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Trump’s Foreign Policy Agenda on North Korea

Info: 1902 words (8 pages) Essay
Published: 25th Feb 2019 in International Relations

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Which administration cabinet officer supported foreign policy on North Korea ?

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has supported The president in negotiations with North Korea. Mattis has been against military action against North Korea. However, Mattis is very aware of the danger that North Korea is posing to the United States. This threat has been steadily growing and Secretary of Defense Mattis believes that “North Korea has accelerated the threat that it poses to its neighbors and the world through its illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear weapons programs.[6]” Mattis has maintained alliances and attended meetings with leaders and representatives of nations that are allies of the US in order to provide pressure from all sides in order to deter and control North Korea’s nuclear proliferation. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also been closely involved in the creation of foreign policy on North Korea. Tillerson’s mentality towards North Korea is very similar to that of Secretary of Defense Mattis. Tillerson believes that negotiations towards peace “can only be achieved by denuclearizing, giving up their weapons of mass destruction.[7]” Both cabinet members have played key roles in the Trump administration on the topic of North Korean foreign policy.

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Was the Congress heavily involved?

Congress has not been heavily involved in North Korean foreign policy. Under President Obama’s term, Congress had passed sanctions. But under President Trump’s term, Congress has not been involved with foreign policy on North Korea. It has been handled so far only by the president in the form of executive orders, along with the council of his cabinet members, mainly Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Which interest groups were involved?

The two big interest groups in this situation are Russia and China. Both countries have supplied aid to North Korea in order to keep it in power, but for different reasons. China has supported North Korea for so long in order to keep a buffer zone between them and South Korea, a United States ally. China does not want the US at their border and will keep supporting North Korea as long as the trade-off of goods for this buffer zone is worth it. Russia has also been supplying North Korea with resources for many years, but the reason it is doing so is that it wants to reassert itself as a global power. Russia wants to extend its influence outside of Europe and into the Asian Pacific. Both nations seek to gain something from the survival and future growth of North Korea as a key player in the region. South Korea is the biggest interest group, with North Korea being right above them. If North Korea launched an attack, South Korea would be the first and most likely target of said attack. They will be the first affected by any change in North Korea, for better or worse. The United States also has interests in the region. South Korea has US military bases and is a key ally in the region. If North Korea attacked the south, it would destabilize the region and pose an immediate threat to US interests. If North Korea stopped its production of nuclear weapons and stopped performing tests, it would lower tensions and allow the US to comfortably remain in the region in order to ensure democratic control of the region.

The History of North Korean policy

The United States policy on North Korea begins with the Korean war. This war began in June 1950 and came to an end in July 1953. This war came to fruition when North Korean leader Kim il-Sung successfully convinced Soviet leader Joseph Stalin that the time had come to launch an invasion of South Korea. On June 25, 1950, the north had begun an attack by striking across the 38th parallel into the south. In response to this attack, President Truman decided not to seek a declaration of war from Congress, believing that it would be an overreaction. Immediate action was needed and Truman decided to go directly to the United Nations. He requested sanctions against North Korea, and “Under U.S. guidance, the UN called for the invasion to halt (June 25), then for the UN member states to provide military assistance to the ROK (June 27). [1]” However, this did not stop the fighting and did not keep the North from killing those who protested against them. Once the United States began to back South Korea with troops, they managed to push them back past the 38th parallel until China began to send reinforcements. Soon, a stalemate was reached at the 38th parallel. In July 1953, an armistice was reached but the war was not declared officially over. Future sanctions against North Korea first came from the United Nations. These sanctions began after North Korea displayed its capacity for the creation of nuclear weaponry with its first nuclear test in 2006. The first sanctions came from resolution 1718, “which prevents a range of goods from entering or leaving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and imposes an asset freeze and travel ban on persons related to the nuclear-weapon programme.[2]” The latest sanctions to come from the UN were passed on September 11, 2017, with resolution 2375. These sanctions limited North Korea’s exports “including a ban on the sale of natural gas liquids to the North-East Asian nation, and on its textile exports — while also prohibiting Member States from providing work authorizations to its nationals.[3]” However, North Korea has continually ignored these sanctions and continued to have a nuclear weapons program. The United States has also enacted sanctions against North Korea, beginning in 2016 with President Obama. The proposed sanctions passed both the house and senate. The sanctions “Impose[d] mandatory sanctions for entities that are involved in North Korea’s mineral or metal trade, which contribute to a large component of the country’s foreign export earnings.[4]” The most recent sanctions have come from President Trump on September 25, 2017, which were enacted as executive orders. The executive order “expanded his controversial travel ban to include people from North Korea, Venezuela and Chad, citing security concerns.[5]” However, despite these actions, North Korea has not been deterred from continuing its developments of Nuclear weapons.

