In the past month, North Korea has communicated to the world its plans to escalate its nuclear weapons program amidst an ongoing diplomatic feud with the U.S.. This week, the Quick Take writers discuss what the U.S. government’s next steps should be in dealing with the country’s most recent threats.
By Reza Lustig
As of late, there has been a lot of scaremongering and question-asking in the mainstream press about the trouble brewing up above the 38th parallel.
It seems that the U.N.’s newest round of official sanctions pertaining to North Korea has angered Pyongyang into declaring their plans to conduct nuclear tests. These tests are expressively aimed at an offensive against the U.S., whom they consider the chief authors of their hardship. We, the American people, are told by our own equally militaristic government and experts writing defense columns, that this constitutes an enormous threat to national safety and warrants desperate measures to curb the military shenanigans of the Hermit Kingdom.
Typically, the government cites new dictator Kim Jong-un’s shelling of a South Korean island and sinking of a ship in international waters as signs that he is a kill-crazy psychopath without the common sense to avoid armed conflict.
It’s time for a reality check. North Korea is not, and never will be, a threat.
The Korean People’s Army may be the world’s fourth largest standing army, but it’s peopled by malnourished conscripts wielding Cold War antiques.
But completely disregarding the military aspect, just assume for a moment that the North Korean leadership isn’t crazy. One doesn’t build a totalitarian regime to last well over half a century by peopling it with lunatics. Crooks maybe, fanatics definitely, but not lunatics. The term “crazy like a fox” applies here, as it does with the Ahmadinejad and Khomenei regimes in Iran.
Washington and Tel Aviv may gnash their teeth about the existential threat to national security by nuclear-equipped dictatorships, but they forget how dictatorships survive for so long: by favoring self-preservation over suicidal military adventurism. Ideology and propaganda are for the oppressed masses and the ruling clique is more interested in staying rich and powerful, and nothing jeopardizes that like declaring war against the world’s premier exporter of military violence.
It also would help to remember how the Chinese, one of the world’s largest and fastest expanding economic powers, fit into all this. Since the fall of the USSR, North Korea’s chief economic benefactor has been China, and so the recent forays into economic reform up North can be attributed to Beijing’s influence. We already know that the new Communist Party chief, Xi Jinping, has largely taken the U.S.’s side in this matter, and has told the North to shut up and sit down, lest they risk cutbacks of aid and loss of Chinese support.
Consequently, a loss of Chinese aid would undoubtedly mean another ‘90s-style famine, very possibly leading to food riots, mass upheaval and even a palace coup. If the Soviet bureaucracy got fed up with Stalin and the Chinese bureaucracy got fed up with Mao, there’s nothing stopping North Korea’s administrative clique from doing something drastic to protect their own nest eggs.
For those still wondering just what should be done, the answer is simple: nothing. Keep calm, and let the Chinese handle their own client state.
Reza Lustig is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences.
By John Foti
If a child is kicking and screaming, you give him a lollipop to be quiet. If he still continues to kick and scream, then you put him in a time-out and teach him a lesson the hard way.
The same goes for North Korea. Enough of letting them kick and scream. It’s time to put them in the corner and make them stare at the wall.
North Korea has been escalating its nuclear program in recent months, with its most recent nuclear test happening on Feb. 12. The communist nation has made it clear that these tests are meant to intimidate their arch-enemy, the U.S.
But all the world has done to respond is pass another meaningless resolution through the U.N. Security Council that Kim Jong-un will shrug off. The dictator and his subordinates have ceased to adhere to any punishment from the U.S. and its allies in decades. They continue to intensify their rhetoric without hesitation.
With the threat of a nuclear attack, the U.S. can no longer be conciliatory. We have given the North Koreans a profound amount of food aid in exchange for the halt of their nuclear program. But they haven’t stopped working on their program at all and instead have taken as many steps as possible to advance it. The U.S. can no longer be the good faith negotiator. North Korea has fooled us too many times and it has to come to a stop.
The U.S. should remove the possibility for food aid to North Korea in future talks with the country. If its people are starving, yet they consider us a mortal enemy, then let them starve. We cannot and will not support a country whose goal is the total destruction of our nation.
While this seems like a cruel objective, nothing brews distrust, hatred and revolution more than an empty stomach. We should not continue to feed the population of a reclusive nation who will not open up to the world and still threatens destruction at every chance.
Ending food aid will also send the signal to North Korea that the U.S. is tired of being pushed around, and that we will no longer be beguiled in future negotiations. With no more aid, the already isolated state will withdraw further away from the rest of the world and will be cornered with no other option than to deal with the U.S. and its concerns.
Furthermore, the U.S. must make it clear that if North Korea fires any nuclear weapon of any sort in a hostile manner, then the U.S. will completely destroy its country with the full force of our nuclear arsenal.
The country has developed a confrontational tone because the U.S. has not displayed any threat of military action or retaliation for any of the communist state’s nuclear activities. If North Korea knows there will be severe punishment for its actions, they will have no other option other than to back down. They don’t have the resources for armed conflict, and they know it. Therefore, the state will have no other way out but to soften its tone.
Some may claim that these positions are too hawkish and confrontational, but I refuse to believe that we should let a failed and decrepit state manipulate our country so they can look tough.
If North Korea wants to intimidate the U.S. with severe language and displays of military power, then we must counter with the same posturing. North Korea will quiet down only with the threat of the U.S. actually acting militarily.
John Foti is a freshman in the School of Public Affairs.
By Marshall Bornemann
North Korea, led by the new “great-leader” Kim Jong-un for over a year now, has a fair amount of explaining to do, and not only to the U.S., but also its ally, China.
With a third test coming to life in North Korea, Bejing is cautious about keeping its southern neighbor on such “nice” terms. Additionally, ongoing discussions have proved to be highly ineffective for the U.S. thus far, as sanctions have not dented North Korea’s rapidly growing nuclear program, and diplomatic reasoning seems as useful as throwing a rock at bullet-proof glass.
Without question, it is time to confront the capabilities of North Korea’s arsenal. Any confrontation will require methodical timing in planning an effective strike. This, however, will not be possible without provoking feelings of helplessness, as well as further resentment, by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
In every way, North Korea is looking to get a rise out of the U.S., but still has failed to do so. What is a Western superpower to do about a fat, greedy child hungry for Skittles it cannot swallow? It seems illogical for an already crippled nation, both in economic and social terms, to fight a battle it knows it cannot win.
Many of the U.S.’s forces are scattered throughout the world’s continents. A steadfast infiltration of the DPRK’s underground facilities could overcome the imminent nuclear threat lurking in the minds of our top state officials. Ideally, John Kerry, the newly appointed Secretary of State, will be more forthright in approaching potential military action, whereas previous administrations have done little to hold back three generations of the Kim dynasty’s tactics.
Ultimately, only a triad effort on behalf of Japan, South Korea and the U.S., whether through tougher negotiation or by direct military threat, will promise an outcome other than war.
At the same time, many former pro-North countries are beginning to lose patience with the communist nation. At this point, such aggressive action would come as no surprise to the international community. To avoid war with North Korea, an alternative means of retaliation should mirror the methods used against Russia in the Cold War. Intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, posed an extreme danger to Mikhail Gorbachev, and are readily available in Middle East nations like Turkey that keep them as a precautionary measure.
One would think that the ability to intercept almost any incoming warhead would force the North Korean government to re-evaluate. From what little the DPRK seems to have available in terms of its own missiles, Kim Jong-un has reason to fear the U.S. in particular. We have lost our patience. Soon, our great “nest of wickedness” will show just how wicked it can be.
Marshall Bornemann is a junior in the School of International Service.