it comes to the real take-homes of the Summit. Is North Korea genuine in its desire to denuclearize? What are the calculations behind Kim’s pledge to dismantle missile testing sites and the Yongbyon nuclear production site?

Kim’s calculation may be that US President Donald Trump’s unorthodox background and inclination to make deals may be the opportunity his regime was looking for to sign a peace treaty, end hostilities, and take steps to denuclearize while engaging in an economic development program. While this may be true, the window of opportunity to achieve an agreement with the Trump administration maybe be closing rapidly as the mid-term election polls suggest the that House of Representatives may turn Democratic and that the Democrats may pick up more seats in the Senate.

An unfavorable outcome in the mid-term elections for Trump and the GOP indicates that there will be more institutional controls on what and how the Trump administration governs and engages in foreign policy. He may also face an impeachment crisis which will complicate any push towards denuclearization. This has implications for the Kim regime as post mid-terms, President Trump may be in a weaker position politically. This will likely be leveraged by the Kim regime to extract a maximum number of concessions from the US and stakeholders to pursue economic development and retain his strategic nuclear deterrent.

At least three scenarios are possible. First, to accrue valuable political capital, a weakened Trump may rush to secure a deal with the Kim regime focusing on nuclear-tipped ICBMs in exchange for a peace treaty. This solution would remove the nuclear weapons question from the US standpoint, but it would leave allies in the region, in particular Japan still in the front lines of a hostile North Korea with a track record of missile testing in the Sea of Japan and waters surrounding Japan. What is more, the continued possession of short and mid-range missiles, submarine launch systems and an unaccounted for chemical and biological weapons cache would certainly raise concern in Tokyo, leading policy makers to rethink their stance on Article 9 which gives up the right to use military force. The acquisition of the JSM (Joint Strike Missile) to be mounted on the F-35A stealth fighter is emblematic of changes ahead in Japan’s security thinking if the North Korean threat continues to mount.

The Kim regime would welcome this kind of deal as it would allow them to argue that US troops on the peninsula would no longer be necessary as the US and DPRK have reached a peace agreement. Beijing would welcome any discussions that encouraged the removal of US troops from the peninsula as it would weaken the US’s networked alliance structure in the region and hamper any efforts to contain China.

What is clear is that inter-Korean relations and the denuclearization of North Korea will be impacted by the outcome of the mid-term elections in the US. Pyongyang understands this and it will not make any further commitments until the outcome of the mid-term elections is certain.

While Beijing would welcome the withdrawal, alarm bells would be sounded in Tokyo as US troops in South Korea not only serve to protect South Korea but Japan as well. Significantly, the removal of troops from South Korea would weaken the US’s overall security posture in the region, making it increasingly difficult for Japan and the US to push back against Chinese assertive behaviour in the East China Sea, South China Sea, and in the Indo-Pacific.

In a second scenario, Trump may shift from incremental diplomacy run by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo back to military solutions to denuclearize North Korea that were being considered prior the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics. This 180° turn would not be out of character for the President and it could be strategically the distraction he needs to survive a Democratic House and possible impeachment hearings. While turning up the military pressure on Pyongyang may increase the risk for conflict — accidental or intentional — it also has a huge payoff for Trump politically. It would be a strong demonstration of his leadership and determination to denuclearize North Korea and it could pressure Pyongyang to make tangible commitments to denuclearize. Simultaneously, the President could push back against the Democrats’ impeachment process and likely political obstructionism by stressing that it would be unpatriotic to hamper a sitting President while the nation’s national security is at risk.

The problem with this scenario is obvious. Stepped up military pressure could cascade into an uncontrolled conflict that would put Seoul and possibility Tokyo at risk from North Korean conventional weapons as well as short and mid-range missile systems.

There are other questions about the feasibility of this strategy in light of North Korea’s diplomatic outreach in 2018. With three meetings with Xi, summits with Moon and Trump, and South Korea’s “New Economic Map” Initiative for the Korean Peninsula, Trump would face considerable pushback from the geopolitical rivals China and Russia as well as the allies South Korea and Japan.

In the wake of the likely negative outcome in the US midterms for President Trump, the third possibility is for North Korea to return to its byungjin ideology of parallel development of nuclear weapons capabilities and economic development. In this case, having achieved its strategic nuclear deterrent, Pyongyang can place more resources in economic development while replicating Pakistan and India by making their nuclear program much less conspicuous.

Less provocative behavior by Pyongyang on the nuclear front would be welcomed by Seoul and Beijing and contribute to the shift in mindset that both China and South Korea could live with a nuclear North Korea. China already has three nuclear neighbors and arguably a fourth would not be such a bitter pill to swallow, especially if relations are stable and cordial. South Korea on the other hand would need some convincing — however, deepening dialogue, exchanges, and infrastructure links as proposed by the Moon administration would likely contribute to building confidence in North-South relations.

Pyongyang could make this scenario more palatable to Japan and the US by stressing that its nuclear weapons are part of a strategic nuclear deterrent while at the same time making commitments to non-proliferation. While this would leave the US vulnerable to ICBMs from North Korea, it might be sufficient to reduce hostilities to levels that allow for dialogue and diplomacy. This would not be an ideal outcome for Japan, as Pyongyang would retain weapons systems that can reach Japan.

What is clear is that inter-Korean relations and the denuclearization of North Korea will be impacted by the outcome of the mid-term elections in the US. Pyongyang understands this and it will not make any further commitments until the outcome of the mid-term elections is certain. Inter-Korean relations will deepen and broaden going forward but the prospects for the denuclearization of North Korea are growing more obscure despite the optics of the Inter-Korean Summit in Pyongyang.

22 Comments To This Article

  • Lucas W
    Lucas W

    on Sep 25, 2018 at 09:08 PM - Reply


    While reading this article I can't help but feel a sense of deja vu. Back in 2016 many people were citing polls and saying how they all indicated Hillary Clinton would win, yet Donald Trump won the presidency. With such a recent black swan, I think it is necessary to think of the other extreme as well. Perhaps, contrary to the polling data, Mr. Trump and his base have a strong midterm election. They don't lose the house or senate, any who knows, maybe they even gain some seats. If this kind of scenario where to happen, I am interested in hearing the author's opinion on the new possible scenarios that would be created in dealing with North Korea. Mr. Trump would have another four years to produce results, so he would be able to use a variety of strategies. -Lucas W

  • BrittanyA

    on Sep 26, 2018 at 01:23 PM - Reply


    I appreciate how this article illustrates three potential scenarios on U.S.-North Korea relations dependent on President Trump’s actions as well as the U.S. political climate after the mid-term elections. Ultimately, the future of North Korea is dependent on Trump’s choice of actions which we cannot predict at this moment. For instance, President Trump abruptly ended what would have been Secretary Pompeo’s fourth visit to North Korea last month with a tweet. We know that Trump wants North Korea to be his legacy, and Secretary Pompeo has spent the most amount of time during his short tenure in the country. Whatever the outcome ends up being, Trump removing U.S. troops from the area would be a big mistake. Drawing down troops from the region would remove the United States’ hegemonic position in Asia, which could create an alliance between North Korea, China, and Russia. Ultimately, the United States, as well as Japan, would become less secure than before. Trump’s lack of knowledge and unpredictable actions could ultimately lead to a withdrawal of troops from the region, as Trump has already stated that he “does not understand why the United States bears costs for stationing troops in Korea when the Koreans are a ‘rich country’ that can defend themselves” (Cha, 2018). North Korea is being smart about seeing Trump as an opportunity to get what they want. It is now up to American voters to determine the fate of U.S.-North Korea relations.

  • mozevladimir

    on Sep 26, 2018 at 01:28 PM - Reply


    I would not be that sure to say that it is the outcome of mid-term elections in the US that matters most. Of course, it does to some extent, for there might be some changes in the American foreign policy, but whatever result we will have at the elections, there is a milestone point missing. In my opinion, what should really be taken into consideration is the nature of agreement that Kim Jong-Un would like to reach. Kim Jong-Un is undoubtedly a dictator, and he is sure to be worried about his fate in case of a military conflict or any turmoil that would involve foreign intervention or a popular upheaval that might cause his ouster. History shows that the US are not that particular about keeping their promises, with Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi serving as very vivid examples of what happens if one makes too many concessions and trusts the US too much. Kim Jong-Un would never want to end this way; moreover, I tend to think that he would like his regime to be sustained by his predecessors. That is why I cannot agree that Kim needs a peace treaty. Multilateral guarantees of safety (with the main geopoliticals actors participating, including China and Russia) might be more appropriate, and a six-party format that was used in 2003-2009 would be far more fruitful. However, nobody really discusses it very readily. Concerning the possibility of Trump's switching to military options, I think that this might have a deteriorating effect on the image and perception of the US in the region. There were plausible reasons to get South Korea to buy American defense systems, but against the background of a major thaw in the inter-Korean relations it might be extremely difficult to actually explain the need for a military solution. North Korea is in a very pleasant situation now: Kim shows the commitment to denuclearisation, holds summits and meetings with the South, and they are even considering economic projects. Just saying this all is not enough might seem like Trump's unpredictable 'strategy' (if any), but it will most likely be perceived as an attempt to destabilise, with some subtle chance of South Korea condemning it. Vladimir M.

