Experts debate ways of dealing with nuke ambitions of N. Korea
SEOUL — Amid the backdrop of touch-and-go six-nation negotiations and the 54th anniversary of the Korean War’s beginning, a panel of North Korea experts gave little hope Friday that a resolution to the ongoing nuclear crisis would soon be found.
Whether hawk or dove, the four panelists, brought together by the Asia Foundation, all had the same conclusion: Until prodded, be it carrot or stick, the North Korean regime wouldn’t simply give up its best bargaining chips.
“There is no disagreement between anyone: North Korea is an evil, brutal, repressive regime. There are very few people out there who think Kim Jong Il is a misunderstood guy,” said David Kang, a professor of government at Dartmouth College and a noted commentator on North Korea.
“But engagement debates come down to one issue. Ultimately, does North Korea have genuine security fears or not? If they don’t have legitimate fears, then what they’re doing is blackmail.”
On the other hand, Kang said, if North Korea is justified in feeling threatened by the United States, the possibility of pre-emptive military action won’t make the regime feel any more secure.
David Cha, of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and co-author with Kang on a new book about the North Korea crisis, said the U.S. public was getting a largely “uninformed and hyperbolic” view of the situation.
While a military solution could never be fully ruled out, he said, the “Libyan Model” could help end the standoff. Earlier this year, after years of negotiations, Libya agreed to what the United States also wants in North Korea: complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantling of nuclear weapons programs.
Cha also said recent changes to the U.S.-South Korea alliance were not signs of weakness, but moves that would eventually have positive results.
“It has become the alliance everyone loves to hate,” Cha said. “But you have to distinguish between the process and the outcome. The process has not been pretty for the past year and a half, but if we look at outcomes, it hasn’t been that bad.”
Of course, one of the problems when dealing with the North Korea crisis is events have a way of outpacing the latest thinking.
Because the situation changes so rapidly, said Lee Guen of the Korea Institute for Future Strategy, “any discussion that is no longer relevant should be thrown out.”