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The Growing Nuclear Threat Of North Korea

North Korea's missile program is advancing faster than experts predicted.

Tensions are rising as North Korea ramps up its long-range nuclear missile testing in response to new, tougher sanctions.

President Kim Jong-Un fired a missile over Japan last week to exhibit the nation’s escalating nuclear strength. It is the second missile fired this month capable of hitting the U.S. territory of Guam.

In an address to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, President Trump said if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies, “We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

Now North Korea indicates they may soon test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.

This week on Noon Edition, our panel  discussed North Korea and its nuclear weapons program.

David Bosco is an associate professor in international studies at the IU School of Global and International Studies. He studies the UN Security Council and he is the author of “Five to Rule Them All: the UN Security Council and the Making of the Modern World.”

Bosco pointed out the decades-long cycle of threats by North Korea and the tightening of sanctions by the U.N.

“Ultimately I think it’s fair to say … [these sanctions] are not changing North Korea’s fundamental strategic calculus,” Bosco says.

Bosco says North Korea’s desire for nuclear weapons is focused primarily on the preservation of the Kim regime.

IU Professor of Practice in East Asian Studies and Diplomacy Mark Minton says the missing piece of negotiations is direct contact with North Korea.

“Between their [nuclear] capabilities and their primary desire for regime recognition, there’s space for negotiating with them,” Minton says.

Minton also says doing so would mean acknowledging their possession of nuclear weapons that they will not likely or easily give up.

Minton is the former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea and previously the State Department’s country director for Korea. He has dealt with North Korean negotiations over several presidential administrations from George H.W. Bush to George Bush.

Minton says North Korea has proven capable in previous administrations of halting or slowing progress of their nuclear arsenal.

“That’s the sweet spot that diplomacy should work for while also taking military counter measures and trying to rally the international community against what they’re doing,” Minton says.

Ria Chae is a postdoctoral fellow at the IU Institute for Korean Studies. She studies inter-Korean relations and nation-building. She agrees there is room for negotiation, but the current administration does not give her hope.

“The way that policy making is done towards North Korea by the United States is also problematic and I don’t think it will resolve the problem,” Chae says.

Bosco says the biggest question for the United States is whether or not the U.S. can live with this nuclear threat or not. He says the U.S. defense and intelligence communities are split on this question.

One camp says we can live under this threat and deter it as we have done with other countries with nuclear weapons. The other says this regime is not like the others.

It’s not China, it’s not Russia. We may not like those regimes, but we have some level of confidence that they’re not going to launch a nuclear attack on us,” Bosco says. “Many people feel like we don’t have that confidence with North Korea.”

Though President Trump continues to threaten the regime with military action, Bosco says the majority of opinion among U.S. defense and intelligence communities agree the best option is still deterrence.


David Bosco: Associate Professor in International Studies, IU School of Global and International Studies

Ria Chae: Postdoctoral Fellow with the Institute for Korean Studies, IU School of Global and International Studies

Mark Minton: Professor of Practice in East Asian Studies and Diplomacy, IU School of Global and International Studies

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