  • Marie Y
    Marie Y

    on Sep 26, 2018 at 01:34 PM - Reply


    I am interested in this topic after reading this article. When we consider the international relations, the impact of the US cannot be ignored. The result of the election is also essential for the relationships because Mr. Trump won the presidency and the statistics of Mr. Trump and his board will be decided. The strategies by him have been criticized by the many countries. I think it is necessary to rethink the other aspect as well. The democracy is the basis of the country’s system. However, the election does not function for the people even though the result of the election must be the culmination of the people’s opinion. The strategy by Mr. Trump will continue for the next four years, so we should keep eyes on the influence of the US.

  • s.huang13

    on Sep 26, 2018 at 06:50 PM - Reply


    The dynamics between the large Asian countries and the US has been very complicated. Scenario 2 seems to be something that would be plausible to occur in the White House, but of course that would lead to a lot of conflict within the Asian area. There doesn't seem to really be one solution that would help maintain peace for everyone and I think that comes from a lot of trust issues that are held amongst all these countries. There isn't really any transparencies among them, specifically North Korea and the US. I find it very interesting that North Korea has now become such a looming threat because only a few years ago, North Korea was often mocked at and wasn't viewed as a threat at all but now everything has changed. Although scenario 2 can very well occur if the democrats do end up winning more seats in the senate, but it could also take a turn and republicans can (maybe) maintain their positions. I think for now it seems that most likely neither scenario 1 nor 2 may occur because of the summit in June, but again anything can happen.

  • Victor B.L
    Victor B.L

    on Sep 27, 2018 at 09:26 AM - Reply


    The point I find the most interesting in this article is that no matter which scenario plays out, the future of the Korean issue is currently depending on American elections. I think this says a lot about how influential the US still are in the area, and how careful North Korea has to be in its decisions as long as they are around. This is why I do not really believe in a scenario where North Korea would be able to keep most of its nuclear equipment. Unless there is a strong change in the US policy in the area and they decide to abandon a lot of their bases, they will remain in Asia as a force that local states have to respect. Politically weakened or not, the White House is probably going to settle the North Korean issue in the way that would satisfy American perceived interests the most, and letting North Korea keep an important nuclear arsenal is definitely not one of those. The true question now would rather be whether the US will also consider their allies (Japan and South Korea) interests when the negotiations carry on. After all, with Trump's current isolationist dogma, it would not be surprising to see the US consider that the fate of their Asian allies does not matter so much anymore as long as America preserves its own interests. Maybe its time for Japan (South Korea is already doing it) to open more serious negotiations with North Korea, rather than relying on what the US will decide.

    • Kurihara

      on Oct 11, 2018 at 12:32 AM - Reply


      I find this view of Japan's possible proactive negotiation with North Korea important as stated. In the current situations, policy makers are shapping bilateral agreements and dialogue in the region. Japan who has previously taken minimum action under U.S. leadership is challeneged to question it's relationship with North Korea due to changing political climates. In fact, 2018 may possibly be the biggest chance in which Japan may create a warmer relationship with North Korea. What was holding back Japan (relations with South Korea and U.S.) has vanished as both countries are now seeking warmer relationships. Japan has the primary objective of de-nuclearization, followed by issues on the Pacific War and Kidnapping. De-nuclearization, by bilateral negotiations is very challenging for Japan, as they do not have anything of equivelent size to give-up or give. The nuclear program is a strong weapon for North Korea who would be needing it in talks with other states (U.S.). All Japan can do is to let the U.S., or the very least have dialogue with the U.S. and have their intentions understood and expressed. However, there are areas in which North korea and Japan can come to terms with. Such low-steak issues and intrests include the attrocities of the past (Pacific War and Kidnapping). A Singapore Summit 2.0 (North Korea-Japan) or a bilateral diplomatic visit may be achieved in the not so distant future. Kurihara

