The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

80° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

Newsletter

North Korean Nukes: Why We Should Worry

‘North Korea? What about them?’ you may ask. Many Stony Brook students might not even know that the East Asian communist country recently claimed to have successfully tested a nuclear weapon. For those who do know, it may not seem like a big deal. They blew up one nuke (supposedly), yet we have thousands upon thousands. Most Americans (at least those not stirred up by political fear tactics) feel quite safe sitting in their mortgaged homes or campus dorms, not worrying about a nuclear holocaust like they might have back in the days of the Cold War. Granted, their lack of fear is justified, as North Korea lacks the technology that made the USSR an ever-present threat despite its geographic distance. In a world of globalization, however, just the mere thought of instability and insecurity is a powerful reason for fear.

So what do fifty million South Koreans, Bush administration policy makers, the Japanese, and the United Nations all have in common? They are all terrified at the prospect of a nuclear North Korea.

For the South Koreans, it is a no-brainer. The Demilitarized Zone between the North and South has been a tense stretch of land for the past fifty years, but now the tension has reached a new peak. The threat is obvious – if North Korea were to ever execute an offensive attack, South Korea would be obliterated. With nuclear weapons thrown into the mix, the chance of conflict seems heightened. Even if the North lacked the ability to launch a nuclear weapon at the outbreak of a war, it has almost a million troops and more than 11,000 artillery pieces ready to pounce upon the South, according to GlobalSecurity.org. At this point, anything from small military operations to severe sanctions may be interpreted by Kim Jong-Il as an offensive measure, resulting in a massive retaliatory strike. You could say good-bye to Samsung or LG phones forever. The South Korean military is better prepared today than it was fifty years ago, but the effective defense of the country relies primarily on the presence of allied military power, namely the United States with its bases in South Korea and Japan. Unfortunately for South Korea, those forces have been reduced in recent years as the perception of security threats has shifted westwards to Arabia.

The Bush administration has considerable reason to sweat as well, even if the direct threat by North Korea is rather pitiful. Three years ago, there were two primary potential threats to international security: Iraq and North Korea. There was ample evidence that North Korea was actively pursuing nuclear weaponry, and many experts estimated that they were close. They were right (if one believes North Korea’s claims). The Bush crew, on the other hand, insisted the same things about Iraq. They were markedly wrong. What was the cost of this miscalculation? Thousands of American soldiers dead and wounded, thousands more Iraqis in no better a condition, and hundreds of billions of US taxpayer dollars. Oh, and North Korea has the bomb. The United States has, in effect, gone on a nation-building adventure that did not serve to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. With the bulk of our forces currently engaged, the Bush administration lacks the military force required for forceful coercion. The President might just have to become diplomatic! Aren’t congressional elections coming up, too? Yes, the heat is on for everyone.

As for the Japanese, the development of North Korean nuclear weapons signals a new era for the once toothless economic power. Japan’s constitution stipulates that it cannot have an offensive army, though now with the election of a new Prime Minister, things are quickly changing. The new government plans on amending the constitution, and now they seem to have ample justification for doing so. With the economic might to back it, Japan could conceivably transform itself into a regional military power, a status that previously earned it much disdain from its neighbors. The conditions for a disastrous Asian arms race are set.

This new development will also be a challenge for the United Nations, which has often been accused of being an ineffectual organization that lacks the ability to enforce its stern resolutions and warnings. This notion is reflected in the satirical movie ‘Team America: World Police.’ Kim Jong-Il asks former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix what he will do if access to weapons sites is denied. ‘We will be very angry with you… and we will write you a letter, telling you how angry we are,’ a clumsy puppet Blix stutters, shortly before pummeling to his death. What many do not realize, however, is that the efficacy of the UN depends entirely on the cooperation of its member states, such as North Korea. The Security Council, the only body of the UN that can authorize sanctions or military action, is hesitant to engage in offensive action that violates sovereignty-probably for the best (one should note that the UN military coalition in the Gulf War was defending sovereignty, even though it fought against Iraq, a member state). However, leaders in the UN must find a way to effectively deal with this crisis if incremental sanctions do not work.

With the world’s largest military power engaged, and many others unwilling to fight or unfit for the challenge, North Korea might just get away with their antics. Considering Asia’s central role in the world economy, any regional stability caused by North Korea can quickly spill over to the international arena. Thus, it is in everyone’s interest to see this conflict cool over peacefully. We can only hope that Kim Jong-Il, Bush, and other world leaders are sane enough to let it.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Statesman

Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Statesman

Comments (0)

All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *