RU Professors explain North Korean nuclear weapon crisis


By Vanessa Leal, Reporter

Screen Shot 2017-09-30 at 8.10.57 PM

Hwasong-14 – intercontinental ballistic missile, second test-fire. Picture provided by KNCA in Pyongyang, North Korea, on July 29, 2017. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The presidency of Donald Trump has the world on edge. A particular area of concern for many is the advancement of nuclear weapons and the escalation of threats between North Korea and the United States. Tensions flared most recently when the President of the United States took to Twitter to call Kim Jung-un “Rocket Man” in addition to sharing various policy objectives. In turn, the North Korean government called these comments “a declaration of war.”

Political science professor David Faris said North Korea has been back to their nuclear weapons development program since the Agreed Framework (a deal between the U.S. and North Korea signed in 1994 to interrupt North Korean engagement in the development of nukes) was broken by the Bush administration in 2002.

The threat is now at increased attention of the media and governments across the globe due to persistent testing of nuclear missiles under the command of North Korea’s  leader Kim Jong-un.

Professor Faris said the escalation comes from the fact that North Korea has only recently advanced its technology enough to target their nuclear weapons.

“They’re farther than expected in miniaturization, which is the ability to make a nuclear warhead small enough to put in a missile and then to developed guidance systems to target and fire it at Japan for instance, or South Korea,” said Faris.

On the other hand, Professor Faris explained that country of North Korea scores seven-seven in the Freedom House rankings for Civil Rights and Political Rights, where one means completely democratic and seven means completely tyrannical.

“North Korea is one of the most authoritarian countries in the world. Incentives and structures that guide relations between other nuclear armed states may not apply there because the leadership sometimes appears not to be rational.” Faris said.

Furthermore, Faris also said that there are problems within the current U.S. leadership.

“The President of the United States is very inexperienced in international affairs,” said Faris.

Program Director of International Studies, Professor Philip Hultquist analyzed President Trump’s handling of the crisis with a discussion on North Korea’s search for security.

The Trump administration has responded to the provocation by escalating the tensions and threatened total destruction of their entire country,” Hultquist said.

On North Korea’s end, professor Hultquist mentioned the fact that Kim Jong-un has assassinated his own family members and anyone who has opposed his leadership, which suggests insecurity by Kim Jong-un regarding his hold to power.

“If we eventually want North Korea to denuclearize, we need to assure them that they do not need nuclear weapons for their own security,” said Hultquist, who then turned to criticize Trump for doing the opposite.

“Threatening them with total destruction is not the best way to convince them that we aren’t a threat to them and they don’t need a nuclear deterrent from the U.S.,” Hultquist said.

Professor Faris said North Korea could be building their nuclear arsenal to steer the U.S. away from a possible invasion.

“Most of observers will say look at what happened to Iraq. Iraq didn’t have any nuclear weapons and America invaded them and now they’re gone; and look at what happened to Libya. Libya had a nuclear weapons program, they gave it up and then a couple of years later the US bombed Libya and overthrew their leader,” said Faris.

Faris said that there are diplomatic efforts that the United Nations Security Council could take. However, it is unclear whether or not any sanctions would have an actual effect on North Korea.

“The security council of the UN can pass resolutions placing sanctions on North Korea. The reality is there’s already so many sanctions in North Korea and the country is already so poor that is really questionable whether that will have any impact,” Faris said.

Roosevelt students also commented on the situation with North Korea.

“I saw a few NBC news updates yesterday saying Trump had called Kim Jong-un ‘rocket man’ and said he was going to give tougher sanctions on North Korea,” said junior political science major Beckett Costello, concerned about the escalation of rhetoric. “I feel like it is fighting fire with fire and not really getting anywhere to try to solve the conflict.”

Junior journalism major Kayla Rogers said North Korea is only one of her concerns under the current administration.

“I’m concerned about this entire planet right now because it seems like it’s up in chaos and we can’t depend on Trump to do anything. I don’t see him handling this very well,” Rogers said.

Professor Hultquist reminded us of the importance of understanding what is going on with North Korea crisis.

This is one of the most dangerous situations on the planet and as people with a say in the U.S. government, we have an obligation understand foreign affairs and to put people in power that ensure that U.S. power is wielded responsibly,” Hultquist said.

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