Could Direct Talks Build Peace between the USA and North Korea?
Despite harsh rhetoric from the USA and North Korea increasing fears of another Korean war, and concerns over nuclear threats, recent talk of peace negotiations have provided some hope.
A ceasefire agreement ended the Korean War in 1953, but a full peace treaty was never signed, and now with North Korea testing its nuclear program, tensions have reached a dangerous level. A war of words between Washington and Pyongyang has observers worried.
"The United States has great strength and patience with its allies, but if it's forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea," US President Donald Trump said at the United Nations in September.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reciprocated, stating that "The mentally deranged behavior of the U.S. president…insulted me and my country...Action is the best option in treating the dotard...".
The situation has major repercussions for the rest of the world, even before it reaches the level of war.
"Any kind of instability in Asia that raises the specter of war, at a minimum could rattle global markets, and at a maximum could bring us into a global recession," said Gregg Brazinsky, a specialist on U.S.-East Asian relations at The George Washington University.
Suggestions for resolving the crisis have included economic sanctions, military strikes on North Korea's nuclear facilities, and the forging of a protective nuclear agreement between China and North Korea.
Former US president Jimmy Carter has had a lot of experience negotiating with North Korea and he said that none of the suggestions offer and immediate way to end the present crisis, because the Pyongyang government believes its survival is at stake.
So, what could help de-escalate tensions?
"I think better mutual understanding between the United States and North Korea - I think Americans' overall understanding of North Korea and why they're developing nuclear weapons programs and why they're so hostile to the United States is very poor," Dr Brazinsky said.
"I think a lot of what the North Koreans really want is direct talks," he said.
President Carter said from his experience direct talks were indeed what leaders in North Korea wanted - he even offered to attend negotiations himself, if need be.
"I admire Former President Carter's commitment to peace and I believe he's very sincere in wanting to try an bring about a solution, I am just skeptical that he alone could accomplish very much, there needs to be a broader shift in US policy for us to achieve anything in this situation,” Dr Brazinsky said.
Peace talks could take several different forms, one option is multi-lateral talks - involving other nations like South Korea and China, but some observers believe direct talks between the US and North Korea may have more success.
"Of course we would have to be very cautious in keeping South Korea informed on everything we do if we were to undertake this kind of bi-lateral talk, but I do think this kind of direct approach might enable us to improve the overall climate of US-North Korean relations in a way that the multi-lateral talks never seem to," Dr Brazinsky said.
"You know, it's not going to change North Korea overnight, it may not even get them to abandon their nuclear weapons program, but it would make them less likely to use any weapons they develop against the United States and our allies, and I think that's what we really want," he said.