North Korea announced Friday that it was done with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. “We’re pulling out” is the word from Pyongyang – now the ball is in our court. Add this to the recent discovery that Pyongyang has secretly rebooted its nuclear program and the North Korean claim that it can match the United States in a “fire-to-fire” standoff. In all but threatening a World War III, North Korea seems to have really given itself a stacked deck in the game of international relations.
So where is former President Jimmy Carter when you really need him? Shouldn’t we be working the diplomatic back channels, trying to keep North Korea from acting as a rouge nation? We already sent Carter over to North Korea a few years back, ready and willing to dole out plenty of foreign aid if it will promise not to develop any more nuclear weapons. Since that agreement, it has backed out on many of the terms, and the United States has used even more foreign aid to try to coax it back in to the agreement. Carter’s agreed framework turned out to be a failure. We even reduced economic sanctions on the country in the year 2000. So, why not just continue to “work” with them, and send out some more aid? Because, to use an analogy, this would be like buying a brand new car for a teenage son who just wrecked your previous three. We cannot continue to give North Korea aid without some assurance that it will comply with its end of the bargain.
The sad part of this whole crisis is that North Korea claims that this is the fault of the United States. Our “aggressive posture” is what caused it to pull out of the NPT, and furthermore to kick out United Nations inspection teams last month.
So what is to be done here? If the matter goes to the U.N. Security Council, North Korea could be faced with deep economic sanctions. But the problem with sanctions in a country like North Korea is that they don’t hurt the bad guys – they hurt the civilians, the citizens who are being oppressed, while the oppressor continues to prosper. No, our real solution is going to require a cost on President Bush’s part. He needs to go on the record, on television, in the paper – somewhere public. He needs to let North Korea know that this behavior is not acceptable and that the United States will not tolerate its actions. Basically, Bush needs to call the North Koreans’ bluff.
I’m not so eager to see Bush commit our country to any sort of military action in North Korea, especially with the conflict we currently have in Iraq. The question here is, will there even be a need for military action? Here is a country that had rattled its saber many times in the past, and on each occurrence we immediately come running with concessions. North Korea is misbehaving because it knows that this behavior works. Conceding anything to this government is not going to be a good fix, because we will find ourselves in this same situation a few years down the road. It’s time for the United States to cut the proverbial crap and let North Korea know we mean business when it comes to nuclear weapons control.
Saltsman is an LSA sophomore.