But what about the North’s nukes? It would be nice if we could convince Kim to scrap his country’s 30-odd nuclear weapons. But the fact is that the more our relations with Pyongyang stabilize and normalize, the less the weapons will be considered a threat. And anyway, we will continue to possess well over 100 times North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, along with vastly more sophisticated and accurate methods of launching and targeting them. That’s about as formidable a deterrent as one can imagine.
The question of what a normalized North Korea would mean for American strategy in the region — including, most importantly, our relations with South Korea, China, and Japan — is an important one, and one Trump shows no capacity to address with insight or wisdom. But better for American policymakers to have that conversation and debate in an atmosphere of relative peace than one marked by mutual suspicion and hostility toward North Korea.
So as the Hanoi summit gets underway, look for evidence of improvement in our relations with North Korea and in relations between the North and the South. If such evidence emerges, accept it for what it is — which is good news. Precisely how good will depend on what comes next.