Guesswork and rumors make for bad North Korea policy

North Korea is a famously hard country to understand from the outside. The satellite image of a dark North Korea surrounded by its well-lit neighbors, South Korea and China, captures the darkness that swallows up information there. Even those of us who have studied North Korea extensively have, if we’re honest about it, little idea as to what its leaders are actually thinking or what they might do.

CNN’s April 21 article that questioned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s health, leading to a spate of unverifiable speculation about his incapacity or death, is the latest reminder of the near-total absence of reliable information about North Korea. Pyongyang’s opacity forces U.S. leaders to make decisions about war and peace on the basis of rumors and misinformation.

This situation can’t go on. Although they have since made up, U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim were swapping threats of mutual annihilation just two years ago. The risk of miscalculation is simply unacceptably high. Washington and Pyongyang may not be able to resolve all of their disputes, but a broader agreement that allows for the establishment of embassies would go a long way in reducing the risk of lethal miscalculations. If the United States could make such an arrangement with the Soviets during the Cold War, it should be able to do so with Kim today.

Read the full article here in Foreign Policy.

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