Boris Johnson will urge Donald Trump to show the “far-sightedness” not to quit the Iran nuclear deal, arguing it illustrates the kind of “diplomatic imagination” that could solve the North Korea crisis.
The Foreign Secretary will point to the success of the Iran deal while calling for “toughness but engagement” with Pyongyang to de-escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula.
He will single out US secretary of state Rex Tillerson for praise for opening the door to dialogue with Kim Jong-un, which Mr Trump has described as a “waste of time”.
But Mr Johnson will stress that the president is also right to “prepare any option” to keep America and its allies safe in the face of North Korea’s race to a long-distance nuclear missile.
His intervention comes amid concern at what has been seen as inflammatory rhetoric being traded by Mr Trump and Mr Kim, who the president describes as “Rocket Man”.
It also comes after Mr Trump decertified the 2015 pact with Iran, complaining his predecessor Barack Obama had been taken advantage of in negotiations, and last week repeated his threat to pull out of the landmark deal entirely.
Mr Johnson will urge Mr Trump to invoke the spirit of the 1970 nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), which avoided a “Gadarene Rush to destruction” by turning the world into a “great arena of Mexican stand-offs”.
Giving a speech at Chatham House’s conference in central London, the Foreign Secretary will restate the “astonishing” and “extraordinary” achievement of the NPT and point out its success rests on nations choosing to “take shelter under a nuclear umbrella” provided by the US.
The “American offer” and guarantee is one of the “greatest contributions” by the country to the “unprecedented epoch of peace and prosperity that we have all been living through”, he will say.
Mr Johnson will add: “It has helped avoid what might otherwise have been a Gadarene Rush to destruction, in which the world was turned into a great arena of Mexican stand-offs, a nuclear version of the final scene of Reservoir Dogs.
“That far-sightedness is now needed more than ever, not only to keep the NPT, but also one of its most valuable complementary accords, the nuclear deal with Iran.”
Mr Johnson will praise Mr Tillerson for reinforcing South Korea’s promises not to seek regime change in the North or seek to deploy forces over the border or reunify the pensinsula, saying they opened up a path to talks and de-escalation.
But stressing the need to keep military options on the table, he will say: “That is the model – of toughness but engagement, each reinforcing the other – that we should have at the front of our mind as we try to resolve the tensions in the Korean peninsula.
“It is right that Rex Tillerson has specifically opened the door to dialogue.
“He has tried to give some sensible reassurances to the regime, to enable them to take up this offer.
“This is the moment for North Korea’s regime to change course – and if they do the world can show that it is once again capable of the diplomatic imagination that produced the nuclear non-proliferation treaty – arduously negotiated – and that after 12 years of continuous effort produced the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran.”
Mr Johnson will also defend Mr Trump for threatening military action if the US or its allies are attacked.
“Kim and the world need to understand that when the 45th president of the United States contemplates a regime led by a man who not only threatens to reduce New York to ‘ashes’, but who stands on the verge of acquiring the power to make good on his threat, I am afraid that the US president – whoever he or she might be – will have an absolute duty to prepare any option to keep safe not only the American people but all those who have sheltered under the American nuclear umbrella.”
But he will warn of the dire consequences of failing to reach a diplomatic solution.
“A new generation has grown up with no memory of the threat of a nuclear winter, and little education in the appalling logic of mutually assured destruction,” Mr Johnson will say.
“The memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is now literally fading from living memory.
“The NPT is one of the great diplomatic achievements of the last century. It has stood the test of time. In its restraint and its maturity it shows an unexpected wisdom on the part of humanity, and almost evolutionary instinct for the survival of the species.
“It is the job of our generation to preserve that agreement, and British diplomacy will be at the forefront of the endeavour.”