"We've Lost Our Geopolitical Compass": John Feffer on North Korea

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Korean veterans attend the ceremony to commemorate the 64th Anniversary of the Korean War armistice agreement on July 27, 2017, in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo: Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images)

The enormous fluctuations in Donald Trump’s policies toward North Korea are a “truly disorienting experience,” says John Feffer, a leading expert on US policy toward Korea who currently serves as a project director and associate fellow at Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies.

In this interview, Feffer — the author of North Korea/South Korea: U.S. Policy at a Time of Crisis — discusses the history of the conflict between the United States and North Korea. Feffer also talks about the foreign policy of President Donald Trump and his conflicting messages about his desire to “bomb them out of existence” on the one hand, and to sit down to talk with Kim Jong-un on the other.

Daniel Falcone: Could you talk about the United States and North Korea historically? What are the roots of the recent US headlines we see in terms of North Korea militarily?

John Feffer: If you approached the issues based on the past three weeks it would seem somewhat difficult to understand why this country — which is so far away from the United States and so small (North Korea is only 25 million people or so) — should pose such an outsized threat to US national interests, and even the US homeland. If we look back into history, we realize that actually North Korea is really the longest-standing adversary of the United States at this point, even longer than China. Other adversaries disappeared, like the Soviet Union, Saddam Hussein, etc. But North Korea began in opposition immediately after the end of World War II.

This was the birth of the Cold War (1945-1947), as the United States had transitioned from being an ally of the Soviet Union in the fight against Hitler to a thorough adversary and competitor. And, of course, the Korean Peninsula is caught up in this because it’s divided in the…

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