  • Garrett C
    Garrett C

    on Sep 27, 2018 at 05:11 PM - Reply


    Clearly, the situation concerning North Korea is one that will continue to be at the forefront of people's worries until it reaches some form of conclusion. Yet, at this point in time it is not realistic to assume that Pyongyang will take more extreme measures and risk escalated retaliation from world powers like the United States. While it is true that Kim Jung-un has done an excellent job solidifying North Korea’s position as a country with high weapon capabilities, I believe that this time of crisis will come to pass as Kim and North Korea shift to a more deterrent-centric attitude. Therefore, while each of the three scenarios has their merits, I feel that the third is the most plausible course of action for Pyongyang to take. Although there has not been much evidence of it in the past, North Korea will need to make a push towards economic development if it wants to increase its influence and be taken seriously as something more than nuclear muscle head. For example, finding a solution to overcome its power and transportation failings would signal to the rest of the world that North Korea is serious about taking that next step for growth. On the surface, the Byungjin policy involving tandem economic development and nuclear arms possession allows Pyongyang to have its cake and eat it too. Despite apparent challenges that would leave the US and Japan in a less ideal state of vulnerability to ICBMs, they may be able to appeal to Kim’s recent interest with economic development in order to strike a deal that benefits all parties with either economic support or guaranteed non-agression and non-proliferation. Still, it is a valid concern that the word of Kim may not be so easy to put faith in. Nevertheless, the options of the United States and other major players in the Asia-Pacific are becoming limited, and only time will tell what kind of course of action Pyongyang will choose.

  • inmtyk

    on Oct 05, 2018 at 01:11 PM - Reply


    I found the article interesting with three options that are equally possible to happen. It is true that the tension in the North Korea is highly dependent on how the midterm election in the United States goes. However, I personally believe that we could count on a new approach from South Korea to North Korea, becoming a bridge among countries and a North Korea to some extent. By seeing more willingness to the reunification from North side, South Korea has been taking a leading role to cover unpredictable actions from President Trump who seemed to be the leading negotiator. South Korea cannot go back but forward to pursue denuclearization from long intense relationship with North, and hopefully take an advantage of reunification to revitalize economic condition.

  • mlampton

    on Oct 10, 2018 at 11:37 AM - Reply


    This article focuses on the how the results of the US midterm elections will affect North Korea-US relations and North Korean denuclearization and the consequences of three possible outcomes. In one scenario North Korea signs a peace treaty with the US and gives up only its long-range nuclear weapons, likely in exchange for the removal of US troops from South Korea. In another Trump increases military pressure on North Korea (a move which may disrupt potential impeachment proceedings). In a third a weakened Trump is unable to denuclearize North Korea, who would continue with its plan of dual development of strategic nuclear deterrents and its economy. This article is an interesting analysis of how US domestic affairs can impact seemingly unrelated issues.

  • Saya Ishihara
    Saya Ishihara

    on Oct 10, 2018 at 01:57 PM - Reply


    It is intriguing that any of the scenarios could happen and such possibilities also increase the uncertainty and uneasiness in the international society. Considering the Sunshine Policy which may be generating South Korea's enthusiasm for a better relationship with the North, I was wondering if it is also probable that the economic tie between the South and North would be strengthened while the US is left in the outside of the negotiation sphere. Once the North ensured its economic stability, I feel like there would hardly be any benefits or reasons for the North to abandon nuclear weapons. By improving the relationship with the South, it is perhaps possible that they would exercise soft powers as a country of "peaceful rise" with maintaining their military force. The fact that North Korean civilians were shouting "reunification of the peninsula" to welcome Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang when he arrived last week for the summit shows North Korea's effort to soften its image.

  • Yui Uchino
    Yui Uchino

    on Oct 10, 2018 at 02:13 PM - Reply


    I appreciate it for sharing a very interesting article. I have an interest in how will the direction of politics in the United States change after the midterm elections, and as a result what action Mr Trump will take. His policy will influence greatly the relationship between North Korea and the United States, so I want to continue to watch the current situation. In my opinion, Trump should not withdraw army from the region. By withdrawing the army it is clear that the influence of US in the Asian region will decline, I think that North Korea will start acting freely again as the power of the United States weakened. I think Trump should pose a more threat to the military power of North Korea. At this point, I feel that North Korea is better at understanding international relations than US. In order to deter North Korea's power, I would like the Americans to think closely about the future relationship between US and North Korea and face the midterm election.

  • Kurihara

    on Oct 11, 2018 at 01:05 AM - Reply


    The argument of the mid-term elections being significant in Trump-Kim relations is an interesting one. I am rather pessimistic for any positive change in the short term. Blue or Red, politicians elected for office would be chosen for their domestic vision. It is most likely that Trump's actions would be limited as his knowledge/information on East Asia would remain limited. So far there are only two Asian experts in the current administration, Randy Schriver (Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia Pacific Security Affairs) and Matthew Pottinger (U.S. National Security Council, former U.S. Marine Corps officer). I believe that these two would be the only people in office who can advise Trump. There are amazing think-tanks and institutions but the chances of Trump reaching out for these personels are unlikely.

