Saturday, July 29, 2017

Need for More Accommodating American Policymaking in North Korean Nuclear Nonproliferation

Not a month goes by now without news about the latest progress in North Korean development of weaponry that can pose realistic threats on the US and other countries.  Whether it be missile testing, nuclear weapons testing, or a combination of both, Kim Jong-un has made sure that the world has not forgotten about him and his growing ability to strike the mortal American enemies with weapons of mass destruction.  All previous efforts to reverse the developments, whether they are economic sanctions or diplomatic talks, have largely come to nothing.

There is no doubt that nuclear weaponry has been persuaded by states such as Iran, Israel, and North Korea for strategic purposes. What makes nuclear weapons so attractive and so demanding is that it is a shortcut to inconceivable voice in the world community. A nuclear device signifies capability in brinkmanship. A nation/organization can much more easily threaten another to submit to its demands through a display of nuclear rather than conventional military force. The realistic threats of nuclear weaponry against the US by anti-American groups and the importance of nonproliferation efforts can be illustrated by the continuing efforts to keep scientific knowledge of nuclear development out of North Korean hands.  

Still, it is highly doubtful that the nuclear weapons can be kept out of the hands of North Koreans forever, for there are still nuclear materials imported into the country, and North Korean manufacturing facilities remain hidden and intact.  North Korea can obtain nuclear weaponry in numerous ways, whether theft, black marketing, or trafficking. Intelligence cannot forever keep up with new developments as well as to seek out and destroy all sources of nuclear materials. When “the nuke” does become the possession of anti-American states like North Korea, the US is in severe danger.

Therefore, the most significant aspect of the nonproliferation efforts should not be how to stop nuclear materials from entering the hands of anti-American groups, but how to make these groups realize that it is not in their interests to arm and use nuclear weaponry. Their change in attitude can be assisted by the US in the following two ways.  First, the development of economy, in short-term, will make the anti-American nations, such as North Korea and Iran, reluctant in using brinkmanship to achieve their interests, much less launch nuclear devices at US, for the fear of American nuclear retaliation. The wealth would change the situation where these nations have nothing to lose in attacking the US.

To do so, not only does the US must actively normalize the diplomatic relations and end sanctions, the government must provide economic aid and encourage investment in these nations. The U.S. government must encourage businesses and other countries to invest in the economies of such states. The affluence propelled by American investment should make the countries’ elites hesitant in pursuit of brinkmanship for fear of international economic sanctions. Even if the government remains determined, its citizens would not tolerate the threat of taking away their newly acquired wealth, pushing their leaders toward diplomacy and compromise.

At the same time, if military confrontation does occur, the US, with cooperation of banking institutions in other countries like Switzerland, can simply freeze its investments to easily bring these nations to their knees.  Second, a change in the image of US among the people of nations/organizations generally characterized as “anti-American.” To do so, the US government must take an active role in humanitarian aid effort in these nations and pursue the international community, including other states as well as organizations such as Red Cross, to do the same.

For instance, the failure of the US government and the much of the world to respond to the great famine in North Korea during the 1990’s, refusing to halt the economic sanctions and sending foodstuffs and basic living needs, reinforced the propaganda of the North Korean government and further exaggerated the common people’s hatred for the Americans.  The US must act more decisively to show that it does sympathize with the suffering of the people, even if they come from political entities that hold glaringly opposite ideologies.


When the people are content with their lives as what they are, improved by the wealth brought by American investment and humanitarian aid, and their nationalistic pride satisfied by an American apology, the hardline anti-Americans will be left isolated and unpopular. At this point, the government will use the available nuclear material in nuclear power plants, both to please its citizenry and to recognize that to possess nuclear weapons can cause more unnecessary conflicts than fulfillment of its interests.

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