Evaluation of the foreign policy on North Korea

The United States foreign policy on North Korea has been focused on sanctions that will put a strain on both their economy and the progression of their nuclear program. These sanctions have limited both their imports and exports so that they may not purchase resources nor make money by selling the goods that they do have, such as natural gas. These sanctions have been ineffective, no matter how restrictive they have been, due to their allies supplying them with the resources that they need to maintain power. Further sanctions will prove to be fruitless if this issue is not solved, and it may be best to find another way to limit their production of nuclear arms. However, this will not be possible if North Korea is pushed to the point where it will attack. In the past few months, the president has been threatening military action towards North Korea if they do not stop testing ICBMs. President Trump has posted a tweet on the matter, stating that “Our country has been unsuccessfully dealing with North Korea for 25 years, giving billions of dollars & getting nothing. Policy didn’t work![8]” The growing threat of North Korea is a result of its recent successful missile tests. This success paired with the ineffectiveness of past sanctions is pushing The United States towards considering a preemptive strike on North Korea, especially if negotiations break down further.

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 Military action is not needed in order to resolve the threat that North Korea is posing on the United States and its allies. Sanctions have proved to be ineffective towards deterring them from continuing a nuclear weapons program, but perhaps a different course of action could be taken to progress these talks. It would be best to refrain from escalating the situation by remaining quiet and not speak about military action, which may be what they want because that would allow them to justify the existence of their program. A neutral party may be necessary to provide a medium for communications between the United States and North Korea. The two leaders would not be able to speak and negotiate publicly due to the ramifications of doing so. North Korea would begin to lose support from their allies, Russia and China. The United States also could not hold public negotiations due to their classification of North Korea as a sponsor of terrorism. Negotiating with North Korea may give the impression that the US will negotiate with terrorists. This part of the problem can be solved by declassifying them as a sponsor of terror. This would ease tensions slightly and may even open a small path for diplomacy. A party that is both familiar with and impartial towards the United States and North Korea would ease the progression of diplomacy. This would be the way to de-escalate the situation in North Korea and avoid military action that would lead to a second Korean war, which is what forced these tensions to be created in the first place.

Works Cited

  1. Millett, Allan R. “Korean War.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc, 17 July 2017. Accessed 2 Dec. 2017.
  2. “SECURITY COUNCIL CONDEMNS NUCLEAR TEST BY DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA, UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTING RESOLUTION 1718 (2006).” United Nations, United Nations, 14 Oct. 2006, www.un.org/press/en/2006/sc8853.doc.htm. Accessed 2 Dec. 2017.
  3. “Security Council Imposes Fresh Sanctions on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Including Bans on Natural Gas Sales, Work Authorization for Its Nationals.” United Nations, United Nations, 11 Sept. 2017, www.un.org/press/en/2017/sc12983.doc.htm. Accessed 2 Dec. 2017.
  4. Fifield, Anna. “Punishing North Korea: A rundown on current sanctions.” The Washington Post, The Washington Post, 22 Feb. 2016. Accessed 4 Dec. 2017.
  5. “US expands travel ban to include N Korea.” BBC, BBC, 25 Sept. 2017, www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41382585. Accessed 4 Dec. 2017
  6. Manchester, Julia. “Mattis: North Korea threat has ‘accelerated’.” The Hill, The Hill, 28 Oct. 2017. Accessed 5 Dec. 2017
  7. Sanger, David E. “Rex Tillerson Rejects Talks With North Korea on Nuclear Program.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 Mar. 2017. Accessed 6 Dec. 2017.
  8. Trump, Donald J. (@realDonaldTrump) “Our country has been unsuccessfully dealing with North Korea for 25 years, giving billions of dollars & getting nothing. Policy didn’t work!” 9 Oct. 2017, 3:50 AM, Tweet


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