Why Russia's 'Very Smart' Plan for North Korea Won't Work

 A Republic of Korea Airman assists with decontamination operations during the ROK/U.S. Combined Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Field Training Exercise at Daegu Air Base, South Korea, April 20, 2017. (Staff Sgt. Alex Echols)

A Republic of Korea Airman assists with decontamination operations during the ROK/U.S. Combined Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Field Training Exercise at Daegu Air Base, South Korea, April 20, 2017. (Staff Sgt. Alex Echols)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov today proposed a solution for the current crisis between U.S. and North Korea, which he called a "double freezing."

"Russia together with China developed a very smart plan which proposes ‘double freezing’: Kim Jong-un should freeze nuclear tests and stop launching any types of ballistic missiles, while [the] U.S. and South Korea should freeze large-scale drills, which are used as a pretext for the North’s tests,” Lavrov said, according to the state-funded outlet Russia Today

Lavrov said it was one of a "range of proposals" the Russians had brainstormed with the Chinese and urged whoever between the U.S. and North Korea was "stronger and cleverer" to begin taking steps to de-escalate the situation.

Lavrov already once successfully cooled off a tense stand-off between the U.S. and an adversary when he proposed in 2013 that Syria should give up its chemical weapons in return for halting what appeared to be impending U.S. military action.

But this time he may be disappointed, according to two former White House National Security Council officials and a former Pentagon advisor. The U.S. would never accept, they say.

Sue Mi Terry, who prior to the NSC was a senior analyst on Korean issues at the CIA, told Code and Dagger that similar deals have been floated in weeks past and they were all rejected by President Donald Trump's administration. The New York Times reported in June that Chinese and South Korean officials had proposed versions of the "freezing" deals, but instead Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis urged China to exert more pressure on North Korea.

Former NSC member Ned Price, who also worked at the CIA, said the two "freezes" were hardly equal to begin with.

"[North Korea's] nuclear and ballistic missile tests are illegal," he said. "Joint military exercises are a natural feature of any alliance. Putting these two on the same plane would not be in our interest."

Tactically it would be a poor move for the U.S. as well, according to former Defense Department advisor for East Asia policy James Schoff. Despite the saber-rattling over nuclear weapons these past few days, Schoff said it's more likely North Korea would use nuclear weapons as a "final line of defense" after the start of a conventional military conflict, and therefore the U.S. would not be "willing to trade a decline in [conventional] readiness status for status quo on nukes/missiles."

"It could be dangerous, actually, [because a] conventional skirmish is most likely the start of bigger conflict, so the U.S. needs to keep up conventional deterrence," said Schoff, who is now a senior fellow in the Carnegie Asia Program.

UPDATE Aug. 14: The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, told reporters joint exercises with the South Korean military planned for next week will go on as planned.

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