President Donald Trump appears to be using the same tactic with North Korea that former President Ronald Reagan employed in the 1980s with the Soviet Union, which led to the greatest reduction in nuclear weapons in history.
Trump in fact has explicitly adopted Reagan’s national security motto — “peace through strength” — and it may already be paying dividends.
Thursday night, South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, announced at the White House that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un would like to meet with Trump, and the president has accepted the invitation.
Chung further stated that Kim has indicated he is committed to denuclearization and will not conduct nuclear or missile tests in the lead up to the talks.
“I explained to President Trump that his leadership and maximum pressure policy together with international solidarity brought us to this juncture,” the South Korean official said.
During his time in office to date, Trump has made the nuclear threat posed by the Kim regime a key focus of his national security policy.
In a speech before the U.N. General Assembly in September, Trump said, “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.”
Many in the media derided the speech at the time, describing it as dangerous.
The president also responded forcefully to North Korea last August, saying he would unleash “fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before,” if Kim attacked the U.S.
Last summer, Trump proclaimed “the era of strategic patience with North Korean regime has failed. Frankly that patience is over.”
Late last month, the president announced the “largest-ever set of new sanctions on the North Korean regime” aimed at cutting off fuel supplies and sources of revenue for the country’s nuclear program.
Reagan employed similar rhetoric and economic pressure to bring the Soviet Union to the negotiating table.
In a 1982 speech before the British Parliament, Reagan spoke about a “march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history.”
Speaking to the National Association of Evangelicals the following year, he said that Soviet communism is “the focus of evil in the modern world.”
Perhaps the most famous line in Reagan’s presidency came in the summer of 1987, when he stood before the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin and proclaimed: “General Secretary [Mikhail] Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Then-President Jimmy Carter described candidate Reagan’s views on nuclear weapons as “disturbing” and “very” or “extremely dangerous” multiple times when the two engaged in a presidential debate, with the clear implication the former California governor would lead the world to nuclear war.
Many in the Democratic Party and in the media appeared to share this view; however, Reagan’s “peace through strength” strategy led to the INF Treaty, which eliminated an entire class of intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe, numbering in the thousands.
Further, many believe the strategy precipitated the end of the Cold War.
The 40th president famously invoked the maxim “Trust, but verify” during his negotiations with Gorbachev, and no doubt Trump will be heeding that advice in dealing with Kim.
Trump appears well aware of North Korea’s history of entering into talks and then turning around and continuing to advance its nuclear weapons program.
In a tweet on Thursday, the president stated the economic sanctions will remain in place while the talks proceed.
“Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze,” Trump wrote. “Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.