Richard Nixon’s words of advice for Donald Trump about both Koreas

by WorldTribune Staff, March 3, 2019

While much has changed in the region since his final trip to Asia in 1993, former President Richard Nixon’s advice on North Korea may be instructive amid President Donald Trump’s current efforts, a columnist noted.

Nixon’s “primary regional concern at the time was, of course, China, around which everything else then, as now, revolved. But he was intensely worried about North Korea and its nascent hunt for nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles with which to deliver them,” Monica Crowley wrote for The Washington Times.

President Donald Trump is finding that North Korea is not an easy road, as former President Richard Nixon had said in 1993.

Crowley, author of “Nixon in Winter”, was Nixon’s foreign policy assistant during his last years and accompanied him on his final trip to Asia in April 1993.

“Because the peninsula is split and the border is so militarized, the leaders in the south have to be good,” Nixon told Crowley in Seoul in 1993.

“Today, thanks to a devastatingly naive deal struck by President Bill Clinton,” Pyongyang has destabilized the region and the world, Crowley noted. “Trump has achieved a halt to nuclear testing, although intelligence suggests that Kim Jong-Un has continued producing warheads and missiles. Denuclearization is the ultimate goal, although the sides cannot even agree to its definition, and giving up the only thing that gets it worldwide credibility is not in Pyongyang’s interest.”

Trump and his team “are focused on confidence-building measures, the possibilities of which include a non-binding Korean peace declaration, opening a diplomatic liaison office in Pyongyang, human rights assurances and further repatriation of American soldiers’ remains,” Crowley wrote. “And they remain hopeful that Mr. Kim will agree to additional steps toward denuclearization, including disclosing previously undeclared facilities and allowing inspections and the monitoring of nuclear materials.”

It will “not an easy road,” for the Trump administration, just as Nixon “detailed during his 1993 visit to Asia,” Crowley wrote.

Nixon told South Korean president, Kim Young-Sam, “The North Koreans have such unpredictable political leadership. Many thought the Soviets were evil, but none thought they were crazy. We cannot say that about the North Koreans. It is the most closed, secretive society in the world. In the short-term, we are concerned with having the north comply with nuclear inspections; in the long term, we must get them to open up because this will cut short the life-span of totalitarianism.”

Nixon continued, “The north is an outlaw nation. It is unacceptable for it to have nuclear weapons. This is an issue of the highest priority for the United States, and it should be for China because China is also a nuclear power and should not welcome any other regional power getting the weapons. We all have differences as tough economic competitors. Each country, however, must be concerned with proliferation, especially in North Korea.”

In Beijing, Nixon reiterated the point to Premier Li Peng and pressed him to rein in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. “He was met with stony denial from Li,” Crowley noted.

In his final book, published in 1994, Nixon wrote, “Of the three remaining communist states (apart from China), North Korea remains a serious, active threat, not only to South Korea but to the peace and security of the entire Pacific Rim Until it ceases to be a threat, we should continue to treat it as the pariah nation that its leaders still persist in making it.”

“Korea is one of those places where the United States has a vital interest in seeing peace and stability,” Nixon told Crowley. “The North Koreans are isolated now that the Soviet Union doesn’t exist; they’re desperate and, frankly, nuts.”

If Trump’s “policy of cautious engagement succeeds in ultimately delivering a denuclearizing North Korea, an official end to the Korean War and a budding free market North Korean economy, he will have pulled off the, near-impossible,” Crowley wrote.

“It’s a tall order. But recall that the opening to China was a tall order, too, and yet the president who ended the war” in Vietnam, which last week hosted Trump, “pulled that off. And like Richard Nixon, Donald Trump’s specialty seems to be tall orders.”

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