Robert Gates, a man who climbed to the top of the CIA over a 27 year intelligence career and served as defence secretary under both Barack Obama and George W. Bush, recently laid out a comprehensive plan on how the US should handle North Korea in comments to the Wall Street Journal.
Gates, like current secretary of defence Jim Mattis, accepts that there is no military solution to North Korea’s nuclear posturing. He also accepts that China is a key player.
And he agrees with President Donald Trump that the US should try something new in the conflict, by nailing down a strategy with China before ever talking to North Korea.
“It seems to me the need is for a comprehensive strategy you would lay out to the Chinese at a very high level, which would basically have both a diplomatic and a military component,” Gates told the Journal.
Gates’ plan would call for the US to swear off any attempt at regime change in North Korea, and sign a peace treaty. North Korea would have to agree to freeze its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, which it has said it would do if the US stopped its military exercises with South Korea.
North Korea then agrees to thorough, invasive inspections of its nuclear facilities. If China objects, the US finds ways to make its life hell. Gates said the US could “heavily populate Asia with missile defences” and promise to shoot down any North Korean missile launches.
US missile defences and their long range radars scare the pants off of China, who see them as a possible existential threat.
Then China and the US present the terms to North Korea, who China can muscle into the agreement by manipulating trade.
Trump has already expressed that he’d be “honored” to talk with Kim Jong Un about peace, and North Korea has maintained back channel communications with the US despite the fiery rhetoric of the day.