Perhaps Jane Harman and James Person should not have begun their Oct. 2 op-ed, “The U.S. should talk with North Korea,” by repeating the apocryphal definition of insanity before advocating the very exemplar of that definition. The United States negotiated disarmament agreements with Pyongyang in 1994 and 2007 and a limited freeze deal in 2012. Pyongyang reneged on each deal after securing concessions and buying time for its unwavering pursuit of a nuclear arsenal. Harman and Person cite no evidence that Kim Jong Un would agree to whatever new concessions they might offer or that he would not renege again.
A “negotiation” that begins by throwing away the essential leverage of sanctions is simply appeasement. It would guarantee the failure of diplomacy, seal North Korea’s status as a nuclear state and increase the danger of nuclear war. Harman and Person misrepresent past sanctions as “industrial-strength,” but until President Obama signed a law in February, the United States had stronger sanctions against Zimbabwe than North Korea. Since March, the international community has begun implementing stronger new U.N. sanctions, but even tough sanctions take time to work — three years in the case of Iran.
North Korea’s recent attacks on South Korea and the United States show that a nuclear North Korea will not quietly coexist with us. Our first step toward preventing this should be to reject more of the same appeasement that got us where we are now.
Joshua Stanton, Fairfax
Sung-Yoon Lee, Medford, Mass.
Joshua Stanton, who helped write the North Korea sanctions bill, regularly advises House and Senate staff on North Korea sanctions law.