Panel discusses how best to respond to nuclear North Korea

A former assistant secretary of state for South Asian Affairs hosted a panel discussion on responses to North Korea’s nuclear weapons tests in an event sponsored by the Elliott School of International Affairs Thursday.

Three professors discussed potential reactions from China, South Korea and Japan in response to the reported tests North Korea performed Oct. 9.

“This discussion is timely because Condoleezza Rice just returned from Asia after talking to these three countries,” said Ambassador Karl F. Inderfurth, director of the master’s in International Affairs program. Inderfurth, who moderated the event, served in the State Department from 1997 to 2001.

The panel answered questions before a standing-room only audience of students and scholars about individual governments’ policies and the support of U.S. policy in the area.

The panel included Professor Kirk Larsen, a specialist from the Korean foundation, David Shambaugh, a political science and international affairs professor who emphasizes the Chinese viewpoint, and Mike Mochizuki, a political science and international affairs associate professor who discussed the Japanese viewpoint.

Resolution 1718 passed by the United Nations Security Council calls for sanctions against North Korea and how the countries were reacting to the resolution was the center of discussion. Inderfurth said no matter the response, it will take international cooperation to be successful.

Larsen began with a discussion of South Korean policy toward North Korea.

“Their main goal is how to maintain security and stability on the peninsula,” Larsen said. In the wake of the Cold War, South Korea had gained economic security and felt less threatened by North Korea, he added.

Larsen described previous efforts from South Korea to deal with its neighbor in the form of the “Sunshine Plan,” which Larsen said is contentious, but works diplomatically with North Korea. It promotes diplomatic engagement in the form of tourism and downplays areas of confrontation between the two countries.

In the wake of the reported Oct. 9 nuclear tests, Larsen said a decision must be made in regards to the current “Sunshine Plan.”

“I think the proponents of Sunshine will win out, and they will want dialogue, not sanctions,” he said.

Shambaugh touched on the long and often tumultuous relationship between China and North Korea.

“China worked well in the Security Council to get 1718 resolution,” Shambaugh said.

Mochizuki spoke about Japanese policy toward North Korea and their response to the nuclear tests.

“The move toward hard line policy towards North Korea … (it makes) them the country most aligned with the Bush administration’s policy,” Mochizuki said.

“The Japanese have acquired and gradually applied tools of pressure … what isn’t clear to me are the objectives,” Mochizuki said.

Japan’s most likely course of action according to Mochizuki is “to try and get some kind of bargain with North Korea.”

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