After nearly a year of gaffes, provocations, threats, bombings, destabilizing arms deals, and, most recently, the disastrous decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the sanest member of the Trump Administration, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, appeared to have begun a new and promising diplomatic direction in relations with tiny, beleaguered North Korea.
In a surprising statement given to a Washington think tank on December 12, Secretary Tillerson said:
We are ready to talk anytime North Korea would
like to talk. We are ready to have the first meeting
without preconditions. Let’s just meet. We can talk
about the weather if you want. We can talk about
whether its going to be a square table or a round table
if that’s what you’re excited about. And then we can
begin to lay out a road map.*
He perceptively added that it was “unrealistic” for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.
Tillerson’s reasonable approach, however, did not sit very well with either his boss or the blood thirsty war hawks within the Administration who now have enough ammunition to force his removal, probably after the first of the year. One of Trump’s top aides reportedly said Tillerson “hasn’t learned his lesson.”**
A couple of days later, and probably after a tongue lashing by the Chief Executive, Tillerson had taken back his earlier statement and was once again pushing the hardcore, neocon line declaring: “North Korea must earn its way back to the table. The pressure campaign must and will continue until denuclearization is achieved.”***
The “preconditions” for any US-North Korean talks was spelled out by the Secretary of State: a “sustained cessation of North Korea’s threatening behavior” and that the “ultimate outcome [of the talks] would be for North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.”****
As an astute appraiser of the situation, Tillerson understands that the preconditions set by the US will never be agreed to by North Korea. They would be insane to do so. Kim Jong Un realizes what happens to regimes that renounce their nuclear weapons program – their leadership usually faces a grisly demise – see Iraq and Libya.
Why is it that the US should unilaterally set preconditions? Doesn’t North Korea have any say in how negotiations should commence? Wasn’t it North Korea that bore much of the destruction in the “police action” of the 1950s, when 10% of its population perished and only a few buildings remained standing in its capital after merciless American carpet bombing?
The effects of what the US did are still embedded in the North Korean psyche, President Trump, who avoided military service during the Vietnam War due to a mysterious foot ailment, called it “pointless” to negotiate without preconditions which would in effect mean surrender for North Korea.
While anti-immigration proponents and border wall enthusiasts continue to press President Trump to fulfill his campaign promise, illegal immigration is still secondary to that of war and peace. In fact, the two are linked. A de-escalation of tensions in North Korea as Secretary Tilllerson’s path would most likely lead to would mean that the Trump Administration could concentrate more on domestic issues with the first priority being border security.
Secretary Tillerson’s level-headed thinking should be applied to other parts of the world that the US has poked its unwanted nose into. A pull back in its role as global policeman would reduce the massive wasteful defense spending which would leave resources available for the domestic economy.
If, God forbid, war does break out on the Korean peninsula, the blame can be directly placed on the crazed war hawks of the Trump Administration up to and including the Chief Executive himself and not in the more moderate voices like Rex Tillerson. Not only would there be massive bloodshed and destruction from such a conflict, but it might lead to a general world conflagration.
Ultimately, however, even Rex Tillerson’s approach goes beyond what a true America First foreign policy should look like. America has no business being involved in the political affairs of Korea. Non-intervention, free trade, and cultural exchange are the principles of a true America First program. Only when these ideals are adopted will the crisis on the Korean Peninsula be solved.
*Tyler Durden, “After Shocking Reversal Tillerson, North Korea Agrees ‘It’s Important to Avoid War.'” Zero Hedge 12 December 2017. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-12-12/after-shocking-tillerson-reversal-north-korea-agrees-it-important-avoid-war
**Jason Ditz. “Trump Allies: Tillerson Hasn’t Learned His Lesson.” Antiwar.com 15 December 2017. http://news.antiwar.com/2017/12/15/trump-allies-tillerson-hasnt-learned-his-lesson/
***Carol Morello, “In Reversal, Tillerson says N. Korea must ‘earn’ way back to talks.” The Washington Post, 16 December 2017, A9.