North Korea is More Than Just a Nuclear Threat


North Korea’s nuclear test last week indicates that Kim Jong-Un is following his father’s preferred path of ‘diplomacy’: launch nukes when the U.S. is focused elsewhere, elicit international condemnation, and then use those public shames as grounds to argue that the imperialist West is hostile towards North Korea. ‘Obviously,’ the country must therefore continue to develop nukes as a defensive weapon.

More relevantly, however, the recent tests indicate that the regime’s nuclear capabilities are improving, and they may be only a few years away from developing a weapon that can hit the continental U.S. Such an aspiration is not that far-fetched, given the regime’s recent statement and propaganda that advertises this goal with images of their nukes hitting Capitol Hill.  

Do I think that their missiles will actually hit our nation’s capitol? Most likely not. I hate to admit it, but I do believe that the regime is gradually becoming more than a nuclear nuisance, and the failed denuclearization-for-aid negotiation strategy that has been repeatedly employed in the past can no longer be the go-to diplomatic tactic to deal with North Korea. Even China — the regime’s laststanding reluctant friend that sends just enough aid, energy, and business to prevent a disastrous regime collapse — recognizes that North Korea’s hobby of developing and wielding nuclear weapons for attention is starting to get out of even China’s control. China’s public condemnation of North Korea’s nuclear test last week revealed its frustration towards the regime, but they are still far from severing their relationship with North Korea.

If they unfriend Kim, his regime will most likely collapse, and whether North Korea is absorbed by China or reunifies with South Korea, China would face a border dotted with U.S. troops. China needs the buffer zone, and it will take a lot more than last week’s nuke test for China to abandon this odd friendship.

What is even more dangerous than North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons for its personal use is North Korea’s nuke sales to other states. Given that they’ve sold advanced missiles to Tehran in the past, and with rumors that Ahmadinejad approved to send Pyongyang 10 million USD in exchange for Iranian scientists to view last week’s nuclear test, such fears of North Korea profiting off of its nukes are not unsubstantiated. So how should the U.S. and other states respond to North Korea?

This question elicits a much longer article, but for the time being, I would like to direct you to an article that Professor Lee, a highly respected Tufts professor, published in the wake of last week’s test.  

Regardless of whether North Korea is a nuclear threat, there is also another important question we should be asking: Is North Korea a threat to its people? As my other PolicyMic articles suggest, the answer is, absolutely. More than half of its population of 24 million experience preventable chronic severe malnutrition; a quarter million people or more are imprisoned in political prison camps; and the majority of the population are stripped of every human right as we know it (with the exception of racial discrimination, given that it’s an ethnically homogenous nation).  

As we continue to read the barrage of opinions and articles that center on the topic of North Korea as an increasing nuclear threat, let us not forget the 24 million people who are suffering under the regime’s iron grip.