Many a recent op-ed piece has started with the proposition that there are no good options for responding to the North Korean situation and then gone on to recommend a least-bad way for the United States to move forward. Often, these best-of-worst proposals seem to involve talks that aren’t actually negotiations but efforts simply to calm the situation, until someone can devise something that could conceivably be negotiated. Over at the Atlantic, though, Peter Beinart argues quite effectively for a step that could be negotiated now, which is a proposal that a top adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae made in June: The United States and South Korea can consider reducing their joint military exercises “’if North Korea suspends its nuclear weapons and missile activities.’ Moon himself reportedly broached the idea with Trump when he visited Washington in July. This sort of mutual freeze, the South Korean leader believes, could be the first step toward negotiations aimed at a formal peace agreement ending the Korean War.”
This proposal is likely the very type of thing that President Trump labeled appeasement in a weekend tweet. Beinart explains — convincingly — why the South Korean approach is reasonable and anything but appeasement; he also succeeds in putting it in a historic context that is poignant, even haunting: “In a time of jingoism and fear, it’s never easy to side with another country’s government over your own. But a decade ago, many liberals (myself included) regretted that during the debate over war with Iraq, we hadn’t uttered these three simple words: France is right. Today, South Korea is right.”
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