rally in pyongyang Kim Won-jin/AFP/Getty Images

China’s “Double-Freeze” Con

As the unprecedented exchange of white-hot rhetoric between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump has escalated, China has proposed a “double freeze,” in which North Korea would freeze its nuclear activities in exchange for the United States and South Korea freezing joint military exercises. But that solution has two critical flaws.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un says the United States will pay a “thousand-fold for all the heinous crimes” it has committed against his country. US President Donald Trump warns that North Korea will experience “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Kim threatens to fire four missiles at the US territory of Guam. Trump promises that Kim “will truly regret it” and “regret it fast” if he follows through on that threat, or issues another.

As the unprecedented exchange of white-hot rhetoric and overt military threats between the leaders of two nuclear-armed countries continues to escalate, reasonable people around the world are asking whether there is a peaceful way out of this unfolding crisis. The answer, according to some, is to pursue a “double freeze,” in which North Korea freezes its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for the US and South Korea freezing their joint military exercises.

At first glance, this option – which was originally proposed by China, and has since been endorsed by Russia – appears to be a sensible compromise. Without the ability to test nuclear and missile technologies, North Korea would be stuck with what it already has. Rather than a potent arsenal with credible long-range capabilities, it would have an unreliable arsenal with potentially no miniaturized nuclear warheads. For the US, suspending joint military exercises with South Korea seems like a small price to pay for such an outcome, as it would do little to undercut America’s overwhelming military superiority.

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