North Korea's Position in the World: Overview

North Korea's Position in the World: Overview

The international community has often criticized North Korea for its nuclear proliferation program (North Korea detonated its first nuclear device in October of 2006) and conducting underground nuclear tests, the most recent of which was conducted on May 25, 2009. This latest test resulted in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874, which was adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council on June 12, 2009.

Relations between North Korea and Japan have been fraught with tensions caused by North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens during the 1970’s and 1980’s, nuclear armament, and missile tests. Many of the recent Japanese prime ministers, including Abe and Aso, have stirred up public sentiment against abductions and inflated them into a political issue that threatens to overshadow nuclear proliferation. Foreign policy relations between the US and North Korea have been turbulent and inconsistent While the Clinton administration’s negotiations, North Korea promised to shut down it nuclear plants in return for US aid in building electricity generating light-water nuclear reactors, George W. Bush defined North Korea as a member of an “axis of evil”.

Six-party talks with North Korea consist of South Korea, Japan, China, the US, and Russia. In February of 2007, these five states succeeded in obtaining North Korea’s pledge to disable its nuclear facilities in return for $400 million in aid and fuel. The country seemed to be moving towards greater integration into the global community, especially when it welcomed the New York Philharmonic in 2008. 2009 however, has been marked by North Korea’s failed efforts to fire a satellite into space, its second nuclear test in May, and the abduction of two American journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who were eventually released after a visit by Bill Clinton in August.

Three experts on North Korean policy discuss the country’s position in the world as well as the international community’s perceptions of this mysterious state. Alicia Ogawa, professor of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs moderates the discussion with Robert Carlin, currently of Stanford University whose resume includes periods spent as senior policy advisor at the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization and chief of the Northeast Asia Division in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the US Department of State, L. Gordon Flake, the Executive Director of the Mansfield Foundation, and Evans J. R. Revere, President of the Korea Society and former Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Seoul, State Department’s Director for Korean Peninsula Affairs, and Director of the Office of Japanese Affairs.

Flake, Carlin, and Revere all agreed that North Korea and its leader have managed to exist as state and leader because of rational actions and coolheaded leadership and attributed the myth of chaotic governance to a worldwide media that knows little about the actual events in North Korea. However, the three disagreed on the actions that the international community and specifically, the United States, should take on dealing with North Korea’s nuclear threat. Robert Carlin stressed that negotiations with North Korea should be conducted despite its nuclear armament and that six-party talks (Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, United States) are never as effective as bilateral agreements, which are based on mutual interests and therefore require constant vigilance to sustain them. L. Gordon Flake and Evans Revere countered with their views that the impact of North Korea’s recent nuclear tests and UN sanctions on North Korea make bilateral negotiations difficult, and stress the importance continuing the six-party talks, and of incorporating South Korea, China, and Japan into the negotiations.

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Clips and teaching questions from North Korea: Challenges for the US, Japan and South Korea

Nuclear Proliferation - Evans Revere argues that North Korea has changed its priorities towards security and the obtainment of nuclear weapons because it feels threatened by its neighbors and wants the recognition and diplomatic leverage associated with nuclear arms. Robert Carlin expresses his view that nuclear proliferation necessitates diplomacy.

Multilateral Negotiations
- L. Gordon Flake argues in favor of multilateral negotiation with North Korea and emphasizes that the United States must act with the interests of its allies in mind.

Trilateral Cooperation - Evans Revere explains how trilateral cooperation with South Korea and Japan is at a peak after withering during the Bush administration.

U.S. and East Asia - Robert Carlin acknowledges the “harmony” in the American relationship with Japan and South Korea but warns that such alliances require constant adjustment because they are based on the self-interests of each state. He addresses China’s stake in the North Korean problem.
Type,Article; Theme,Globalization; Topic,Government; Topic,History-Modern; Topic,International Relations; Type,Podcast; Topic,Politics;
North Korea, South Korea, United States, diplomacy, nuclear proliferation, security, international relations, L. Gordon Flake, Alicia Ogawa, Robert Carlin, Evans J. R. Revere, Japan-North Korea Relations,policy