Flipping the script: Could peace talks help defuse North Korea?

The Associated Press reports: The new U.N. sanctions on North Korea are out and they are going to pinch Pyongyang hard. But they also beg a big question — since sanctions thus far have failed to persuade North Korea to roll over and give up its nukes, are more, but tougher, ones really the most effective way to bring the North out of its hardened Cold War bunker?

Is it time to flip the script?

China, a key broker in the North Korea denuclearization puzzle, thinks so. It wants the U.S. and North Korea to sit down for peace talks to formally end the Korean War. That idea has always been a non-starter in Washington, which insists the North must give up its nuclear ambitions first, but some U.S. experts also think it might be a viable path forward.

For sure, advocates of sitting down with a nuclear-armed North Korea are the minority camp in the United States. And even those who do support the idea generally agree sanctions can be a useful tool in pushing negotiations forward, if there is a coherent and internationally coordinated follow-up plan on where those negotiations should go.

But sanctions can also backfire, pushing an insecure and threatened regime into a more defiant, and potentially more dangerous, direction.

Pyongyang gave a hint at that possibility Friday in its first official response to the sanctions, saying the measures were an “outrageous provocation” that it “categorically rejects.” North Korea threatened to carry out countermeasures against the U.S. and other countries that supported the sanctions.

While such threats usually amount to nothing, the U.N.’s efforts to change the North’s behavior through sanctions haven’t amounted to much, either. [Continue reading…]

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