How the United States Ultimately Talks with Its “Enemies” –Now Its Time to Dialogue with North Korea

By Ann Wright.

As we all know, enemies of the United States come and go and the longer they espouse revolution and/or communism and stand up to the United States, the longer they stay enemies!  Currently, the U.S. does not recognize/have diplomatic relations with only three countries—two recreated by revolutions that the U.S. doesn’t like—Iran and North Korea—and Bhutan, the kingdom that continues purposely to isolate itself having diplomatic relations with only India.


I’m on the way to visit a former U.S. enemy, but now recognized diplomatically by the U.S.—Cuba. This trip will be the third in 18 months and the second since the U.S. reopened diplomatic relations with Cuba.  The Obama administration took the big leap of talking with the “enemy” with its secret discussions with the Cuban government over a period of two years.  While the discussions were proceeding, commercial businessmen and journalists provided the political cover for Obama to withstand the withering criticism from those who strongly opposed dealing with the Cuba government that had been in power since the Cuban revolution in 1959.  The U.S. broke diplomatic relations with the new Cuban government on January 3, 1961 because of its nationalization of U.S. businesses in Cuba and its alliance with the Soviet Union.  On July 20, 2015 U.S.-Cuban relations were reestablished after 54 years.  On March 20, 2016, President Barack Obama visited Cuba, becoming the first U.S. President in 88 years to visit the island.

Yet, despite diplomatic relations, U.S. sanctions and restrictions remain on trade and commerce with Cuba due to strong south Florida anti-Cuban government sentiments.

The U.S. and Cuban decisions to dialogue showed that long broken diplomatic ties can be reestablished.  The Obama administration’s negotiations with the Iranian government to suspend the Iranian nuclear program in 2015 has not yet led to reestablishment of diplomatic relations broken 38 years ago in 1979 after the Iranian revolution, seizure of the U.S. Embassy and holding 52 U.S. diplomats for 444 days.  The U.S. will not talk about reestablishing diplomatic relations as it maintains that Iran is meddling in the affairs of its neighbors-Iraq, Syria and Yemen.  Iran reminds the U.S. that the U.S. has invaded and occupied countries in its neighborhood for over 16 years– in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has military operations in other countries in the region–Syria and Yemen.

Peoples Republic of China

In another part of the world, in July 1971, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made a secret trip to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), followed by President Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972.  The U.S. did not recognize its former enemy until 30 years after its founding as a communist state because of the PRC’s participation in the Korean War on the side of the North Koreans.  The U.S. switched recognition from Taiwan to the PRC on January 1, 1979 during the Carter administration, seven years after Nixon’s visit.


Interestingly, from the creation of the communist Soviet Union in 1917 through the Cold War and after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the 1992 establishment of the Russian Federation, the United States has never broken diplomatic relations with this “enemy.”  Even with the current high tensions with Russia, dialogue continues and cooperation in certain areas, for example the Russian launches and return of international astronaut corps to the International Space Station, has not been jeopardized.


In the late 1950s, the United States embarked on its longest war at the time, fifteen years of attempting to overthrow the communist government of North Vietnam.  After the defeat of the Japanese in World War II, the United States joined France in refusing to allow elections for all of Vietnam, but instead supported the partition of Vietnam into North and South Vietnam.  It wasn’t until 1995, forty years after the United States was defeated by its “enemy,” that U.S. President Bill Clinton established diplomatic relations with Socialist Republic of Vietnam. “Pete” Peterson was the first U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam.  He was a United States Air Force pilot during the Vietnam War and spent over six years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese army after his plane was shot down.  In January 2007, Congress approved Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) for Vietnam.

North Korea

In the same region, the U.S. never diplomatically recognized the government of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) after World War II but instead set up its own compliant government in South Korea.  At the start of the Cold War, North Korea only had diplomatic recognition by other Communist countries. Over the following decades, it established relations with developing countries and joined the Non-Aligned Movement. By 1976, North Korea was recognized by 93 countries and by August 2016 it was recognized by 164 countries.  The United Kingdom established diplomatic relations with the DPRK in 2000 and Canada, Germany and New Zealand recognized North Korea in 2001.  The United States, France, the United States, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Japan are the only large states that do not have diplomatic relations North Korea.

During the Korean War, the strategy of the United States to defeat North Korea was to obliterate North Korea in a scorched earth policy that leveled virtually every town and city.  The armistice that brought the suspension of conflict was never followed up with a peace treaty, instead leaving the North Koreans to face a huge U.S. military presence in South Korea as the U.S. assisted South Korea in building an incredible economic powerhouse.   While South Korea blossomed economically, North Korea had to divert its human and economic resources into defending its sovereign country from continuing threats of attack, invasion and regime change from the United States.

Under the new Trump administration, dialogue with the North Koreans has not been ruled out, however, as with the Bush and Obama administrations, the starting point for the U.S. for talks is still the North Korean government suspending/ending its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.  Those demands are non-starters for the North Korean government while there is no peace treaty with the U.S. and the U.S. continues its annual regime change military maneuvers with the South Korean military the latest of which was called “Decapitation.”

While under the most stringent international sanctions, North Koreans have developed nuclear weapons, ballistic missile and have placed satellites into orbit.  For the safety and security of the planet, one hopes that peace treaty negotiations with the current Number One enemy of the United States- North Korea- will begin so that the North Koreans will not feel threatened by the specter of regime change and can devote their ingenuity and creative power to the betterment of the lives of the people of North Korea.

About the Author:  Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel.  She was a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and served in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.  She resigned from the U.S. diplomatic corps in March 2003 in opposition to President Bush’s war on Iraq.  She is the co-author of  “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”


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