James Clapper, the former US director of national intelligence, recently gave a speech detailing a somewhat radical new approach for how the US should deal with North Korea’s nuclear posturing while swiping at some elements of President Donald Trump’s approach to the situation.
In his speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Clapper detailed his decades of experience in intelligence and with North Korea before concluding it would not give up its nuclear weapons no matter what, and there’s nothing the US military can do about it.
“In my view, the US has no real pre-emptory military options. I understand the need for the public rhetoric about no options being off the table, but realistically, it would be reckless to attack,” said Clapper.
Clapper’s dismissal of military action undercut the Trump administration’s repeated attempts to pressure North Korea to the negotiating table, and went as far as saying Trump’s actions had been counterproductive in part.
“I don’t think threatening rhetoric like ‘major, major conflict’and dispatching an ‘armada’ — someplace–is helpful. In fact, it only serves to magnify that paranoia and siege mentality that I observed when I visited Pyongyang,” said Clapper.
In light of what Clapper sees as unavoidable realities, he suggested a new approach to dealing with North Korea that departs from US orthodoxy on the subject. Clapper proposes the US set up an “interest section” in Pyongyang, similar to how the US maintained contact with Cuba with an office in Switzerland’s embassy in Havana.
In exchange, North Korea would get their own diplomatic presence in Washington D.C., and the US would require them to stop nuclear and missile tests. Clapper said that the move would create a regular dialogue between the US and North Korea, two countries still technically at war, as well as providing a window into the outside world for North Koreans that could help break the stranglehold of state-supplied information.
“To me, this is the only path to what I might call a “soft implosion” in North Korea,” said Clapper.
With North Korea closing in fast on both a thermonuclear device and intercontinental ballistic missile, and Trump declaring decades of diplomacy a failure and the doctrine of “strategic patience” over, maybe a novel approach like Clappers is worth trying.