Virginia Tech expert warns against over reaction in North Korean standoff

The most realistic U.S option at this point in dealing with North Korea is some form of containment coupled with diplomacy to halt more nuclear and missile tests, says a Virginia Tech expert in nuclear politics and foreign policy.

earth“The biggest thing is to avoid overreaction. People tend to react to every development as if it is totally new, unprecedented, and requires an immediate response. History unfolds more slowly. Overreactions that don’t think things through can lead to disaster,” says Paul Avey, who teaches courses in national security, strategy, and world politics at Virginia Tech.

“The United States and its regional allies – here Japan and South Korea are critical – can make it absolutely clear to the North Korean regime that any use of nuclear weapons or major conventional action will result in regime change,” said Avey. “That is, if Kim uses military force the end result will be his death.”

Avey believes that threat needs to be coupled with a promise – that if North Korea complies, then the United States will not attack and will be willing to negotiate some sanctions release, so long as Kim refrains from any additional testing.

“The long-term goal should be to convince North Korea to abandon its program,” Avey said. “In the near term I don’t think that is realistic and the United States can instead focus on deterring North Korea and working to stabilize the situation.

“Keep an eye on what other countries are saying and doing,” added Avey. “Are Russia and China following through on new sanctions? Is America working effectively with its allies in the region or is the crisis driving them further apart?”

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.

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