Don't Let Trump's Impeachment Undermine a Deal With North Korea | Opinion

Two major events just happened: the House of Representatives launched impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump, and negotiators from the U.S. and North Korea hit a hiccup in their renewed talks. These developments might seem totally unrelated, but, in fact, they're on a likely collision course. And if we don't approach this the right way, the impact could get ugly.

As Trump's impeachment troubles drag on, he will become that much more motivated to score a win on something. Conversely, his political opponents will become equally motivated to ensure he doesn't make any gains. Here's a prediction: Trump may see a nuclear deal with North Korea as his best chance for success in the near future. And if he actually strikes such a deal, there's sure to be toxic fallout from our domestic politics that risks scuttling the agreement—no matter its terms.

But we think that would be a massive mistake. Here's why.

First, this is bigger than Trump. The consequences of his administration's talks with North Korea will reverberate long after he's gone—long after all of us are gone. Think of the Iran nuclear deal. It was a strong, smart, verifiable arrangement that blocked Iran's path to a nuclear weapon, only to be trashed when caught in the crossfires of partisan politics. Because Obama's political opposition prioritized short-term political points over long-term security, we've taken a giant step backward that has made us all a lot less safe and will take considerable time to repair. It would be foolish for Trump's opposition to follow that same playbook now by sabotaging North Korea talks and leaving the ruins for future administrations to clean up.

But it's not just future administrations that will have to deal with the consequences. The outcome of any talks between the United States and North Korea will impact generations: from the millions at risk of annihilation if a conflict were to break out and turn nuclear, to the thousands of aging families who remain separated as a result of the unresolved Korean War, to the ordinary North Koreans who will suffer under the weight of "maximum pressure" sanctions. Our South Korean ally is leading the effort on a diplomatic solution, and it is relying on the United States not to get in the way.

After all, let's be realistic: the prospects for actually dismantling North Korea's sophisticated nuclear program would take at least a decade to fulfill. The dream of denuclearization was never going to be realized under Trump, but the longer we stall, the further we set ourselves back.

In fact, we could all stand to learn from South Korea, which understands better than anyone the value of taking persistent, small steps toward peace. Seemingly minor confidence-building measures, such as the disarmament of the Joint Security Area in the DMZ or the establishment of inter-Korean liaison offices, have dramatically reduced military tensions while creating space to build mutual understanding.

And, for those who hold themselves out as progressives, there are serious values on the line. If families belong together, that should include families separated by the United States and Soviet Union nearly 70 years ago by an arbitrary division on the Korean peninsula that persists to this day. If war is not the answer, then that's how we should approach the nuclear crisis no matter who is in the White House. If the human needs and fundamental rights of all matter to us, then that should include North Koreans, who will only endure more harm with increasing isolation and militarism.

If the halting of talks this weekend is any indication, a successful path forward will require lots of sustained political will from both the executive and Congress. It's in everyone's interest to forge a diplomatic path forward with North Korea. You don't have to like Trump or Kim Jong Un to want their talks to garner results. To be sure, there's plenty about the nascent process to criticize. But it's on all of us to envision and then to create the conditions for a more secure future, because there's too much at stake to do otherwise.

That means embracing step-by-step, reciprocal, verifiable actions between our nations. It means giving up certain things and getting more back in return. It means actually ending the Korean War and fundamentally transforming relations. It means abandoning the same, old, tired approach that has literally never worked and never will.

And that's going to require some courage, something that's often in short supply in Washington. Our leaders have recently demonstrated that they have enough courage to hold Trump accountable. But are they brave enough to give peace a chance?

Elizabeth Beavers and Catherine Killough are Advocacy Advisor for Women Cross DMZ and Advocacy and Leadership Coordinator for Women Cross DMZ, respectively.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​