Don’t Bet on a Biden Breakthrough with North Korea – but Trump was Never Serious about it Anyway


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This is a re-post of an essay I wrote last month for The National Interest, but since Biden just became president, this seems like a good time to put it up here.

The short version is that America’s North Korea policy options are poor, so now that the adults are back in charge, US policy toward North Korea will probably snap-back to pre-Trump form. Trump tried all sorts of hijinks – threatening war, then cozying up to Kim Jong Un – but none of it was ever serious and all of it failed, because Trump was buffoonish dilettante.

And yes, the status quo with NK is bad, but the options are worse – war or appeasement, basically – so this is why the containment and deterrence of North Korea has basically been our North Korea policy for decades even though no one likes it. I figure that is what is coming back now.

The full essay follows the jump:

American North Korea Policy under the Next President 1: Biden–Traditional Washington Hawkishness


North Korea lashes out at Joe Biden - CNN Video

This is a re-post of an essay I wrote for The National Interest recently. They’re running a good symposium on North Korea policy in the next presidential term: how would Trump and Biden differ? This was my submission on a possible Biden victory. My submission Trump is here.

Biden was the easier one to write. Biden is a pretty establishmentarian guy. He respects the foreign policy community. And as Obama’s vice president, we have his foreign policy thinking from that period too.

So it’s not too hard to predict that Biden will revert to a fairly traditional Washington hawkish approach – no more summits or public praising of Kim; working with allies; emphasizing sanctions enforcement and China. If this sounds really unimaginative – the same kind of old-hat you’ve heard from every hawkish North Korea analyst (including me) for decades – then you are right! It is the same old story, but that’s because our options on North Korea are terrible.

For all of Trump’s threats in 2017 and blandishments in 2018-19, he got nothing out of the North Koreans. Neither has SK President Moon Jae-In’s Sunshine Policy redux. So if it’s back to the future with Biden, I am not opposed to that.

The full essay follows the jump: