Whether Impossible State is possible?

Whether Impossible State is possible?

Victoria Liu, Editor of News and Opinion

Passionate about nuclear dynamics in the Korean peninsula, I checked out a new work titled The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future by Victor Cha. He is the former Director of Asian Affairs in the White House’s National Security Council and top adviser on North Korea under the presidency of President George H. Bush.

This work, published in 2012, comes from Victor Cha’s diplomatic experience as a representative of the Six Party Talks. He details the United States’ foreign policies against North Korea and neighbors, economic policies, and the nuclear dynamics of North Korea.

Victor Cha criticizes the dominant representation of American policies against North Korea in mainstream media. From his perspective, mainstream media portrays the United States as taking a hardline stance against North Korea, cornering North Korea to a weak position. It would seem that nuclear weapons are its only option.

But, Victor Cha makes the case that the United States has sustained over twenty years of diplomacy to denuclearize North Korea. As Cha recounts, “…the result is that any additional American flexibility is widely perceived in the region as evidence of American leadership, but is viewed in Washington as a combination of desperation and weakness.”

His diplomatic experience intrigues me. Although President Bush labeled North Korea as a country on the “axis of evil” along with Iran and Iraq, representatives like Cha continued to engage in productive dialogues with North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan. These dialogues constitute The Six Party Talks, which focused on the denuclearization of North Korea. The talks partially succeeded in 2006 when North Korea halted its nuclear plants in Yongbyon.

Cha leaves the audience to ponder, “whether or not the North Korea’s nuclear weapons threat can be blamed on the U.S. unwillingness to negotiate with a rogue regime.”

Victor Cha’s analysis of North Korea’s neighbors is impressive. One of the most interesting arguments in the book is how China has an ulterior mercantilist motive in North Korea. With “an overwhelming 41 percent of Chinese joint ventures in North Korea… in extractive industries,” China’s economy relies on rare earth minerals, iron, and steel, and other extractive enterprises in North Korea.  Underlying China’s ambivalence towards North Korea is an economic motive.

North Korea just fired a long-range ballistic missile on November 28, 2017. On December 10th, President Trump publicly nominated Victor Cha as the Ambassador to South Korea and is currently waiting for Seoul’s approval. Clearly, Cha’s views in The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future will be much more relevant in this age.