Posted by: bklunk | October 22, 2006

What’s It All About, Kim Jong Il?

kbalch wonders about the significance of nuclear proliferation. I’m not sure we just have to wait and see. Some realists say that we should not worry about nuclear proliferation: that nuclear weapons states will have to act more cautiously. Should we learn to relax and accept a world of dozens of nuclear weapons states?

Is it about time we prepare?

North Korea recently did a nuclear weapons test proving that they now posses them. Should we worry? Many say yes. “British Prime Minister Tony Blair, asked by the BBC how worried people should be said: “We should be very worried.” Very worried?? My initial reaction was I don’t need to worry about it, I live in California no harm will come to me way out here. But as I kept reading on and on about the weapon and North Korea, and how many sanctions the US has put on North Korea, I started to realize this really could happen. Maybe I should be a little worried. Is it really time for me to prepare for nuclear war? Something that is only seen in movies or heard about briefly in the news. And is the US and Japan really taking the right steps to keep North Korea at a point where they won’t feel they have to use the weapons? Or are the sanctions we are still putting on them to show that we must respond really going to just piss them off even more? I guess we will have to just wait and see.

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  1. Does it really seem to be the case that the U.S. needs to worry about a direct military attack from North Korea? If we take the realist perspective, then absolutely not. As eccentric as Kim Jong Il may be, he is no dunce. The man surely realizes that any military aggression against the U.S. would result in devastating consequences for North Korea. A more pertinent threat, however, may be the possibility of a North Korean attack on its southern neighbors South Korea and Japan. Pyongyang has already claimed on several occasions that it would turn Seoul into a city of fire and North Korea has threatened to invade the south numerous times. South Korea’s sunshine policy seems feeble as best to divert such actions. This is truly the threat the U.S. must worry about and it would be most disastrous to “wait and see.”

  2. The US does not need to worry about an attack–North Korea is the one that is worried, and this is precisely why they acquired, tested, and announced their nuclear capability. In doing so, the balance of regional power shifts: the US will be more cautious in its dealings with Kim Jong Il for fear of what he can do to South Korea and Japan. I think when Professor Klunk poses the question if we should learn to deal with dozens of nuclear states, I would strongly decline. The more states that have the bomb, the less accountability you have, and the greater likelihood a terrorist organization would get their hands on one. How would the US respond to a terrorist nuclear attack? There is no state to retaliate against. The United States and the world should continue to pursue a policy of non-proliferation in order to maintain the already fragile international balance of power.

  3. I would have to agree that U.S. does not need to worry about an attack from North Korea, however, as stated above, we do need to worry about terrorist groups. Kim Jong Il and North Korea acquiring nuclear technology and weapons doesn’t scare me for the sake that they will use them against the U.S., it scares me because Kim Jong Il seems like he is a person with very few morals. He can sell North Korean nuclear technology and weapons for an unprecedented amount of money, and unfortunately, it appears as though he is a man that has no problem in doing so. I agree that it is in fact the terrorist groups that we need to be worried about. If a terrorist group is able to acquire a nuclear weapon, there isn’t much we can do. They aren’t a state. We can’t impose sanctions or reciprocity. We can hardly threaten to use our nuclear weapons first, for we would be harming innocent people living within an “innocent” state. More than likely the U.S. would lose a nuclear battle if a terrorist group were to acquire nuclear weapons.

  4. I definitely agree with the three previous posts; the U.S. doesn’t need to worry about a direct attack from North Korea. I think that what Steve brought up was really interesting and entirely true. It is very possible that North Korea could use its nuclear capabilities against South Korea or Japan, in which case the U.S. must worry about what North Korea may or may not do. Clearly this is a very complicated issue and it’s difficult to say what is or is not the right answer or how exactly the U.S. (or the rest of the world for that matter) should react. And certainly Kim Jong Il doesn’t help matters; he’s quite the character himself and it seems almost impossible to figure him out. The U.S. was able to talk with him in the mid-90’s (I believe it was Madeline Albright that actually spoke with him) and some sort of agreement was reached in regards to North Korea’s nuclear capabilities (some kind of non-proliferation or a halt to their nuclear testing-I can’t remember exactly what). And back then it had seemed as though Kim Jong Il really only wanted attention and wanted to bring North Korea back into the international community in a sense. Is that all he wants now or is he truly seeking more? It’s hard to say as he is definitely hard to read. But I think that is something that needs to be determined (or at least a well-educated guess must be made in regards to this) in order for the international community to get a better picture of the situation so it can then act in the most appropriate way possible.

  5. I also agree with the last posts, I don’t think if there is going to be an attack that its going to hit US soil. I also do not think that Kim will use the weapons, if he hits South Korea he has kissed any hopes of reunifaction goodbye and if he hits Japan, or any other state for that matter, the international backlash will take him right out of power. One thing that I have learned from all that I have read and saw about Kim is that he wants attenion and want he’s regime preserved. His way of doing this is creating nuclear weapons and them showing them off, thus gainning his attention. The weapons are also a bargining chip for him, over the years the US has not recognized North Korea’s sovereignty (change during the Bush administration, the Clinton administration in 1994 had bilateral talks with Kim and he had agreed to stop his nuclear research). I think that if the US would agree to bilateral talks, some agreement like in 1994 could be reached.

