Negotiating with North Korea, understanding the method behind the madness

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Photo by Maricel Evangelista

North Korea’s current negotiating tactics were addressed by award-winning Department of Defense executive and former CIA negotiator, Alan Liotta, Nov. 15 in the Classroom Building.

Liotta addressed questions many have about North Korea, such as its relationship with Russia and China, possible reunification with South Korea, the legitimacy of their threats and what the United States should do in retaliation. He shared many personal experiences regarding his time as a negotiator with North Korea, each story shedding light on the country’s enigmatic policies and values.

Understanding Kim Jong-un’s actions depends largely on an understanding of North Korea’s history, according to Liotta. He explained that since its advent, North Korea has desired self sufficiency but has refused to look outward.

Kim Jong-un yearns for economic development, and by North Korean standards things have improved since his rise to authority. North Korea’s GDP has managed to double in the last year, but is still the lowest in the entire world, leaving its citizens severely impoverished, according to Liotta.

Liotta believes that Kim Jong-un is extremely concerned about the survival of his regime, but rational enough to understand that the repercussions of a nuclear attack would be fatal for North Korea.

There is method behind the madness, according to Liotta. He argues that North Korea can be reasoned with, but doing so is no simple feat. When asked how the United States should negotiate its current standing with North Korea, Liotta said we should embrace Kim Jong-un, but not his ideologies.

According to Liotta, Jong-un feels great pressure to measure up to his dictator bloodline because he is the first Chairman of the Worker’s Party of Korea to be born under the fascist regime. Born and raised on the ideology that he is entitled to godlike worship, Kim Jong-un is willing to do all that he can in order to sustain the nation’s fascist atmosphere. This includes a total cleansing of military higher-ups upon becoming the chairman, as well as the supposed murder of his own half-brother, Kim-Jong Nam.

“He’s tired of being at the kids table at Thanksgiving dinner…couldn’t we bring him to the grown-up’s table? Invite him into the citizen of nations…talk about how we can make North Korea be perceived as a more important country…and then introduce him to a code of conduct regarding his nuclear programs. If we want to try to modify their negotiating position right now, we have to take a different tact. A little bit of honey is probably going to work a lot better than a little bit of gasoline.”

Criminal Justice student, Alex Glock, was thankful for Liotta’s up-close and personal exposition, and urges others to become better informed about the United State’s affairs with Korea. “Most Americans don’t really know anything about North Korea, and don’t seem to care to. We really should know more about these conflicts because they will influence our nation’s policies and diplomacy.”