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Negotiations Can Denuclearize North Korea

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  • Keynote Conversation With Suki Kim

    Best-selling author Suki Kim sits down with John Donvan to discuss her book, which chronicles her experience as an undercover journalist in North Korea.

  • Suki Kim on Life Inside North Korea

    Best-selling author Suki Kim sits down with John Donvan to discuss her book, which chronicles her experience as an undercover journalist in North Korea.

  • Audience Question: China’s Trump Card

    Experts in the fields of East Asia studies, diplomacy, and nuclear policy discuss Beijing’s influence over Pyongyang.

  • Under Maximum Pressure

    Will economic sanctions and a new era of “maximum pressure” lead Kim to hand over his nukes? New America’s Suzanne DiMaggio and Mira Rapp-Hooper debate.

  • Negotiating With a Dictator

    Should the Trump administration negotiate with Kim Jong-un, given his history of violence and oppression? Korea expert Sue Mi Terry and Bonnie Jenkins discuss.

  • Audience Question: Weighing the Sides

    When it comes to the looming Trump-Kim summit, what are each side’s sources of leverage? Our panel debates.

  • Trust in Diplomacy?

    Can the United States trust North Korea to uphold its end of a nuclear deal? Arms control expert Bonnie Jenkins and Yale scholar Mira-Rapp Hooper debate.

  • Audience Question: North Korea’s Neighbors

    What role might China, South Korea, and Japan play in the Trump administration’s negotiations with North Korea? Mira Rapp-Hooper and Suzanne DiMaggio respond.

Debate Details

How should the United States respond to North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear capabilities? Some experts suggest the upcoming summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un might provide a pivotal diplomatic opportunity to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons – especially in light of the announcement of harsh new sanctions. But others are more pessimistic, arguing that we’ve been down this road before and that denuclearizing North Korea is more of a pipedream than a legitimate strategic goal. Can Trump and Kim strike a deal to halt North Korea’s nuclear aggression? Or will the talks inevitably fail, heightening tensions and increasing the likelihood of fatal miscalculations?

Presented in partnership with Georgetown University, LIVE at the first Georgetown University Women’s Forum.

The Debaters

Keynote Conversation

Suki Kim

Suki Kim

Award-Winning Author & Investigative Journalist

Suki Kim is a novelist, investigative journalist, and the only writer ever to go live undercover in North Korea to investigate and write a book from... Read More

For the motion

Suzanne DiMaggio

Suzanne DiMaggio

Senior Fellow, New America & U.S.-DPRK Dialogue Director

Suzanne DiMaggio is a director and senior fellow at New America, where she focuses on U.S. foreign policy, the Middle East, and Asia. She has been... Read More

Bonnie Jenkins

Bonnie Jenkins

Nonresident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution & Former Ambassador, U.S. State Department

Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins is a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution where she focuses on nuclear security, weapons of mass destruction... Read More

Against the motion

Sue Mi Terry

Sue Mi Terry

Former CIA Analyst & Senior Fellow, CSIS

Sue Mi Terry is a senior fellow with the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Prior to joining CSIS, she... Read More

Mira Rapp-Hooper

Mira Rapp-Hooper

Senior Scholar, Yale Law School & China Center

Mira Rapp-Hooper is a senior research scholar at Yale Law School and a senior fellow at Yale’s Paul Tsai China Center. She studies and writes on... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • North Korea’s nuclear capabilities are rapidly advancing. Kim Jong-un has repeatedly threatened to hit the homeland and his recent missile tests show that he has the capacity to reach the U.S. Allowing the DPRK’s program to go any further could set a dangerous precedent on the world stage and empower nefarious actors to go nuclear.
  • Sanctions are causing serious economic pain in North Korea: Oil imports and coal exports are plummeting and commodity prices are spiking. Given Trump’s recent announcement of newer, harsher sanctions, the U.S. is close to imposing an economic blockade on the North. Kim may be more willing to acquiesce to American demands.
  • The Iran nuclear deal proves that rogue regimes can be brought to the table. If the Trump administration successfully rallies the global community, Kim Jong-un could be compelled to halt his nation’s dangerous nuclear ambitions.


Against The Motion
  • From lies about enriching uranium to repeated violations of international law, North Korea has proven itself to be reliably unreliable. Even if Kim agrees to the Trump’s terms, it would be nearly impossible for the U.S. to verify the “Hermit Kingdom’s” compliance. If past is precedent, Kim will use his country’s isolated status to his advantage by agreeing to denuclearize in order to loosen sanctions, only to renege later.
  • Pyongyang has a long history of prioritizing its nuclear program over the basic needs of its people. Kim will continue to blame Washington for North Korea’s economic woes, providing further justification for his claim that the DPRK needs a strong nuclear arsenal to stave off Western aggression.
  • For Kim, a nuclear deterrent is an insurance policy for regime preservation. And when it comes to denuclearization, there is a mismatch in terminology. Kim will likely demand that the U.S. remove its troops from South Korea and pull back the nuclear umbrella over its East Asian allies – concessions that are at odds with America’s strategic goals and would damage long-standing alliances in the region.


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  • Live Audience
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  • Results
  • Breakdown

The Research

The Research

North Korea’s nuclear weapons: What we know

February 20, 2018

“North Korea claims that it can mount miniaturised nuclear warheads on its missiles, but these claims have not been independently verified.”

The Right Way to Coerce North Koera

Victor Cha and Katrin Fraser Katz
April 1, 2018

“A comprehensive coercive strategy for denuclearization diplomacy would build on the strengths of the maximum-pressure campaign while more fully leveraging the support and resources of regional allies and partners in pursuing shared long-term goals.”

Our Long History of Misjudging North Korea

Victor Davis Hanson
March 22, 2018

“What should Trump do after seven decades of North Korean aggression? Ratchet up the embargo of North Korea. Do not give it any aid — no matter the pleas and threats. Put more pressure on China. Do not barter with Pyongyang until it is proven that it has no more nukes.”

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