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Coalition of national organizations urges presidential campaigns to support peace and diplomacy with North Korea

North Korea skyline
Photo: / AFSC

WASHINGTON, DC (August 13, 2020) With talks between the U.S. and North Korea at a standstill, and the upcoming U.S. election putting future negotiations into question, a coalition of national organizations is urging the next administration — whether it be a second Trump administration or a new Biden administration — to take a pro-engagement stance with North Korea in order to advance denuclearization and peace.

Recognizing that the next administration will have an urgent responsibility to make progress with North Korea in order to avoid potentially deadly escalation, the groups urge candidates to commit to a step-by-step approach to denuclearization instead of demanding North Korea’s unilateral disarmament, taking concrete steps to build trust, and facilitating reunions of Korean Americans with their divided families in North Korea.

Crucially, the organizations demand a peace agreement to formally end the still-ongoing Korean War, as it is “the root cause of militarism and tensions that must be resolved if there is to be real progress with North Korea.” 

The next administration will have a tremendous amount of discretion regarding engagement with the world and will inherit the current impasse with North Korea. The groups urge candidates to commit to using that power to prioritize peace and diplomacy in the interest of American, Korean, and global security.

“All of our security is at risk as our leaders are stuck in the past and clinging to failed policies of threats and war,” said Women Cross DMZ Executive Director Christine Ahn. “It is critical that the next administration be bold enough to change course by pursuing peace as a foundation for successful policy on the Korean peninsula.” 

“Decades of experience have taught us that disengagement, ‘all or nothing’ demands and ‘maximum pressure’ campaigns can achieve little but miscommunication and mutual endangerment,” said Win Without War Executive Director Stephen Miles. “Only by choosing diplomacy can a next administration hope to build trust, denuclearization, and peace. Our security — the security of millions of people on both sides of the DMZ — depends on it.”

Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, Arms Control Association, said, “An effective, sustainable diplomatic process stands the best chance of reducing the risk posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and building peace on the peninsula. It’s critical that the next administration abandons unrealistic demands for unilateral denuclearization and puts incentives on the table to reciprocate tangible actions from Pyongyang.” 

Daniel Jasper, Asia Public Education and Advocacy Coordinator, American Friends Service Committee, said, “For decades, the U.S. has been on a campaign to isolate and strangle North Korea into submission. This approach has failed miserably. North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is more advanced than ever, and sanctions have exacerbated already critical humanitarian situations. The next administration must, for the sake of national and global security, begin a process of step-by-step diplomacy, beginning with the most urgent human needs and building towards peace and denuclearization.” 

Jessica Lee, Senior Research Fellow for East Asia at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, said, “American taxpayers are tired of endless wars. Seventy years after the Korean War started, Washington and Pyongyang are still stuck in the past. We need serious, sustained diplomacy with North Korea with the aim of ending the war and achieving peace, not half-baked policies or kicking the can down the road.” 

Colleen Moore, Digital Engagement Manager for Beyond the Bomb said, “Instead of spending billions of dollars on dangerous nuclear weapons, the United States must prioritize engagement with other countries and services that actually keep Americans safe. Especially in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear our priorities are in the wrong place. We encourage the U.S. to commit to bilateral No First Use commitments with North Korea and take steps toward peace on the Korean peninsula.”

“Neither ‘fire and fury’ nor photo-op summits will solve disagreements with North Korea,” noted Paul Kawika Martin, Peace Action’s Senior Director for Policy and Political Affairs. “The U.S. needs to work with regional countries and invest heavily in deep diplomatic work while easing sanctions that disproportionately affect innocents.”

“The stalled diplomacy with North Korea calls for a renewed effort to break the stalemate. This means working closely with our regional allies and putting forward realistic proposals, not all-or-nothing maximalist demands. Whoever is elected in November will need to address the situation on the Korean peninsula by prioritizing diplomacy and peace,” said Foreign Policy for America.

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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

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