Kim Jong Il is an adult. Let’s talk to him like one.

Let’s stop treating North Korea like a naughty child. Edward Luttwak thinks negotiations have “utterly failed,” ultimately giving North Korea more of what it wants without reciprocal concessions from Pyongyang. Fair point. But the solution? “Silence might yet persuade the North Koreans to improve their behavior.” Translation: Since Kim Jong Il isn’t cooperating, let’s put ...

585061_090610_883585325.jpg
585061_090610_883585325.jpg

Let's stop treating North Korea like a naughty child.

Edward Luttwak thinks negotiations have "utterly failed," ultimately giving North Korea more of what it wants without reciprocal concessions from Pyongyang. Fair point. But the solution? "Silence might yet persuade the North Koreans to improve their behavior."

Translation: Since Kim Jong Il isn't cooperating, let's put him in time-out for a while and see if he doesn't change his tune.

Let’s stop treating North Korea like a naughty child.

Edward Luttwak thinks negotiations have “utterly failed,” ultimately giving North Korea more of what it wants without reciprocal concessions from Pyongyang. Fair point. But the solution? “Silence might yet persuade the North Koreans to improve their behavior.”

Translation: Since Kim Jong Il isn’t cooperating, let’s put him in time-out for a while and see if he doesn’t change his tune.

The Time-out Doctrine also finds a sponsor in Stephen Walt:

The louder we protest, the more domestic benefits the regime gets … We’ve got lots of more important countries to deal with and we just don’t have much to say to them anymore. Once they are ready to release [U.S. journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling], they know how to reach us.”

Beyond the fact that intentionally creating a test of wills is only likely to strengthen Kim’s resolve, the Time-out Doctrine is an entirely puerile form of punishment. Supporters of the idea might say that’s the point, but something tells me diplomats should be more mature than this.

International talks have indeed proven fruitless thus far. But this much is clear: North Korea is not unwilling to play the West’s game. Just by showing up to the negotiating table, it is signaling its acceptance of the rules. And as long as Pyongyang sees something to be gained in talking, it will stay. 

Brian Fung is an editorial researcher at FP.

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