  • Charles K. Neumann
    Charles K. Neumann

    on Oct 11, 2018 at 04:03 PM - Reply


    While it's not surprising that the future of the Korean Peninsula depends on the outcome of the midterm elections to a degree, the fact that three such different scenarios could arise out of the Democrats most likely taking back the House of Representatives (and possibly the Senate) is very intriguing, some of it being that at least the 2nd scenario would be something Democrats would probably be more politically opposed to than the current situation. From what I read, though, Japan would be at an disadvantage in all three scenarios, China would be somewhat of an advantage in all three, and South Korea's foreign policy win or loss is more 50/50, so ironically it would be in Japan's best interest for Republicans to win the midterms despite everything else. In terms of which scenario is more likely, the 3rd scenario is in my opinion the most likely. My reasoning is that it seems like Trump is determined to maintain his policy towards North Korea (as well as Russia) no matter what happens; on the other side, it doesn't seem like North-South relations on the Peninsula will worsen enough to push Kim away from his current policy and that he would feel confident enough to push his plans for more economic development for North Korea with a thaw in tensions still occurring. Overall, while the midterms will have an effect, the political conditions in East Asia may have already pre-determined that alternate path and scenario. -CKN

  • ABK

    on Oct 17, 2018 at 11:59 AM - Reply


    I don't expect North Korea to denuclearise in the short term and I also don't think the other countries from the region would want to risk escalation of this debate, so therefore I think the third scenario is the most likely to happen. Although, this might be not acceptable for other countries in the region, the US and Japan might experience difficulties with this ongoing, but less suspicious nuclear program of North Korea. For Japan it means that they are still within the reach of the North Korean missile system. For the US, it is important to denuclearise North Korea, because it sets the wrong example for other countries within the region. Small countries with nuclear weapons result in imbalances in the power structure and increase the risk to conflict, because smaller countries can also pose a threat. Moreover, the US must keep in mind that their ally Japan is not satisfied with this outcome, since America has interest in maintaining strong partnership with Japan to have influence in the region and form a block against China's rise. These different interests complicate the situation. It is interesting to see what happens during the midterm elections and what influence that will have on America's foreign policy approach. - ABK

  • AndrewK

    on Oct 17, 2018 at 03:39 PM - Reply


    It is undeniable that the outcome of the North Korean situation is on the results of the midterm elections, for better or for worse, but I feel the outcome of the midterm elections will not effect the general course of the situation. I can't imagine that either party in the US would make any significant changes to foreign policy in the Koreas, and it will be inches of progress. While I believe the second situation is most likely, it is empty promises from both the president's side and North Korea: North Korea would promise to denuclearise, President Trump will see the situation as solved and demand recognition of the fact, North Korea will go back on its word to the frustration of its neighbours, and Trump will ignore this and continue to take credit. Rinse and Repeat. For now, we can only wait for the results of the midterm elections, and make assessments after North Korea makes their own decisions, but no major progress will be made.

  • JessicaB

    on Oct 22, 2018 at 07:23 PM - Reply


    I think it is highly unlikely that scenario number one will occur. Japan is still an important ally in the region, especially as one could argue that Trumps main concern is China becoming a peer competitor. Furthermore, when stated that “the removal of troops from South Korea would weaken the US’s overall security posture in the region” I think it is unlikely that Trump would ever want this to happen. If this scenario occurred and it caused China, South Korea and North Korea to become closer this would be very dangerous for Japan and US as it could dramatically threaten their standing in the region and would potentially make it easier for China to become a peer competitor to the US. Furthermore, I think it is even more unlikely that scenario number 2 will happen. A military solution to denuclearise North Korea could cause all the work done to create friendlier relations between South and North Korea and the US to be undone which could have costly ramifications. Furthermore, I don’t think the US would care if they were being unpatriotic as the national security issue would have been a national security issue that Trump created himself and therefore may be more likely that it would reflect the sentiment that was seen during the Iraq 2003 war. Scenario three seems like the most likely situation. North Korea returning to its byungjin ideology would not have any negative implications on the global stage. However, whilst it was stated that China and South Korea could live with a nuclear North Korea this could have negative implications for the future and could lead to a new precedent being set where other states set out to develop their own nuclear program as they believe there would be no implications. The majority of the polls predict that the Democrats will win control of the House and whilst I have stated above that scenarios one and two are unlikely it is important to remember that Trump is very unpredictable and easily agitated, therefore nothing can be stated in confidence when it comes to what his White House will do.

