In 2001, George W. Bush changed course to adopt a hard line toward North Korea, and the Obama administration mostly continued the Bush policy. This has yielded no results except that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has flourished. Now, we have dangerous rhetoric from President Donald Trump and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster that could lead to war with North Korea. At a minimum, casualties among Koreans and U.S. personnel in Korea would be around 1 million, and costs would be over $1 trillion. If it were to escalate into a nuclear confrontation, it could engulf the world and lead to unprecedented death and misery.
The hardliners who want North Korea to make big concessions before the talks start do not seem to understand what is at stake. They evidently believe that talking tough is its own reward. There is no moral fault or weakness in talking to an opponent. The whole idea of peace negotiating is to talk with an enemy and find some mutually agreeable path forward. Secretary of State RexTillerson’s statement in support of dialogue is like lighting a candle in a dark labyrinth. I fervently hope it will enable us to find other candles and illuminate a path to peace.