Altamar’s 6th episode looks at North Korea and its rapid nuclear advances, the danger of Trump’s war of words with Kim Jong Un, and the enormous implications that pulling out of the Iran deal would carry for the situation with Pyongyang.
Peter and Muni are joined by arms control expert and Foreign Policy columnist Jeffrey Lewis, of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, and The New Yorker‘s Evan Osnos, one of the last American journalists to visit the Hermit Kingdom.
The two warn that Pyongyang is watching closely what happens with the Iran nuclear deal, and that scrapping it now could dash any hopes for a diplomatic solution to the conflict with North Korea.
If the Iran deal were to fall through, says Lewis, “I think the North Koreans will feel pretty vindicated in picking a bomb over a piece of paper.”
There’s also the possibility, he warns, that undoing the agreement could give rise to another Rocket Man in Iran.
“I worry that the combination of walking away from the Iran deal and threatening the North Koreans with hollow threats – because the North Korean policy is fundamentally sort of successful – is going to give a heck of an argument to the people in Tehran who want a bomb.”
Osnos echoes these same sentiments, and also notes that with regard to North Korea, the damage isn’t fully done yet, and there are still opportunities for successful diplomacy.
“Even though they are incredibly bellicose in their rhetoric, fundamentally, they recognize that this would be a suicide mission, that to attack the US would really mean the end of North Korea. And they’re not suicidal,” he says.
“On both sides there is a latent desire for some form of diplomatic contact. You hear it in the language of the Trump administration in their quieter moments. And on the North Korean side, really, that’s what they’ve always wanted.”
However that may be easier said than done, especially when there are so many conflicting messages. President Trump, in his hardline, war-like rhetoric, appears to be gearing his message not toward the North Koreans, but to his base, which is tremendously dangerous, Peter and Muni warn.