If the U.S. intelligence community and most non-governmental experts on North Korea are right that Kim Jong-un has no intention of getting rid of his nuclear and missile capabilities altogether, an agreement committing the North to complete denuclearization, whether rapidly or incrementally, will not be achievable. In that case, the realistic choice for the Trump administration will come down to pursuing an agreement that limits but does not eliminate DPRK capabilities in an agreed timeframe or abandoning negotiations and adopting a strategy of pressure, deterrence, and containment.
A pressure strategy would avoid the political risks and uncertainties of dealing with a country with a notoriously poor track record on previous agreements. But it would not prevent North Korea from making further advances in its nuclear and missile programs. And with the current sanctions campaign already losing steam because of the optimism surrounding recent high-level diplomacy, it would be difficult to ramp up pressure strongly enough to force Pyongyang to denuclearize or to undermine the regime.
An agreement that stops short of eliminating North Korean capabilities would not ensure that complete denuclearization will ever be achieved, and it would be heavily criticized domestically. But it could impose significant limits on DPRK capabilities, enable U.S. and allied defense planners to better develop defenses against a constrained North Korean threat, gain the strong support of South Korea, China, and other key actors, and help create a more promising framework for pursuing additional measures to enhance stability on the Korean Peninsula.
AAPI Heritage Month: Safeguarding Asian American inclusion and belonging
President López Obrador's extension of the term of Supreme Court chief Arturo Zaldívar is part of his strong effort to recentralize power in the Mexican presidency and hollow out the independence and power of other Mexican institutions. His other moves to bend the justice system to his will include a reform that lowered the salary of judges but did not improve the quality of prosecutors and his unwillingness to allow an independent selection of the attorney general, with López Obrador himself retaining the power of appointment. His latest move with the two-year extension of Zaldívar’s term is especially worrisome. Zaldívar is also the president of the powerful Federal Judiciary Council. The council appoints and dismisses judges, sets career advancement rules and disciplines judges. Zaldívar will be setting the council’s and, thus, the whole judiciary’s, agenda and priorities for two years. This allows López Obrador to influence how courts will rule in cases regarding the executive branch, what cases they take up and the legality of new policies. These moves are taking place when the effectiveness of the judiciary in Mexico remains limited and deeply concerning. The attorney general’s office has proven weak, unwilling to take up key cases such as against the suspects in the brazen attack on Mexico City’s security minister, Omar García Harfuch—an event that symbolized the impunity with which Mexican criminal groups operate. Mexico’s justice system showed itself equally meek and disappointing in inadequately investigating the alleged complicity of former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos and dismissing the case, potentially the most significant case of corruption and criminal collusion charges against a high-ranking Mexican official in two decades. A decade and a half after Mexico initiated its justice system reforms, 95 percent of federal cases still go unpunished. President López Obrador has scored some points, but the already precariously weak rule of law in Mexico, and thus the Mexican people, will suffer.