GSTAAD—We’ve now reached the point in the presidency of Donald Trump that threatening nuclear war with North Korea is just the second most controversial thing he’s done during the past week.
While America works through the fact that its commander-in-chief just gave a full-throated defense of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in a shocking-even-for-him press conference – earning praise from no less an authority on the subject than the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke – our high-stakes standoff with the Hermit Kingdom is not going away.
With Pyongyang reportedly pausing its threat to launch four ballistic missiles into the waters surrounding Guam, a United States territory that is home to two U.S. military bases and 7,000 troops, it’s time to take a different tack with North Korea, one that plays into President Trump’s self-reputed deal-making skills. Here’s what Donald Trump should say to Kim Jong-Un:
I’m told that you once blasted your uncle with an anti-aircraft cannon, had your half-brother poisoned to death, and have publicly executed nearly 350 of your enemies and rivals. Believe me, I appreciate that kind of strength.
But it’s time to end the tough talk and threatening language and discuss a solution that works for both of us. My suggestion is that we learn from our earlier experience.
I know that for six decades, your family has spun the myth to your people that South Korea, prompted by American imperialists, invaded North Korea in 1950, that your grandfather Kim Il Sung brilliantly repelled the American invaders, and that America might invade again at any moment. Yet we both know, as I like to say of my own media, that it’s fake news.
The truth is that Korea, which had previously been occupied by Japan, was split in half along the 38th parallel after World War II, with the Soviet Union taking the north and the U.S. taking the south. I realize that your grandfather, who was installed by Soviet premiere Joseph Stalin as the leader of the now-Communist north, wasn’t happy about that split. In the early morning hours of June 25, 1950, he tried to unify the peninsula by force, sending 90,000 troops across the border – unprompted and unprovoked – to invade South Korea.
Stalin believed that the last thing America wanted was another war to fight, and that it would never come to the defense of South Korea. But when news of the invasion reached President Harry Truman, he knew that if Communist aggression was allowed to stand in Korea, then no small nation would be safe. To him, Korea was where the world needed to draw a line. Truman appealed to the United Nations, which officially upheld its charter to respond to unprovoked attacks, and the U.S. led U.N. troops to North Korea.
Those early weeks went really well for you: your troops pushed the south down to the foot of the peninsula. But then American troops pushed you back to the 38th parallel so fast that we really believed our soldiers would be home for Christmas. But the fighting stalemated there, with World War I-like trench warfare, for the next three years.
That’s what most of the world remembers about the Korean War. But here’s the part that everyone else forgets, that you North Koreans never will: during those three years, the U.S. and its allies dropped more than 600,000 tons of bombs and 40 million gallons of high-octane napalm on your towns, cities, and villages. To put it another way: over 37 months, we unloaded more fire and fury on your country, which is about the size of our state of Mississippi, than we dropped during our entire four-year Pacific campaign against Japan in World War II.
By the time it was over, more than twenty percent of your entire North Korean population lay dead. That’s like America losing 64 million people – roughly California and Texas combined – a rate of destruction greater than that experienced by either Nazi Germany or Imperialist Japan. As the architect of the bombing campaign, Air Force General Curtis LeMay, later put it, “We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea.”
Was it too much? Probably. But you started it, and you should just be glad Truman didn’t follow his initial instinct to use nuclear weapons.
When I said last week that if you didn’t stop threatening the U.S. with nuclear weapons, you’d be “met with a fire and fury like the world has never seen,” that’s exactly what I meant: destruction worse than your grandfather experienced in the 1950s. If we go to war again, I assume you realize that you will have similar results.
But we don’t want that. I don’t think you do, either.
That tragedy finally came to an end with an armistice signed by us (on behalf of the UN), you, and China 64 years ago. Only, the document we signed wasn’t an actual peace agreement: it was only a temporary truce, meant to last until a final peace could be reached – which we never did. That means that technically, the U.S. and North Korea remain in a state of war.
So, here’s my proposal: let’s act like adults. You want total security. We agree. Let’s make love – not war. Let’s finalize that long-delayed peace agreement. We agree to recognize you as a sovereign state and pledge that we will not invade you. In return, you will end your nuclear program.
If you sign the agreement and see it through in good faith, we will discuss removing the 28,500 troops we have on your border as well as the troops we have in Japan. Once you fully dismantle your nuclear apparatus, open up your facilities to international monitors, and fully prove that you will never go nuclear again, we will dismantle the Terminal High Altitude Defense anti-missile system (THAAD) that we have in South Korea to shoot down your missiles.
Who knows: if you commit to a path of peace, the international community might be willing to lift economic sanctions and provide the assistance you truly need to feed your people without China’s help while building a 21st Century economy that’s independent of your weapons of war. The astonishing economic success of South Korea is just a glimpse at what might be possible.
So, that’s the deal I’m offering: a real peace agreement to end the Korean War once and for all. If you sign it, it will finally give you, Supreme Leader, an accomplishment that is worthy of your title. If you don’t sign it, while continuing to rattle your sabers, it will bring misery and destruction to your people. The choice is yours.
One of my favorite stories from the Korean War is about the legendary Marine Corps General Lewis “Chesty” Puller. When he heard that Chinese troops had his men surrounded at the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in 1950, he replied, “Good, now they can’t get away.” Your troops lost that fight.
Don’t let this one get away from you, Supreme Leader.