Trumpistas and President Trump himself are undoubtedly pacing the floor over whether the president will receive his Nobel Prize for securing peace in Korea after all, given North Korea's threat yesterday to cancel the planned June 12 summit between North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and Trump. Until yesterday, all that was left was the uncorking of the champagne bottles.
Will Trump secure a deal with North Korea that will get him his Nobel? Anything is possible. But I've got my doubts.
As I have indicated before, both sides to the controversy — the U.S. government and the North Korean government — have positions that up to now have been intractable. The U.S. government wants North Korea to destroy its nuclear weapons and submit to extensive verification procedures. The North Korean government wants to be certain that it is being removed from the U.S. government's list of regime-change targets.
Here is one basic problem: The U.S. government, especially the Pentagon and the CIA, remain committed to regime change in communist North Korea, just as they remain committed to regime change in communist Cuba. Insofar as those two communist regimes are concerned, the Cold War never ended for the Pentagon, the CIA, and the rest of the U.S. national-security establishment.
Here is another basic problem: Korea is none of the U.S. government's business, given that the conflict is a civil war, no different from America's civil war. Korea's civil war is no more the business of the U.S. government, than America's civil war was the business of Korea. Never was and never will be.
But the U.S. government has made Korea's civil war its business, just as it made Vietnam's civil war its business. And while it has seemingly given up on the situation in Vietnam, it has never been able to let go of its desire to bring about regime change in North Korea, one that would bring a pro-U.S. regime into power, which would then enable U.S. officials to establish military bases and missiles on the Korean-China border, just as they hoped to do on the Ukraine-Russia border.
That's what the sanctions on North Korea are all about. For that matter, it is what the economic embargo on Cuba is all about. Regime change. U.S. officials hope that by bringing impoverishment and death to the North Korean and Cuban populaces, they can bring down the two communist regimes and have them replaced with right-wing dictatorships that are pro-U.S., much like the Pinochet regime that U.S. officials installed in Chile or the military regime that they support and partner with today in Egypt.
That's precisely why North Korea saw the need to develop a nuclear weapons capability. It is just another classic example of "blowback" from U.S. interventionism abroad. From North Korea's perspective, it was the only way to deter the U.S. government from effecting a military regime-change operation, as the Pentagon and the CIA inflicted on Iraq and Afghanistan. If North Korea could strike the continental United States with a nuclear missile, the North Korean thinking went, that just might be enough to deter U.S. officials from attacking and invading North Korea.
The strategy certainly worked in Cuba. As part of the deal for removing Soviet missiles installed in Cuba, President Kennedy vowed that the Pentagon and the CIA would not invade Cuba again (which was partly why the national security establishment considered him a coward, appeaser, and traitor).