How to Handle the North Korea Problem


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Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 12:00am

How to Handle the North Korea Problem

The Clinton and Bush administrations have failed miserably in controlling the rogue nation of North Korea in the past ten years.  Under President Clinton, North Korea was enticed to give up their nuclear ambitions.  The administration sent Madeleine Albright to Pyongyang and schmoozed with wacko Kim Jong Il.  The U.S. provided all sorts of incentives to North Korea, but that strategy appears to be a disaster.  You don't reward people for bad behavior.  It simply encourages more.


   The Bush administration has taken a harder line by not talking to the North Koreans directly or providing many incentives to them, but that tactic hasn't worked either.  In the last five years, North Korea has created a number of nuclear weapons.  In their test of the nuke yesterday, North Korea basically dared the United States to do something about it.


Unfortunately, there are no great options for the United States right now.  Many people are calling on the Bush administration to hold bilateral talks with Kim Jong Il.  The problem with that strategy is that it ignores all the other players in the region, most notably China and Russia.  That would be a bad idea.


Military options are limited to be sure.  Iraq has bogged down the U.S. military, so the options would be limited to air and sea weaponry.  Plus, North Korea has a million man army that could invade South Korea at a moment's notice if provoked.  That would also endanger the 36,000 American troops that are in South Korea helping them protect their northern border.


Economic sanctions don't work either.  They take far too long and the effect is usually to the detriment of the poor, not the elite. 


The only current solution is to pressure China and Russia into action.  Russia and China have a much greater stake in this than the United States.  Thus far, they have been reluctant to do anything.  However, they may step up now that Kim Jong Il has tested nukes.  The U.S. can provide economic incentives to Russia and China and they can, in turn, force North Korea to suspend their nuclear program.


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