trump and kim jong un ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images

Defining Diplomacy Down

Neither South Korea nor the US is anxious to demand from North Korea a full accounting of all its nuclear materials and weapons. But without that, real denuclearization cannot be carried out and verified.

NEW YORK – Some 25 years ago, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Harvard professor who in the course of his career served as United States ambassador to the United Nations and a US senator from New York, coined the phrase “Defining Deviancy Down.” The phrase was meant to describe a social trend in which behavioral standards declined over time to the point that what was once intolerable became broadly acceptable.

I am reminded of Moynihan’s phrase when I consider the state of diplomacy aimed at bringing about North Korea’s denuclearization. Increasingly, the parties involved, including the United States and South Korea, appear to be relaxing their requirements for what is expected of North Korea. Call it “Defining Diplomacy Down.”

All this has taken on more than a little urgency, because it is now more than four months since the Singapore summit and there is talk that President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un will meet again soon.

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