The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Engaging ‘Hermit Kingdom,’ changing U.S. foreign policy may pacify North Korea

A UN Security Council 75-page report detailing North Korea’s violations of UN sanctions for nuclear development and proliferation was leaked in May 2009. Today’s news on WikiLeaks and Korean tensions make this information alarmingly prescient.

This report reveals suspicions that North Korea is providing nuclear weapon technology to Iran, Syria and Burma—”rogue states [and] rogue actors” according to a BBC report. According to the UN report, North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), disobeyed almost every “nonproliferation and disarmament standard” over the past two years. The report exposes the DPRK distribution of Magnetometers to Iran and Burma. As the report states, these magnetic, ring-like objects are “a key element in centrifuges,” and contribute to the accuracy of a nuclear weapon.

Also, in 2007, North Korea was responsible for helping Syria build a nuclear reactor. This blatantly violates the non-proliferation treaty, signed in 1968, implementing a multi-lateral, international policy to reduce the spread of nuclear technology and weapons. Neighboring countries, like Russia, Japan and South Korea are increasingly concerned about the DPRK’s nuclear activities. The divide between North and South Korea is the most immediate threat given that it is the most extensively militarized boarder in the world. Russia also expresses fear with a border just over 100 kilometers away from DPRK, according to Frank Gaffney of the Washington Post.

The United States, as the “nuclear watchdog,” finds North Korea’s repeated violation of the NPT a pressing issue for national security, because nuclear technology is now in the hands of “countries hostile to American foreign policy” and prevalent in “the worlds most deadly conflict zones,” as stated in an article on North Korea from

The current strategy encouraged by the UN and other countries is “six-party talks” between the United Nations, South and North Korea, Russia, Japan, and the United States, in hopes to attain Obama’s goal of unilateral denuclearization.

The attempt to create a six-party negotiation is logically sound, but politically unrealistic, given that they have been stalled since December 2008. Obama stated at the G-20 summit, “North Korea must show a ‘seriousness of purpose’ before talks could be restarted on its nuclear disarmament.” Obama clearly maintains that North Korea must decide to end their nuclear weapons program before any negotiations will take place.

Historically, “hard-line policies,” in which discourse is contingent on the end of nuclear production, results in a debilitating state of affairs between the United States and North Korea. In 2003, as a result of the President Bush’s policies, North Korea removed all cameras and monitoring technologies, and adopted extreme isolationism. Obama is using the same “bold diplomacy” of the Bush administration; however, they are providing economic incentives for Korea to accept the terms of the UN Security Council’s stance on nuclear proliferation.

Although continuity exists between the Bush and Obama administration’s policies regarding nuclear proliferation, Obama is implementing adaptive strategies—the 2010 “New START treaty” creates “arms control with Russia [through] which he hopes to set an example for other nuclear powers to disarm,” says Gaffney.

Obama’s “unilateral disarmament,” nonetheless, is causing domestic skepticism of America’s seriousness in nuclear deterrence. The US is a culprit like the many nuclear powers that maintain state security by overruling nuclear disarmament agreements. Realism dominates domestic government’s foreign policy, causing an impasse in dismantling nuclear programs globally. Moreover, North Korea’s isolationist policy is the crux of the regime’s domestic power; as a result, diplomacy is a difficult task. Korea rejects the standards of behavior set by international regulatory agencies, disallowing interaction with the outside world. This lack of information provides uncertainty and concern for actors attempting to cooperate on the international scale. From the North Korean perspective, cooperation is the antithesis of their foreign policy, given the lack of effective allies on the global stage as well as recent military engagements, most notably, the Korean War.

In response to Korea’s current economic condition, providing the DPRK with economic incentives to engage in six-party talks is an appropriate route. The United States needs to relinquish its superpower outlook in order to develop relations and ease tensions with the DPRK. North Korea is an obstinate actor in foreign relations, without Chinese and Russian support, it must “play up [its] offensive capabilities to win concessions from the United States and its regional allies,” according to Gaffney. Obama’s economic incentives are vital for negotiations to take place.

In order to revolutionize international relations, North Korea needs to be part of the international dialogue. Agreeing to the UN sanctions is a key step towards diplomatic cooperation, and a necessity for the United States and its allies; from the viewpoint of North Korea, this would ensure economic and political security. Instead of persuading the “hermetic communist regime to curtail its nuclear ambitions” like Gaffney considers, I believe U.S. foreign policy should pursue an anti-hermit foreign policy with regard to North Korea. The six-party talks will allow dialogue and interaction between the international actors. Communication and information sharing is vital to create greater strength and stability in international system, quelling the fears that arise from dealing with the “black box” of the Hermit Kingdom.

As a result, North Korea will appreciate the benefits derived from participating in the international community.

Given the current, dismal economic realities in North Korea, increasing international relations will provide domestic relief for the widespread poverty, as well as reinforcing the political autonomy of the state. Allowing Korea to keep their nuclear weapons, while agreeing to the NPT, will promote peace and stability in the Asian-pacific alliance, according to Paul Rodgers in “The Nuclear-weapons Moment” published in OpenDemocracy. Although, a nuclear-armed state is never an optimal solution, engagement and discourse with a nuclear power is a far better policy than the current state of affairs between the Hermit Kingdom and the outside world.

Julie Heidt is a junior corporate communication and public affairs major. She can be reached for comments or questions at [email protected].

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