Andrei Lankov: Let North Korea Keep Its Nukes

Roundup: Historians' Take

Andrei Lankov is a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul and the author of several books on North Korea.

...The United States' official stance is unwavering: Its stated goal is the complete, irreversible, and verifiable nuclear disarmament of the North. This position has not changed over the past 20-odd years. In the meantime, the North has successfully tested plutonium devices, conducted a number of long-range missile launches (admittedly not so successful), and started an impressive uranium-enrichment program. We have never been as far from denuclearization as we are today.

This shouldn't be surprising: U.S. policy is hopelessly unrealistic. Under no circumstances will the North Korean government consider relinquishing its hard-won nuclear capabilities. And why should it?

The North's nuclear capability provides a deterrent that ensures that the leadership in Pyongyang won't suffer the sorry fate of Saddam Hussein and Muammar al-Qaddafi. Pyongyang's leaders assume, probably correctly, that the two dictators would still be alive and in power had they developed nuclear weapons. Once upon a time, in interacting with the North Korean dignitaries, Western diplomats would frequently cite Qaddafi's decision to surrender his half-baked nuclear program as a shining example to emulate. North Korean diplomats were not impressed, and they have been proved right....

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