How Trump's celebrity might solve the North Korea problem: Column

Mark Joseph 7:04 a.m. ET April 7, 2017

As Japan rethinks its pacificst approach, the United States needs to step up.

"Each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes.”

So declares Article V of the Japan-U.S. Security treaty, which may be facing its most important test as North Korea ramps up threats against both the United States and Japan, and tests the latter’s resolve by lobbying missiles off its coast.

These events come as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gains public support for revising Japan’s Constitution to explicitly allow for it to engage in military conflict.

Passed in 1947, Article 9 of the document states:

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

Subsequent interpretations have allowed for Japan to maintain what is effectively a military force, known as the Self Defense Forces (SDF) but their activity has been limited to purely defensive measures. Although public opposition to changing Japan’s essentially pacifist constitution to allow for the nation to have a “normal” military still hovers at 55%, on my most recent trip I have noticed a softening of that opposition as more and more ordinary Japanese begin to rethink their traditional Post-War pacifism.

I was struck in particular by two conversations I had with working class Japanese, a plumber and a real estate agent, both who had come to the conclusion that a constitutional revision was needed to face the growing and ominous North Korean threat.

While some have derided the Constitution as one "imposed" on Japan by General Douglas MacArthur and the United States, in reality it is a document that reflects the character and nature of the Japanese people for whom “wa” or getting along in harmony with one another is one of the highest virtues of all.

If Japanese are rethinking their pacifist posture, it is purely out of necessity and because of the United States unwillingness and/or inability to take the North Korean threat seriously. The Clinton administration’s waffling as North Korea began to abrogate treaties designed to curtail its nuclear ambitions combined with the Bush administration’s laser-like focus on the Middle East and the Obama administration’s benign neglect of the region has left President Donald Trump and his administration with a mess on its hands.

Although the President’s general attitude toward wanting to avoid foreign entanglements is a commendable one, the U.S.-Japan relationship has earned our neighbors to the East special status that demands a more forceful response, both in defending its constitution as well the nation itself from its noisy and menacing neighbor.

We know this about President Trump: He has disdain for multi-national treaties and favors bilateral ones. The utter failure of the six-party framework to solve the North Korea problem should give the President comfort and the impetus to begin to look for a more direct solution to attempts by North Korea to bully and frighten its neighbors.

In his book, “The Art Of The Deal,” Trump once wrote, “The worst of times often create the best opportunities to make good deals.”

If these are indeed the worst of times for Japan and North Korea, they also represent an important moment for President Trump to make a region altering deal, preceded perhaps by some serious threats to North Korea’s dictator that the U.S. is ready, willing and able to wage a quick and aggressive war against it if it continues on the course it’s on. Once that is established, Trump might do something big and bold, his own ​"Nixon in China" moment, by convening a meeting with Kim Jong-un in the small conference room at the DMZ that separates North and South, and beginning a one-on-one dialogue with Kim that will lower tension and bring North Korea into the community of nations.

What North Korea seeks above all else is respect. The North Korean dictator, educated in the West and obsessed with American pop culture, may just be ready for the deal of the century. Moreover, America’s new President may be uniquely positioned to deliver a bilateral deal with North Korea that dramatically reduces China’s position and influence, and alleviates the fears of Japan and South Korea while allowing Japan to continue to be a peaceful nation with a constitution that most nations can only dream of having in today’s increasingly unsettled world.

Mark Joseph is an author, commentator and producer of the films, “Japan: Searching For The Dream," and "Silence Patton."

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