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Summit with North Korea Not Likely a Make-or-Break Moment, According to Virginia Tech Expert

8-Jun-2018 4:30 PM EDT, by Virginia Tech

(June 8, 2018) -- It would be a mistake to view the June 12 summit with North Korea as a make-or-break moment, according to a Virginia Tech expert in nuclear politics. 

“What I mean by that is to not think it has to be either a resounding success or a dismal failure,” said Paul Avey, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science. “The reality will likely be more in the middle. Either modest progress or a setback that increases tensions but doesn't change the underlying strategic situation and make conflict inevitable.”

Avey argues the summit has the potential to be historic but we won't know for some time. If it goes well, he says it will be the beginning of a process of further negotiations which will ultimately have to result in concrete actions. 

 “If this puts in place a process that actually ends up with North Korea denuclearizing and allowing intrusive inspections down the road we may well look back on this as a very historic moment, on par or even beyond landmark arms control agreements in the past such as President Ronald Reagan's meetings with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s that culminated in the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty.”


  • “Politically, President Trump has a lot staked on this summit and polling shows a majority of Americans approve of his decision to meet with Kim. A positive outcome would be a major foreign policy success that would provide his administration with momentum.”
  • “If things don't go well we might look back on this as historic for a different reason. If hardliners argue further negotiations are pointless and conflict occurs, we may see the failure of diplomacy here as setting the stage for that conflict. But we won't be able to make that judgment for a while either.”

Background Paul Avey is an expert in nuclear politics, U.S. foreign policy, and international relations theory. He teaches and has written extensively on world politics, national security, and national security strategy.

Read his full bio here.  

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