Cal Thomas: Negotiating with North Korea


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, May 3rd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: I sure hope President Trump knows what he’s getting into, negotiating with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

EICHER: Commentary now from WORLD Radio’s Cal Thomas.

THOMAS: The president needs to remember the history of North Korea’s duplicity and deception. He needs to pay particular attention to the ways it has used the wishful thinking of some past American presidents to achieve its objectives.

History is very good guide. I turned to a 2003 piece by Joshua Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute in Commentary magazine.

He notes the North Korean nuclear program is hardly recent. It began in 1979 and the dictators have wrung concession after concession from American presidents in the years since.

The first one I’ll mention should sound familiar. Back in 1989, Pyongyang claimed it would agree that the entire Korean Peninsula become a nuclear-free zone. Instead, after raising hopes in the George H.W. Bush administration, it began requiring conditions and getting them.

Then in January 1992, North and South Korea reached an agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons from the peninsula, but North Korea refused to sign a so-called “safeguards” agreement. The government ludicrously claimed it would have to submit the deal to its legislature, a process that would deliberately take several months.

More deception followed.

Muravchik recalls how North Korea managed to divide the Clinton administration over the issue of inspections. Because White House policy was to place inspections on the “back burner,” a State Department official groused off the record that the administration’s strategy was to “walk softly and carry a big carrot.”

Even Clinton’s defense secretary, William Perry, had qualms about the credibility of any North Korean promises. Perry told The New York Times: “I’d rather (face the risk of war) than face the risk of even greater catastrophe two or three years from now.”

Enter Jimmy Carter, who flew to Pyongyang in 1994 for a face-to-face with Kim Il-sung, the current dictator’s grandfather.

Carter saw a capital he said reminded him of the “Wal-Mart in Americus, Georgia.” The neon lights looked to him like “Times Square.” He said he encountered a population that was “friendly and open.” Kim, he said, was “revered” by his people and “treated as a combination of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abe Lincoln.”

Fifteen years ago, Muravchik said the United States had “no choice” but to “think” about war against the North. War then was preferable to war later, when the costs would be even higher.

Well, later has arrived.

And later may be too late, should Kim Jong Un have nuclear weapons and ICBMs capable of hitting American cities.

Given North Korea’s trail of broken promises, it is highly unlikely any new pledge will be honored.

Muravchik conclusion sounds prescient today: “In short, our experience with North Korea confirms anew the folly of appeasement. … Above all it points up the error of lowering our guard.”

President Trump may be used to doing “deals” with New York developers and politicians. But compared to what he faces should he meet with Kim, he’s seen nothing yet. Watch how you play your cards, Mr. President. In case you haven’t noticed, the other side cheats.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Cal Thomas.


(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP) In this Sept. 3, 2017, file image distributed by the North Korean government, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un holds a meeting of the ruling party’s presidium. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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