Is taking military action in North Korea necessary?

The United States needs to develop a diplomatic response to North Korea’s threat of nuclear warfare.

 The United Nations Security Council issued new sanctions against North Korea last week because of North Korea’s long range missile tests in December 2012.In response to these sanctions, the new leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, has threatened a third nuclear test, warning that it will target the United States.

Lily Tiao | Daily Trojan

Lily Tiao | Daily Trojan

In 2006, the North Korean government attempted a nuclear test and in 2009, engaged in a second test that showed off improvements. What is disconcerting to many about a third test is whether North Korea will display greater missile capability than it did in the past. Officials have concluded that it is difficult to know if there will be an impending detonation.

The provocative rhetoric, however, that North Korea has been using on this issue is not something new. Charles Armstrong, director of the Center for Korean Studies at Columbia University, told NPR that North Korea’s response was “fairly predictable. It has to be kept in mind that North Korea has been doing this for a long time. And even the words ‘act of war’ were used first in 1994 when the Clinton administration threatened to take sanctions questions to the U.N. over its nuclear program.”

The current measures taken against North Korea have been to closely monitor the country and increase sanctions on companies, organizations and individuals involved in the nuclear and missile programs in the country. The sanctions also include increased measures to inspect cargo that comes in and out of North Korea. “We believe that today’s resolution is a firm, united, appropriate response to North Korea’s reckless act,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said in a statement, “and that strict enforcement of sanctions is essential to address the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.”

Currently, it would be detrimental to attack or provoke North Korea because it would only stoke the fire. Nuclear testing is a slow, tedious process, and officials cannot say for certain if North Korea has the capability at present to back up what they are publicly stating. Armstrong has also noted that the real purpose of their grandiose statements is to serve as a distraction and that “if they can convince Americans that they can reach American soil with their nuclear missiles, then that will guarantee that the U.S. will never attack them for any reason.”

If North Korea carries the sort of weapons that they claim to, why have they yet to attack Seoul, the capital of one of the top-10 economies on Earth and a metropolis located in their own backyard? Why have they danced around the option of attacking the United States for decades? They can attempt to frighten Americans, but, fortunately, a roar has no effect if it comes from a mouse instead of a lion.

If the international community cooperates with sanctions, tightens restrictions and continues to oversee this country, perhaps some agreements and negotiations can be made.

Hopefully, by addressing North Korea’s more pertinent flaws, such as a crumbling economy, the country will not have to resort to military means in order to justify its regime.

Elizabeth Cutbirth is a junior majoring in English and animation.


Our government should not wait for a deadly attack but instead show our impressive military prowess.

 If the American government is in doubt about how to deal with the current North Korean regime, it only needs to look back in time. Though patience is certainly a key virtue, it does not bode well to sit idly by as a nation that has been busily crafting nuclear weapons noisily announces declarations of war against the United States.Yes, North Korea has threatened the United States before. And yes, those attempts failed. But still, it would be irresponsible for the United Nations or the American government to continue being passive.Kim Jong-un could be fibbing, his words full of empty scare tactics meant to shake the United States up. But instead of taking a chance and thinking that the North Korean regime will not go through with a nuclear attack on the United States, the threats need to be taken seriously to ensure the safety of our citizens.

The question boils down to one simple idea: If Pyongyang is nothing to be worried about, then why would the United Nations place sanctions on the city’s nuclear weapons plan to begin with?

Before one dismisses Kim Jong-un’s speech, it is imperative to understand just who the United States is dealing with. This is a man who was thrust into power after the death of his father, a man who ruled for decades. This is a man who executed 14 senior officials for apparently threatening his regime by criticizing his youthfulness and inexperience as well as apparently engaging in unsavory behavior such as intoxication and sexual misbehavior.

This is a young man looking to make a point, and one who will most likely use any means necessary to assert his power. After all, as North Korea’s economy sinks deeper into oblivion, the government must find ways to maintain power and supremacy in the communist state.

Most will argue that Kim Jong-il was not a great leader, but he was at least a man that the United States government pretty much knew from head to toe. He controlled his country with an iron fist and was rather unkind to the rest of the world, but our country did not fear the North Korean regime as we might do now.

As the saying goes, “it’s better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know” — and we do not know who Kim Jong-un is. We do not know what he has in store for us. Simply waiting around for North Korea to take physical action is possible but precarious. Gun law reform is finally being seriously talked about in Congress, but it took a few massacres and the deaths of 20 school children for us to get to that point. Taking action a second after a nuclear attack is a second too late.

The U.N. has made its sanctions, but all that means is that a few rules are now written down and North Korea must promise not to break them. In light of that, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta needs to work with the South Korean government in order to craft a more aggressive plan and confront North Korea’s threats head on.

The U.S. government is seen as a beacon of diplomacy, but it is time that we show North Korea that we do not speak with empty words, and we will not be bullied into submission.

Military provocation should always be considered a last resort, but it is quite obvious that the North Korean regime desires to back the United States into a corner. It is time that we take action before it is too late.

Sheridan Watson is a junior majoring in Critical Studies. She is also the Editorial Director for the Daily Trojan.


1 reply
  1. Vahe Demirjian
    Vahe Demirjian says:

    Any attempt by the US to attack North Korea will be impeded by North Korea’s threat to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire” if Kim Jong-un’s regime is ever threatened. Rather than take military action, the US should simply fund pro-democracy groups in South Korea who insist that North Korea must clean up its abysmal human rights record before the US considers rapproachment with the Hermit Kingdom. Barack Obama could simply ask a South Korean activist to sneak into North Korea by sailing to the west coast on a boat so that the activist can bring down statues of Kim il-sung and Kim Jong-il with an axe and a rope (just as Saddam Hussein’s statue was brought down during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq) — that way North Korea’s attention is distracted from its nuclear weapons program. We could see Christian escapees from North Korea sneak into North Korea and shout to Kim Jong-un, “Nuclear warfare is immoral. It does nothing but destroy all of humanity!”.

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