On July 8 the Council on Foreign Relations, the embodiment of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, put a simple question to all the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates?
Would you sign an agreement with North Korea that entailed partial sanctions relief in exchange for some dismantling of its nuclear weapons program but not full denuclearization?
Fourteen candidates responded. The answers reveal whether each prospective commander in chief is a hawk (no), a dove (yes), or a duck (non-responsive) on the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
President Trump, it is worth noting, is something of a dove on North Korea. While he once worried the world with his talk of bringing “fire and fury” to North Korea, he now worries his hawkish advisers with his desire to reach some kind of agreement with Kim Jong-Un short of full denuclearization..
South Korea’s liberal president Moon Jae-In is trying to coax the two leaders into an agreement that would 1) formally end the Korea War and 2) remove nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula.
So the liberal (“dove”) position–which Trump is considering–is partial sanctions relief in return for partial denuclearization. The conservative (“hawk”) position is full denuclearization or nothing, which a surprising number of Democrats have endorsed. The uncommitted (“duck”) position is to duck the issue.
Joe Biden is a hawk: “Diplomacy is important, but diplomacy requires a strategy, a process, and competent leadership to deliver.”
Cory Booker is a hawk: “We must use every tool available to pursue peaceful denuclearization.”
Steve Bullock is a hawk: “Any agreement with North Korea must include credible commitments – and verifiable progress – toward significant reductions in its nuclear weapons arsenal.”
Pete Buttigieg is a dove: “I would support an initial freeze agreement.”
John Delaney is a dove: “We should be willing to accept a meaningful and verifiable agreement that takes steps towards denuclearization.”
Kirsten Gillibrand is a duck: “I would work together with our allies.”
Kamala Harris is a dove: “I would consider targeted sanctions relief to improve the lives of the North Korean people if the regime were to take serious, verifiable steps to roll back its nuclear program.”
Seth Mouton is a dove: “We must work toward an interim agreement.”
Beto O’Rourke is a duck: “Any sanctions relief would have to have strong ‘snap-back’ provisions.”
Tim Ryan is a hawk: “Absolutely not.”
Bernie Sanders is dove: “Yes, and then continue negotiations.”
Joe Sestak is a dove: “Negotiations will likely lead to some sort of preliminary agreement.”
Marianne Williamson is a dove. “… Partial sanctions relief in exchange for some serious dismantling of their nuclear weapons program.”
Andrew Yang is a dove: “Yes. You can’t find solutions to problems if you’re not willing to talk.”