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Letters to the Editor: Why it’s time to normalize relations with North Korea

A TV in a train station in Seoul shows news footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on May 12.
(Lee Jin-man / Associated Press)

To the editor: Daniel R. DePetris is right that North Korea is unlikely to give up the bomb. But offering economic incentives to cap Pyongyang’s nuclear development does not go far enough. The time has come for the United States to try to normalize relations.

All nuclear-armed adversaries except the U.S. and North Korea have diplomatic ties, not as a gift, but to keep lines of communication open in good times and bad. Without an embassy in Pyongyang, the U.S. is blind to what is taking place inside the Hermit Kingdom.

Furthermore, relations in time of tension can be critical. It proved so during the Cuban missile crisis as Robert Kennedy’s meeting with the Soviet ambassador to the U.S. sewed the end. Relations allowed Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin to travel to Beijing to douse the 1969 nuclear-laden Sino-Soviet Ussuri River war. U.S. ties with both India and Pakistan helped mediate the end to multiple wars.

Granted, relations are imperfect. But without them parties lack a vital tool to keep the peace.

Bennett Ramberg, Los Angeles

The writer was a foreign affairs officer in the State Department Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs during the George H.W. Bush administration.

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To the editor: President Biden should propose a global no-nuclear first-strike binding agreement among the eight declared nuclear-armed states.

Since the late 1940s there have been at least 32 “broken arrow” incidents, when nuclear weapons have been involved in accidents without going off. There have also been incidents of false alarm over missile attacks.

A nuclear mistake or miscalculation could be the unintended consequence of nuclear proliferation. Former President Trump threatened nuclear war with North Korea with his “bigger button” comment, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

A binding agreement would provide for identification and retaliation against any country that violated the agreement. New nuclear-capable countries would be required to sign on.

The U.S. should do everything in its power to avoid a nuclear war by mistake.

Craig Simmons, Northridge


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