The biggest danger of North Korea talks

In August of last year, days before he was forced out of the White House, Steve Bannon gave an unusual interview to Robert Kuttner, a journalist at The American Prospect. The article made headlines because Bannon tore into his rivals, especially Gary Cohn, and in a progressive magazine no less.

But Kuttner’s piece also contained an astonishing detail about North Korea. He wrote that Bannon said he “might consider a deal in which China got North Korea to freeze its nuclear buildup with verifiable inspections and the United States removed its troops from the peninsula.” Given Bannon’s status as a hardline nationalist, some viewed his remark as a proxy for what President Trump might think.

Such a deal would be widely regarded as an unmitigated disaster for the United States. It would trade one of America’s most important alliances for a promise to freeze North Korea’s nuclear weapons program where it is—which is to say, it would legitimize its existing arsenal. It would signal that the United States cares little for its friends and is only concerned about direct threats to the homeland.

North Korea has offered such a deal before. It has held out the prospect of denuclearization in exchange for a peace treaty that included an end to the U.S.-South Korea alliance. The United States has always rejected such a deal. Many experts believe that one reason the North pursued ICBMs was to put pressure on the United States to “decouple” from South Korea.