  • Ksenia B
    Ksenia B

    on Oct 28, 2018 at 02:59 PM - Reply


    I am not sure about how much the presidential midterm elections would influence the push for a denuclearisation in North Korea. The only thing it could do in my opinion, is halt those negotiations along with any other negotiations about trade agreements and so forth. I might be wrong, but I think the denuclearisation of North Korea is one of the main goals for any politician, not only Trump. What would be concerning indeed, is the withdrawal of US military forces from South Korea or the Asia-Pacific Area in general, because then every power that was contained until then would now have free reign (e.g. China, Russia, North Korea). Not to mention that it would probably severley damage US-Japan Relations, since Japan is relying on America for having their back in any kind of militery conflict that could arise on or near Japanese soil. In this case Japanese politicians would probably rethink their stance on Article 9, same as with the scenario of President Trump rushing into deals with Kim Jong-Un. Though I do not think that this scenario is likely to happen, its effects would be severe on the global political situation. And concerning the two questions posed in the beginning of the article: "Is North Korea genuine in its desire to denuclearize?" and "What are the calculations behind Kim's pledge to dismantle missile testing sites and the Yongbyon nuclear production site?", my answers would be, no, as of now North Korea is not genuine in its desire to denuclearise, since it is their only leverage against the US, Japan and other countries and thus the calculations would be, to my mind, furthering the economic development in byungjin style, by making as little concessions in regards to denuclearisation as possible, while slowly getting integrated into the global economic system.

  • LEON I
    LEON I

    on Oct 31, 2018 at 12:08 PM - Reply


    I think the complicated relations between all countries involved makes the possibility of one definitive solution nonexistent. Still, judging from the actions of South and North Korea recently, such as the Sunshine Policy and so on, I believe that moves towards unification of the peninsula, or at least relief of tensions is very close. This would help North Korea achieve its goal of economic stability, possibly even without the back-and-forth with the United States. As for the scenarios outlined in the article, the uncertainty and unpredictable nature of both nations’ leaders makes the issue extremely intriguing. Japan looks like it would lose out no matter which scenario unfolds, which is worrying to say the least. Even if scenario one rids North Korea of some nuclear weapons, we are within short range reach. While I believe it is true that the midterms will have an effect on the future of this region, the unpredictability of this topic makes it hard to call in which way.

  • Aki M
    Aki M

    on Nov 12, 2018 at 01:49 PM - Reply


    It seems that either way the outcomes for the demilitarization process in the Korean peninsula will not result favorably for Japan. As the Democrats take control of the House and Republicans continue to gain majority in the Senate, the Trump administration seems to have difficulties in completing its commitments. However, secure seats in the Senate allows the Republicans to continue their foreign policies, especially regarding NK, which means the influences may end up not being very strong. It seems that Trump will rather continue and strengthen his efforts on resolving relationships with NK in order to gather more votes for the next re-elections, where his contributions for international relations will be highlighted.

    • Aki M
      Aki M

      on Nov 12, 2018 at 01:51 PM - Reply


      *denuclearization, not demilitarization

  • Moeko I
    Moeko I

    on Nov 14, 2018 at 02:57 PM - Reply


    Taking in consideration the outcome of the mid-term elections, the United States seems to be turning up the military pressure on North Korea. The US and Korea have re-started their joint military exercise from 5th November, and the conference between Mike Pompeo and Kim Yongchul was postponed. Also Shinzo Abe, had a telephone conference with Trump emphasizing the importance of sustaining pressure to the North for denuclearization. For this situation, I think the problem is not the risk of military conflict but the risk of freezing the agenda of denuclearizing and decreasing the risk of short and middle range missiles for South Korea and Japan. With the US putting pressure, North Korea has always played political games not actual military conflicts. Conflict was always on the table or screen, threatening the surrounding countries with warning shots or testing their weapons. They are very careful not to lose their country by pulling the trigger. Putting pressure on the North may seem, at first, leadership however it does not seem so different from the former politicians. Pyongyang would again start increasing its military power to draw Washington to the negotiating table if Trump decides to postpone the conference. This would not make Trump so outstanding which, regarding only his foreign policy, needs to turn over if he wants to continue his governing. The chances might become the other two crossroads or another possibility.

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