The deceptively simple promise of Korean peace

Before reaching such a pact, the parties may first need to devise something similar to the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe treaty concluded at the end of the Cold War, in which “we first capped and then thinned out the Warsaw Pact and NATO forces that were facing each other in Europe in order to reduce the potential for a standing-start invasion,” according to Klingner. North and South Korea might, for instance, restrict the number of tanks, artillery pieces, and light-armored vehicles that are stationed within 50 miles of the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

“It would be a huge mistake to sign a peace treaty without first addressing the nuclear, missile, conventional, chemical, and biological [military] threat that North Korea poses to the South,” Klingner told me earlier this month.

That’s why, since North Korea began developing its nuclear program in earnest in the 1990s, the United States has traditionally considered a peace treaty between the Koreas, and a corresponding normalization of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and North Korea, as the capstone to a grand bargain in which the North agrees to completely dismantle its nuclear arsenal—the end state after a series of smaller-scale concessions give the parties confidence that overhauling relations between the various players on the peninsula would be durable.