While North Korea defies international sanctions by testing ballistic missiles powerful enough to range US cities thousands of miles away, the US and South Korea’s annual military exercises look set to further stoke the burgeoning crisis on the Korean peninsula.
“The situation is bad now and it’s going to get worse in August… it’s going to get much more dangerous in August,” Joel Wit, a senior fellow at US-Korea Institute who worked on North Korea policy at the State Department said on a call with reporters organised by 38 North, a website for informed analysis of the Korean defence situation.
In August, the US and South Korean militaries hold Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, one of the world’s largest annual military exercises that has drawn harsh rebukes from North Korea in the past.
“That could create even more tension,” said Wit. “I think we need to be to be very careful about aggravating the situation.”
“But there’s a bargain here,” said Wit, “a quid-pro-quo here.” North Korea has offered in the past to suspend its nuclear development if the US and South Korea suspend annual wargames. In the past, the US has rejected this offer because the US-South Korean drills are legal, and North Korea’s nuclear threats and development is not.
With North Korea pushing ever-closer to a fully functional intercontinental missile that can land a nuclear warhead on major US cities, now may be the time to revisit that position.
“It’s really the best point in time for a US president to do it,” Witt said of peace talks with North Korea.
“Trump is insulated from any Republican criticism, which has stopped Democrats before. He thinks outside of the box. He might be the right person to do it,” said Witt, who also admitted he could not predict the outcome.
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