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Virginia Tech expert: Potential solutions still exist in North Korean crisis

If North Korea remains committed to openly and provocatively advancing its nuclear program and the United States will accept nothing other than complete disarmament, a diplomatic solution is unlikely, says a Virginia Tech expert in nuclear politics and foreign policy.

earth“If the U.S. demands North Korea begin dismantling its arsenal in exchange for talks then North Korea has little incentive to negotiate,” says Paul Avey who teaches courses in national security, strategy, and world politics. “On the other hand, if the two sides and other key regional actors can enter talks, potential solutions continue to exist. At the least, the two sides would be conducting additional dialogue which could reduce the chances for miscalculations.”

Do you see potential bargaining outcome?
“Though it’s unknown if either side is interested, one possibility would be that North Korea refrain from further nuclear weapon tests and halt provocative missile tests. In exchange, the United States would tacitly accept a nuclear-armed North Korea for the time being. This would reduce the most visible and dangerous aspects of the crisis – the North’s tests and heightened rhetoric from both sides that accompany those tests. With a bit more stability the two sides could explore additional options.

What role should the U.N. Security Council play?
“Any use of force would be greatly facilitated if there were a Security Council resolution outlining the conditions when force could be considered, which the United States has frequently sought in the past when considering the use of force —even if at times it was a selective reading of some of the resolutions used to justify the use of force. I’m skeptical that this is realistic in the present climate.

“Really with the Security Council it comes down to the permanent five members – the United States, Britain, France, China, and Russia. If any of those object, then a resolution would fail because each has veto power. So really when we say UN Security Council we mean that the United States needs to get its NATO allies and then China and Russia on board with a policy in order to be effective.”

Would more stringent sanctions influence North Korea’s actions?
“Additional sanctions probably won’t really change North Korea’s behavior short of key countries – and here China is by far the most important – completely cutting them off. That could lead to the collapse of the regime itself. “

Is the president’s criticism of South Korea an effective tactic?
“The President may believe that publicly pressuring South Korea will compel them to more closely align their policy with that of the United States, but I’m not aware of foreign policy experts that argue this is likely to be effective. If North Korea’s objective is to introduce cracks in U.S. alliances in the region then this plays into their hands.”


About Virginina Tech’s Paul Avey

Before coming to Virginia Tech, Avey was a pre-doctoral fellow with the Managing the Atom project and International Security Program at Harvard’s Belfer Center for International Studies, a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at MIT. ( Paul Avey’s Bio )


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