Symposium 2011: Should the U.S. continue pursuing the six-party talks with North Korea? If not, what policy would be more effective?

Cartwright:  Unlike Iran whose leaders are religious fanatics, I think North Korea is engaging in economic extortion.  It doesn’t hurt to keep talking to them and giving a little of what they want each time if it keeps them contained and keeps their programme in check.  However, if Kim Jong-un is going to be aggressive with the nuclear arms or take a different approach than his father, I think we would have to reassess the benefits of the talks. 


I’m all for preemptive strikes.  There are those who fear it will spark a war, but that’s not likely to happen, and if it does we’re well prepared for it.  Look China isn’t going to do anything about the situation.  They don’t like to get involved.  If we strike, they’ll grumble about it and act all pissed off, but they’ll be glad we did do something.  No one wants to be the bad guy, so that falls upon us.  The reality is that China won’t care as long as we keep buying stuff from them.  They need us to keep consuming so that their factories keep going and their economy keeps going, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the fall out.  North Korea knows that if they go it alone in an attack on South Korea that they can’t count on China to back them up, so they’d get a beatdown put on them by the U.S.


They’re not stupid, but they are greedy and self serving.  Kim Jong-un, like his father, is probably just interested in keeping power, self preservation.  I doubt he’s going to do anything to jeopardize that.  As long as he can keep everyone at the table and get what he wants by making a few concessions here and there, he’s going to keep playing the game.


Sydney:  Given that North Korea has a new leader it is probably a really good time to resume six-party talks. The new leader may be more cooperative and open to negotiation than his father was. There is only one way to find out. Apparently North Korea is on the brink of collapse due to food shortages. This might give the U.S and the other nations represented at the talks some leverage.


There are no alternative policies that I can think of. Sanctions have already been imposed on North Korea, millions of dollars in assets have been frozen and so on. The only option would be too launch a military attack but North Korea would retaliate by launching missiles at South Korea, so that is not a realistic option.


Michigan:  Here again, do you think North Korea wants to be blown up?  We have been through this with them before in the Korean War.  Maybe we should make an example out of someone.  Should it be North Korea?  North Korea is like a nat—annoying but not dangerous.


RMC:  Here again this is another example of how the United Nations has failed.  It hasn’t done anything to resolve the North Korean issue except to prop up the regime of Kim Jong-il and now likely his son Kim Jong-un.  Maybe we should just tell China that North Korea is their problem and let them deal with it however they choose but let them know that the United States will respond if South Korea is attacked.


I think the six party talks have always been a waste of time.  We’re not getting anywhere with talking.  We’re giving more ground than we’re gaining.  All North Korea is doing is extorting concessions from the rest of the world with the threat of their nuclear programme.


Let’s just leave them alone and cut them off from the rest of the world.  Here’s a case where sanctions may actually work.  North Korea doesn’t really have anything that the rest of the world needs.  Iran has oil and the world runs on oil, so they’re going to be able to fund their programme with oil sales.  And I don’t think anyone is about to stop the flow of Iranian oil (unless it’s the Iranians themselves).  So, if we cut North Korea off from the rest of the world, eventually, they’re going to collapse.  Oh, but wait a minute, China’s not going to stand firm on this issue and will give them what they need, so the sanctions would fail.


Let’s just keep them isolated.  The last thing we need is another war on the Korean peninsula, but if North Korea does really have nuclear weapons, how long do you think it will be before they become the aggressors or sell the technology to terrorists?

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