Key Points

David Maxwell, a 30-year veteran of the United States Army and retired Special Forces colonel, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him @davidmaxwell161.

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The new Treasury sanctions and State Department report send the message that addressing human rights is critical to the prospects for improving U.S.-North Korea relations, as envisioned by the Singapore Joint Statement. Moving forward, the Trump administration should include human rights as an agenda item in bilateral talks. To build mutual trust, the administration should suggest that North Korea verifiably dismantle its Soviet gulag-like political prison camps. Simultaneously, pursuant to the North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2017, the administration should continue supporting efforts to send foreign media and broadcasts into North Korea to counter the Kim regime’s information blockade.

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The U.S. should remain adamant that it will not lift any sanctions until North Korea moves decisively toward final, fully verified denuclearization. The meeting later this week between U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea Steven Biegun and South Korea’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Lee Do-hoon provides a key opportunity for the two allies to reaffirm their shared objectives and determination to continue enforcing sanctions.

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Washington should continue enforcing sanctions and remain willing to walk away from future dialogue if Pyongyang’s intransigence persists. Just a few months ago, after receiving a private letter from North Korea’s Kim Yong Chol that berated the United States for its stance, President Trump made the right choice to cancel Secretary Pompeo’s trip to North Korea. The Trump administration should consider walking away again to enhance its diplomatic leverage over Pyongyang.

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Washington needs to remind Kim that he also needs to deliver with concrete and credible actions. South Korea and the United States can provide incentives and opportunities that test him. Until Pyongyang delivers, Trump should continue to contain and pressure North Korea by enforcing sanctions to prevent all North Korean illicit activities and sustaining a strong U.S.-South Korea alliance — all while working with South Korea to test Kim’s sincerity as appropriate. Ultimately, as long as the Kim family regime exists, the U.S.-South Korea alliance must maintain a sufficient level of deterrence and defense to guard against any provocation, contingency, or hostile action initiated by the North.

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Events

EVENT: The Battlefield of Today and Tomorrow: Cyber-Enabled Economic Warfare

November 13, 2018 | 10:00

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