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Our Expert Voices conversation on North Korea

How does the threat posed by North Korea end? There are many "hard landing" scenarios. War. Regime collapse. A premature exit by Kim Jong Un that leads to a military junta or another family member taking over. There aren't many "soft landings" except for maybe the "China model," a process where the North liberalizes its economy like China did in the late 1970s and slowly becomes a more responsible, if not particularly appealing, country. The problem with all these scenarios is the nuclear weapons remain — or worse — they are used.

The Lesson of Nuclear History: Use Diplomacy. During the nuclear age, dozens of countries started down the path to nuclear weapons but reversed course. And there are cases where countries that acquired or inherited nuclear weapons gave them up outright. Often, that happy result was accomplished not through war but diplomacy – agreements that stopped or rolled back a nuclear weapons program.

But we can't negotiate with a murderous, evil regime, right? Well actually, we do it all the time, and thank God, because it has protected our national security. Nuclear agreements with the gulag building Soviet Union? Yep. How about the terror supporting, Israel hating Colonel Gaddafi in Libya? Check. Talking to your adversary is not a reward; it's how you protect yourself and your interests. When the North Koreans are at the table they are better behaved, the danger of war through miscalculation and misperception declines, and with an agreement, you can freeze or even roll back that nuclear program.

Bottom line: No negotiation? Well, you better start preparing for that hard landing.

Other voices:

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.