Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met in Hanoi for the second summit between the two leaders. Despite high expectations leading into the meeting, the summit ended early with no agreement toward denuclearization. With that in mind, we asked our panel of foreign policy experts: 

Should the US continue to focus first and foremost on the fully verifiable denuclearization of North Korea, or should it instead shift the primary focus now to arms limitation and non-proliferation?

10

said the US should continue to focus on the fully verifiable denuclearization of North Korea

 

Some experts believe denuclearization is still a viable long-term goal, but pursuing it should not preclude intermediate steps aimed at arms control and reduction.

15

said the US should shift focus to arms limitation and non-proliferation

 

Others maintain that denuclearization is an unrealistic goal, and that the US should instead focus on achievable incremental progress with North Korea.

3

provided only written responses and fall into another category

 

Why keep focus on denuclearization?
“The Trump Administration has tested the theory that jumping to the leader-to-leader level without adequate staff might produce surprisingly positive results. We now know that it won't. What we don't know, however, is how far the two sides can go with a more realistic commitment to doing the hard spade work at the staff level.”

- Peter D. Feaver, professor of political science and public policy, Duke University

“There are no benefits to unilaterally reducing our demands. Best to keep the standards high and consider less maximalist demands in exchange for something.”

- Oriana Skylar Mastro, assistant professor of security studies, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

“Accepting North Korea as a nuclear state may be inevitable. The best way to limit the size and scope of that program is to push for complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.”

- James M. Lindsay, senior vice president, director of studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Why shift focus to arms control?
“North Korea has no incentive to give up its nuclear weapons. . . . [T]he Kim regime believes (with good reason) that those weapons are its primary deterrent against a regime change effort by the U.S. or any other state. It is therefore a waste of resources to try to come up with ever more creative ways to gain denuclearization. . . .”

- Kimberly Marten, department chair and professor of political science, Barnard College, Columbia University

“Denuclearization is an end point that both have broadly agreed to. Trust building and many incremental steps are required to make it there. Requiring denuclearization first, and giving it such significance, repeats the mistakes of the past and fails to understand North Korea's security problematic.”

- Bridget L. Coggins, associate professor of political science, University of California, Santa Barbara

“The two issues are related. That said, between North Korea's existing nuclear stockpile and the dangers of nuclear arms races and the expansion of the number of countries developing weapons of mass destruction, the latter issue is more important.”

- Dan Drezner, professor of international politics, The Fletcher School of Tufts University

Why other?
“It should not focus on the nuclear issue at all. Seek to normalize N[orth] K[orea] (with aid of S[outh] K[orea]) and worry about nukes later. Remarkable that nothing like this option is offered in the question.”

- John Mueller, adjunct professor of political science and senior research scientist, Mershon Center for International Security Studies, Ohio State; senior fellow, Cato Institute

“A better stance would to work with regional allies to achieve a deterrent posture that could minimize the effect of North Korean nuclear weapons on the regional balance and regional politics.”

- Jeremy Shapiro, research director, European Council on Foreign Relations

“Neither of the above. North Korea has no intention of denuclearizing. The U.S. must build a strong counterweight to Kim.”

- Thomas Wright, director, Center on the United States and Europe; senior fellow in the Project on International Order and Strategy, The Brookings Institution

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met in Hanoi for the second summit between the two leaders. Despite high expectations leading into the meeting, the summit ended early with no agreement toward denuclearization. With that in mind, we asked our panel of foreign policy experts: 

Should the US continue to focus first and foremost on the fully verifiable denuclearization of North Korea, or should it instead shift the primary focus now to arms limitation and non-proliferation?

10

said the US should continue to focus on the fully verifiable denuclearization of North Korea

 

Some experts believe denuclearization is still a viable long-term goal, but pursuing it should not preclude intermediate steps aimed at arms control and reduction.

15

said the US should shift focus to arms limitation and non-proliferation

 

Others maintain that denuclearization is an unrealistic goal, and that the US should instead focus on achievable incremental progress with North Korea.

3

provided only written responses and fall into another category

 

    

Why keep focus on denuclearization?
“There are no benefits to unilaterally reducing our demands. Best to keep the standards high and consider less maximalist demands in exchange for something.”

- Oriana Skylar Mastro, assistant professor of security studies, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

“The Trump Administration has tested the theory that jumping to the leader-to-leader level without adequate staff might produce surprisingly positive results. We now know that it won't. What we don't know, however, is how far the two sides can go with a more realistic commitment to doing the hard spade work at the staff level.”

- Peter D. Feaver, professor of political science and public policy, Duke University

“Accepting North Korea as a nuclear state may be inevitable. The best way to limit the size and scope of that program is to push for complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.”

- James M. Lindsay, senior vice president, director of studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Why shift focus to arms control?
“North Korea has no incentive to give up its nuclear weapons. . . . [T]he Kim regime believes (with good reason) that those weapons are its primary deterrent against a regime change effort by the U.S. or any other state. It is therefore a waste of resources to try to come up with ever more creative ways to gain denuclearization. . . .”

- Kimberly Marten, department chair and professor of political science, Barnard College, Columbia University

“Denuclearization is an end point that both have broadly agreed to. Trust building and many incremental steps are required to make it there. Requiring denuclearization first, and giving it such significance, repeats the mistakes of the past and fails to understand North Korea's security problematic.”

- Bridget L. Coggins, associate professor of political science, University of California, Santa Barbara

“The two issues are related. That said, between North Korea's existing nuclear stockpile and the dangers of nuclear arms races and the expansion of the number of countries developing weapons of mass destruction, the latter issue is more important.”

- Dan Drezner, professor of international politics, The Fletcher School of Tufts University

Why other?
 
“It should not focus on the nuclear issue at all. Seek to normalize N[orth] K[orea] (with aid of S[outh] K[orea]) and worry about nukes later. Remarkable that nothing like this option is offered in the question.”

- John Mueller, adjunct professor of political science and senior research scientist, Mershon Center for International Security Studies, Ohio State; senior fellow, Cato Institute

“A better stance would to work with regional allies to achieve a deterrent posture that could minimize the effect of North Korean nuclear weapons on the regional balance and regional politics.”

- Jeremy Shapiro, research director, European Council on Foreign Relations

“Neither of the above. North Korea has no intention of denuclearizing. The U.S. must build a strong counterweight to Kim.”

- Thomas Wright, director, Center on the United States and Europe; senior fellow in the Project on International Order and Strategy, The Brookings Institution