The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Diplomacy by other means

Adrian Northrup

If the reports are to be believed, the detonation of North Korea’s first operational atomic weapon heralds a new era of relations with the dictatorship. While the Bush administration continues to advocate its hard-line, no-negotiations stance toward the country, it has become painfully clear that North Korea has gained a decisive diplomatic advantage over the United States.

By having an operational nuclear program, North Korea now has the key to what it wanted ever since it began the process of obtaining nuclear weapons. Now, the United States, along with the world community, has very few options to choose from in dealing with Pyongyang.

The North Korean government has made clear over the past decade what their goal was in developing a nuclear program – the establishment of bilateral talks with the United States. Kim Jong-Il and his father Kim Il-Sung, being logical survivalists rather than suicidal imperialists, saw the mounting military and economic pressures against the North Korean government in the 1990s and feared that a governmental collapse was imminent. The world community was starving the country by cutting off nearly all trade with the nation; the government survived almost entirely because of their support from the Chinese government.

The quest for nuclear weapons, beginning under Kim Il-Sung and continued by Kim Jong-Il, was less about self-defense or militaristic ambitions and more about gaining a bargaining chip in the negotiations for lifting economic and trade sanctions with the United States. Even with the mere threat of a nuclear strike against South Korea or Japan, Kim Jong-Il knew that the United States would be forced to change its stance against his government.

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Opportunities presented themselves along the way in U.S. relations with North Korea to stave off the situation we see today, but all were either bungled by the United States or were rendered impossible by China and South Korea. First, the Clinton administration was able to convince the North Koreans to sign the Agreed Framework in 1994, promising the country two light-water reactors to generate electricity in exchange for the cessation of their nuclear program. The North Korean government did, in fact, stop their development of nuclear technology, but the United States failed to provide the light-water reactors after eight years under the agreement, forcing Pyongyang to restart their nuclear program.

This resurgence toward attaining nuclear power came, unfortunately, at the beginning of the new Bush administration, which made clear there would be no concessions made for the North Koreans. This pushed the country further toward obtaining a nuclear arsenal.

And all the while, China and South Korea balked at the idea of a regime change in North Korea, fearing the influx of refugees that would storm their countries if a war took place. All of these aspects allowed and forced North Korea toward nuclearization, culminating with their first successful detonation of an atomic weapon last Monday.
Now, the question is, what does this leave the United States and the world community to do? Unfortunately, the answer is not very much. The option of increased economic and trade sanctions for North Korea would only exacerbate the problem, making the slowly starving country increasingly desperate for funds or resources of any kind. This could, in the worst-case scenario, cause Pyongyang to sell off one or more of its nuclear weapons to the highest bidder, a role al-Qaida or some similar group would gladly play.

Military action is no longer a viable option at this point, with the most likely result of an invasion by the United States being the launching of North Korean nuclear weapons into South Korea or Japan. The only remaining logical course of action is agreeing to meet the North Koreans at the negotiating table, which would more than likely lead to the economic and protection agreements that Kim Jong-Il desired all along.

Still, the Bush administration continues to pursue the same hard line policy that helped create this diplomatic nightmare we see today. They are currently pushing for a resolution in the United Nations that would impose further sanctions on North Korea in response to the nuclear tests.

Clearly, the time for punishment of the North Koreans has passed, and now the United States and world community must salvage what they can from the situation. North Korea has promised full “denuclearization” if its demands are met, and assuming the government intends to keep its promises, the option of diplomatic concessions is clearly the most desirable at this current juncture. The world would be much better off having regular relations with a nuclear-free North Korea than it would with a starving and desperate dictator-run nuclear state.

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Diplomacy by other means