As I have warned consistently over the years, like Syria, North Korea is a longstanding chaos box; a big red button that the elites can press any time they wish to instigate a chain of greater geopolitical tensions. The question has always been, will they actually use it?
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One of the most useful things I learned in business school was that you can usually make a deal whenever the parties involved don’t want full control of the same limited resources. That’s why a peace deal in Israel is impossible – because both sides want the same land. But that’s a rare situation (fortunately).
The more normal situation is the one we see with North Korea and the United States. The United States doesn’t want the same limited resource that North Korea wants. And China has their own interests. That kind of situation almost always means you can reach a deal if you look hard enough.
At the moment, we have about 75% of what we need for a nuclear deal with North Korea. Both the United States and China are putting unprecedented economic and military pressure on North Korea, and that means North Korea will start to get flexible. But without the remaining 25% of what is needed for a deal, no breakthrough is possible. North Korea is unlikely to agree to anything that makes it seem as if it caved to pressure from the United States. You have to solve for that to get a deal. That is the missing 25%.
So let me tell you how to do that.
I’m about to suggest a somewhat impractical idea just to make the point about how deals get made. This is what I call the “bad idea” that is intended to generate some creativity toward a better idea.
So here’s the bad-idea form of the deal:
1. North Korea abandons its Nuclear Weapons program and agrees to international inspections.
2. In return, China agrees to provide military protection to ensure the continuation of the current North Korean government.
3. South Korea gives up its side of the Demilitarized Zone and declares it North Korean territory but permanently occupied by Chinese forces.
You don’t need a DMZ buffer zone if China is the military player on the other side of the fence from South Korea. And with this deal structure, the leader of North Korea gets to say he expanded his empire and found a way to keep the country safe from invasion forever.
4. Trade deals and aid would become available to North Korea upon signing the deal.
5. The United States agrees to remove forces from South Korea, as they would be an unnecessary expense once China takes over the DMZ.
I’m guessing there are plenty of reasons why giving South Korea’s side of the DMZ to North Korea, on the condition that it is occupied only by Chinese defensive forces, is a bad idea. But I think you see the deal format.
In my example, South Korea really gives up nothing by gifting its side of the DMZ to North Korea. That land was useless. And once occupied by Chinese forces, tensions should drop to nearly zero. China has no reason to attack South Korea, now or ever.
While South Korea would be giving up nothing of actual value, it would look like a big win for North Korea because they would be gaining territory and permanent Chinese military assistance. And that gives them a story to save face.
In persuasion language, you need to give North Korea a “fake because.” They probably already want peace, but they don’t have a good public excuse for why they would cave to pressure and settle for it. Giving them something that has little value but can be exaggerated to seem like it has great value becomes the “fake because.”
I’m not predicting we’ll see a deal that involves the DMZ land ownership. But any workable deal with North Korea would have a “fake because” in the design. Until you see that, don’t expect much progress.
For more of me:
Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays
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You might enjoy reading my book because fake because.
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According to former CIA Director James Woolsey, North Korea could potentially launch an electromagnetic-pulse (EMP) attack against the U.S. The effects of such an attack would be devastating. Here’s how to prepare.Read More →
The other day, President Trump declared that “President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”
Then the world went nuts.
Former CIA Director James Clapper denied that Trump was wiretapped, saying, “There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign,“
Yet we know General Flynn was in Trump Tower when his conversation with the Russian diplomat were recorded.
Does that means Flynn was “wiretapped”?
No. But it might mean the person on the other end was. And we already know he was.
Does it mean Trump Tower was “wiretapped”?
No. But it might mean that the person on the other end was. And we already know he was.
And what does “wiretapping” even mean in a world in which all communications are recorded routinely? if the government records you routinely, and then it decides to look at some of those records, with a court order or without, has any “wiretapping” happened? I don’t think so.
And what does it mean to say “Obama was tapping”? Does it mean he directly ordered it, or does he just have to wonder aloud how awesome it would be if someone did it? We expect presidents to have deniability about the spooky stuff because we watch television shows and that makes us smart.
I don’t have an opinion about what happened, or didn’t happen, with the wiretapping. But this story did make me laugh when I realized we find ourselves in the following fun situation:
1. President Trump is the world’s biggest liar (according to his foes).
2. President Trump now has direct access to more national secrets than any other living human being.
And that means fun.
This wiretapping situation shows us how much fun it will be. Six months ago, if Trump made a hard-to-believe claim about something that is also hard to verify, the country would assume he was lying, incorrect, or negotiating. Now, if he says something hard-to-believe, such as the recent wiretapping claim, you have to wonder if the President knows something you don’t. Because he knows a lot of somethings you don’t.
If history is our guide, this odd situation, in which the most famous “liar” in the world also has access to the world’s best secrets, will be more entertaining than dangerous. We’re seeing that entertainment now. Trump can make any claim about hard-to-verify situations and we’ll all have to wonder if he knows something we don’t.
I feel sorry for the people watching the other movie – the one in which President Trump is essentially Hitler. In my movie, he’s having a bumpy transition ride but generally doing the people’s work. My movie is more of a comedy. And you could not write a better comedy than one in which the biggest “liar” in the world is in charge of the biggest secrets in the world.
About North Korea
In other news, watch President Trump force China to put the clamps on North Korea’s missile program by making it clear we’ll handle it for them if they can’t take care of their own backyard. If the United States has to take care of China’s problem for them, it sure would be embarrassing for China. And persuasive.
I base my North Korea prediction on the assumption that by now President Trump has burrowed so far into the brains of the Chinese leadership that he’s already got functional control, Master Persuader style. They just don’t realize it.
If you are a television news producer, you will probably enjoy using the WhenHub app because it will show your invited guests on a map as they approach their various studios. No more worrying who will be late. Just send the guest one text with a link to ask them to temporarily show up on the map on their way to the studio. The geostreaming ends automatically soon after they reach their destination.
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It was exciting over the weekend to hear about the launch of Ron Paul’s Institute for Peace and Prosperity. Recalling one of the infamous debates during the last election cycle, where he was booed after suggesting the “Golden Rule” be applied to foreign policy, it’s obvious that Paul’s detractors just couldn’t get with that part of his […]Read More →
Our foreign policy since the early 20th century has been so schizophrenic: We support Stalin in the fight against the Nazis; later, we’re outraged at Stalin’s ethnic cleansing practices. We sign a bilateral agreement with Iran in 1959, saying we’ll aid them if they’re ever attacked; throughout the 1970s, Iran is actually the United States’ […]Read More →
I wish this was a joke. Thousands of North Koreans now face at least 6 months in a labor camp. Their crimes – not going to the organized gatherings to mourn the death of Kim Jong-il…or going and not crying or seeming genuine enough. Reports also indicate that, from 7AM to 7PM every day, vehicles […]Read More →