Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Escalating Tensions With North Korea: Should We Be Worried?

Two weeks ago yesterday, the U.N. Security Council voted to tighten sanctions against our favorite rogue state, North Korea, as retaliation for a rocket launching that North Korea engaged in on December 12 of last year. Obviously, this enraged Kim Jong-un, the nascent dictator of North Korea and son of Kim Jong-il, who ruled North Korea from 1994 until his death in late 2011. In several vociferous statements last week, Mr. Kim claimed that there would be repercussions, specifically for the U.S., and that North Korea would be conducting their third nuclear test since 2006. There is much debate over what to think of this, with many foreign policy experts finding credence in this threat, while others are unconcerned.

I fall into the latter category (with the exception that I am in no way a foreign policy expert, lolz), for several reasons. First of all, this is hardly the first time such a threat has been uttered by the head of state of North Korea. In fact, such occurrences have almost been routine these past few years, and while there have been instances of rocket or missile tests being conducted after promising such tests, the majority of the time the tests are never conducted at all.

Secondly, perhaps I am a bit naive but I remain confident that Mr. Kim will exercise more restraint than his late father did in these matters. Yes, the rocket launching last December does not exactly support my unfounded optimism, but looking back over the past year or so of Mr. Kim's role as head of North Korea, he has seemed a bit more diplomatic overall and, in a bizarre way, the fact that he is more outspoken during times of tension with the U.S. and the United Nations puts me a bit more at ease than his father, who would merely shy away from international news for several weeks leaving the rest of the world unsure of what he was planning next.

Thirdly, South Korea recently has made a significantly greater effort to forge stronger ties with their northern kin, and I would be surprised to see North Korea let this fall by the wayside. North Koreans continue to live with very little, in dismal conditions with many of them unable to even eat every single day. What the country needs is greater amity with the international community, and to foster trust so that the humanitarian aid will continue to be provided, and in greater quantities.

North Korea tested a nuclear weapon once in 2006, and then again in 2009. Both of these were conducted underground and while relatively successful, proved that North Korea still has a long way to go until they are capable of producing a nuclear weapon that could reach the U.S. Perhaps they are now once again just flexing their nuclear muscles in an effort to incite more fear in the international community, but that doesn't seem in their best interest at all. More likely, in my opinion, North Korea is themselves afraid of the most recent U.N. sanctions, and feel that their back is against a wall to the point where nothing short of a nuclear test will help them reinforce their might. It's a shame Mr. Kim won't go the extra lengths to foster ties in a more diplomatic fashion, but with any luck, North Korea will continue to have a bigger bark than bite, and this nuclear test (if it even happens) will amount to little more than clear indication North Korea is not yet a credible threat to this country and the rest of the world.

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