Doug Bandow on North Korea Today and to Come
Doug Bandow, Senior Scholar at the CATO Institute and a former special advisor to President Reagan, presented an informed analysis on the current nature of US - North Korea relations in the Trump Era, at The King’s College on Monday.
Bandow was invited by the local chapter of The John Quincy Adams Society, an organization dedicated to “identifying, educating, and equipping the next generation of scholars and policy leaders,” according to their website.
Bandow began his speech by emphasizing the significance of President Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong-un in Singapore this past June. Bandow argued that while many presidents act within a set of boundaries, “Trump is unusual in that he does what he wants,” which in the case of North Korea is not a bad thing, according to Bandow.
“I think he got it right, that he opened up possibilities that were not there before,” Bandow said. “There is a number of things happening, we are in a much better pace and I give the president credit.”
“Trump is unusual in that he does what he wants. I think he got it right, that he opened up possibilities that were not there before.” — Doug Bandow
Amongst those things “happening” is a profound shift in Jong-un’s approach to leading compared to his father or grandfather. Historically, North Korea has been a nation focused on self-preservation and military. According to Bandow, Jong-un breaks this trend in his effort to create a “parallel policy” that builds “both nukes and the economy.”
While critics of the June summit say that the final one-page document was a failure at denuclearization, Bandow argues that the summit symbolizes something much greater. He states while denuclearization as a goal is far-fetched, the summit is indicative of North Korea’s willingness to come to the table in order to “establish a relationship” and “create a peace pact” that economic and social progress can be built upon.
Having traveled to North Korea twice, once twenty years ago, the last time two years ago, Bandow said that “things were different.” He recalled seeing traffic lights, private cars, cell phones (capable of only domestic calls) and most importantly, no anti-American propaganda on his last visit. According to Bandow these are signs that Jong-un’s North Korea is profoundly different than the North Korea of his fathers.
“Kim clearly wants to make changes,” Bandow said. “Its limited but it’s fairly different from his father. The question is how do you improve and encourage that [change].”
The problem here, Bandow said, is “to not make perfect the enemy of the good.”
Is North Korea likely to give up their only form of deterrence, nuclear weapons, while surrounded by a sea of enemies, in exchange for a promise of good faith? No. But that does not mean we should not encourage North Korea’s push toward more hospitable relations with the international community. This requires patience.
In order to break down barriers and encourage change, Bandow suggests track three diplomacy, mainly, tourism and media.
“North Korea is a country of Second Bests, there is no good answer,” Bandow said. “But it looks to me like what North Koreans really wants is to become the inoffensive nuclear player. It seems that his [Jong-un’s] objective is to become a more respectable and more responsible player.”
In order to break down barriers and encourage change, Bandow suggests track three diplomacy, mainly, tourism and media. Through these outlets Bandow argues that we as a nation can help show North Korea the advantages of maintaining hospitable relationships with the world as well as marginal benefits that democratic societies incur over closed-off dictatorships.
It’s not perfect, Bandow argues, but “it moves us toward a better future.”