  6. Madi:
    “I think that if the US would agree to bilateral talks, some agreement like in 1994 could be reached.”

    I disagree. Initiating bilateral talks after a long period of not having talks makes me nervous about what Iran would think. If we all of a sudden talk to North Korea because they have acquired nuclear weapons, essentially conceding to their demands, Iran will see this as an open door to pursue nuclear weapons to accomplish their objectives.
    I think bilateral talks are a mistake. I propose, however, that multilateral talks between the G8, other nuclear states, and states that are thinking about nuclear weapons have a discussion on non-proliferation. This way we can come to some sort of agreement, and I am sure the Europeans and other member states would stand with the US in putting pressure on North Korea and Iran to disarm.
    …But Iran still denies pursuing nuclear weapons, and the Non Aligned Movement has espoused their support of Iran’s right to pursue peaceful nuclear ambitions.
    It will be interesting to see how the US responds to North Korea’s actions, and how it affects its policy on Iran.

  7. In response to this blog, Professor Klunk poses the question “Should we learn to relax and accept a world of dozens of nuclear weapons states?” Absolutely not. My main concern is not that nuclear weapons capabilities will extend into other states, but that terrorist organizations will attain these capabilities. I believe states with legitimate governments would be more cautious in the use of their nuclear weapons. Although states exist in an anarchic system with no government, states are still bound by the rules of governence in the anarchic system. This is a topic we discussed in class. Governence refers to a set of basic rules, principles, or agreements on how to proceed with certain actions that a majority of states in the anarchic system agree to. Basically, one state just can not detonate a nuclear bomb on another state without some legitimate reason. However, terrorist groups are not bound by these same rules of governence. Their only concern is to annihilate their enemies and cause as much destruction as possible. 9/11 showed us that these groups will use whatever means possible to achieve this goal. Imagine the destruction that could be caused if a terrorist group attained a nuclear weapon. The world would indeed be a scary place to live in.

  8. I have to agree that from a realist perspective, we absolutely need not fear a nuclear attack from North Korea. Il may be power hungry, but he is still a rational actor and recognizes that if he were to attack, there would be no more Korean peninsula. Additionally, there is no evidence that North korea possesses the capability to even get whatever size nuclear weapon they have across the ocean-certainly not with an ICBM. Our only concern needs to be a) proliferation from North Korea to terrorist organizations which will not be rational actors, and b) the threat this possess to Japan who certainly may rethink our nuclear umbrella and decide to pursue some nuclear protection of their own.

  9. I don’t see this as a threat at all. What I do see is that if North Korea does make the mistake and use Nuclear Weapons on the US or any other state for that matter then there could be collapse of North Korea. Eventhough North Korea has China as an Ally if North Korea attacks, for example, South Korea first then China could not side with North Korea due to pressure from the International Community. But if the US responded offensivly we could be dealing with a major problem. North Korea is no match for the world. US sanctions are not a bad move. the North Korean goverment doesn’t care about the sanctions because while there people are starving they are well fed. this could cause some opposition to the North Korean Government. The best option right now is to do nothing. Just wait it out. Try to have North Korea give up their Nuclear Weapons without using any military action.

  10. I agree that there is no threat. And if there is, it s not apparent. I feel that if North Korea does decide to use these weapons on any of the superpowers, particularly the U.S., this could produce a war that would not only cause a rupture of North Korea, but ignite other wars and allow for nuclear weapon usage from less stable states. I think that China, despite an external pressures, would not totally cut its ties with North Korea if it becomes more threatening. I do think that sanctions are important to add external pressure, but internally the government can hold up. There is no need for military force, however added pressure of Kim Jong Il might calm him down. Although he is a quixotic and rash man, I don’t think he is willing to jeopardize his current state by threatening with his nuclear weapons.

  11. I believe that while there might not be a direct threat to the United States there is a global threat at hand, because of where these nuclear weapons could end up. North Korea has shown that it will sell these weapons to rogue states, (military weapons being one of North Korea’s few exports). While Kim Jong Il could sell his weapons, I believe there is the potential that he could use the weapons on South Korea, but most likely I believe North Korea is using the weapons as a bargaining mechanism. The nuclear program has been bargained away before and I believe with the right talks it could happen again. The information the United States has on Kim Jong Il is patchy at best, without knowing the character the United States is working with it is best to take threats seriously.

  12. I agere completely with what Margret has said. North Korea has shown nothing to make the world believe they are up to the responsibility of nuclear capabilities. They seem to be willing to deal with almost anyone, as their lack of natural resources demands that their economy rely on manufactured goods such as weapons. I also agree with Ben’s assesment that to waver from our traditional policies is irresponsible for fear of sending the message to the world that if you want the ear of the United States start a nuclear program.

  13. Although I believe that there exists little if no true threat of an all-out nuclear war between the US and North Korea, I don’t think we should write off this corrupt country all-together. We are all banking on the idea the mutual proliferation will be deterrent enough to hold North Korea at bay with regard to the United States, but the US is not the only country that needs to be worried about North Korea and its nuclear arsenal–South Korea and Japan are much closer in proximity and are not nuclear super-powers, therefore the United States will continue to have vested interest in the status of North Korea and its nuclear arsenal as long as we support Japan and South Korea.

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