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 Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 10:02 GMT
N Korea's nuclear plans: What can be done?
Kim Jong-il and George W Bush

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A Russian envoy has spoken optimistically of ending a nuclear stand-off over North Korea, as officials from both Koreas began talks on Tuesday.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov, who held six hours of talks on Monday with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, said Pyongyang responded "with interest" to a Russian plan to defuse the crisis.

However, the BBC's correspondent in South Korea, Caroline Gluck, says that the South's influence may be limited as Pyongyang has said it is only willing to discuss the issue with Washington.

Washington has said that it is willing to sit down with Pyongyang, but has made no plans to do so.

What next in the nuclear standoff over North Korea? Can the crisis be resolved? Can Russia and China make a difference?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Another unfinished war. If diplomacy doesn't work send in a UN mediator. If that doesn't work blockade them and it will change from within.
R.C. Robjohn, UK

It is ridiculous that the US is using different criteria for N Korea and Iraq.

Nilesh, UK
It is ridiculous that the US is using different criteria for N Korea and Iraq. The scandal that is the United Kingdom is blindly following the US. That cowboy that is the President of the United States needs to wake up! All western citizens should be outraged at what their governments are proposing!
Nilesh, UK

If we're all so scared of nuclear weapons, why don't all countries sign a treaty to get rid of them?
Steve, Zurich, Switzerland

How did the situation arise where the only way to get the attention of those countries who could help North Korea (economically) was to develop Nuclear Weapons? Does the fact that they are communist mean that this exercise is futile in any event?
Stuart, Edinburgh Scotland

Unfortunately, the news blows everything way out of proportion. Most Koreans are busy going about their daily lives. That's not news. A few extremists gets top billing. That's just the nature of the beast.
Kim Yo-Mi, S. Korea

Perhaps if we didn't threaten North Korea then it wouldn't perceive a need to spend so much on what basically amounts to defence

Stephen Speed, UK
It's rather ironic that the same people who criticise DPRK for spending money on its military (rather than humanitarian problems) are the very people who approve of us having an aggressive policy towards DPRK. Perhaps if we didn't threaten North Korea so much then it wouldn't perceive a need to spend 25% of its budget on what basically amounts to defence.
Stephen Speed, UK

Guns are not the only weapons available in a war. Economic sanctions can sometimes prove to be far more devastating. The West should pursue this option.
Simon, Oxford, UK

I think that Kim Jong-il is smarter that many people give him credit for. I predict that he is going to get from the West, South Korea and Japan anything he wants: money, food, oil, you name it. The West has no guts for military confrontation: this is not l950.
Mirek, Alexandria, VA, USA

The U.S. pulled out of the ABM Treaty and the DPRK pulled out of Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. I cannot see a difference between the two, since both actions make for a more dangerous world. I also cannot see what is so significant about a nation, who has had U.S. nuclear weapons pointed at it for over three-and-a-half decades, building a fission bomb. Why does nuclear deterrence ("Mutually Assured Destruction" in Cold-War parlance) work with the Russians and not with the DPRK? Why don't more people speak out against such glaring hyposcrisy? The U.S. stance concerning its own nuclear weapons keeps it from bargaining on such issues from a position of moral authority.
Mark, Minnesota, USA

North Korea, at the end of the day, wants good relations with the US

Joseph, ex-pat in Korea
First of all, to understand North Korea it helps to understand Koreans in general. Now, I'm not Korean but I have lived in South Korea for quite some time, so I think I have at least some idea of the Korean mentality. Yes, they bluster and threaten war, but at the end of the day they are attempting to put more cards on their table then they have at the present moment. It's all a matter of losing face - this is why, lately, Bush has gone on a much softer line than in the past few weeks. North Korea wants to be treated as a power, an equal, and there main card at the moment is their nucleur capabilities. North Korea, at the end of the day, wants good relations with the US, and of course, South Korea.
Joseph, ex-pat living in Korea

Anyone who thinks that "sorting out" Iraq or North Korea will reduce international terrorism is dreaming. That requires a different approach. Also, anyone who thinks that the same can be done to North Korea as Iraq is also living in fantasy land - North Korea would cause massive damage to the South if provoked. Can the USA have that on their conscience if they provoke another country?
I.B, London, UK

China already has 250 thousand refugees from North Korea in its border region. Beijing is afraid that if it imposes any sanctions on Kim Jong-Il's regime millions of desperate North Koreans will flood China. So don't expect miracles.

This situation will be properly resolved when the North Korean leadership is removed

Dennis, New York
This situation will be properly resolved when the North Korean leadership is removed from power and a government that is actually representative of the people is allowed to form. The US should take a hard line, and if DPRK won't disarm air strikes should be called in to destroy its nuclear capability. Yes, there is a risk that DPRK would use its nuclear missiles against civilian targets - but if it did, that would unequivocally spell the end of the regime and death of its leaders.
Dennis, Buffalo, NY, USA

North Korea has repeatedly violated a number of international agreements and continues to destroy any remaining vestige of cooperative spirit of weapons non-proliferation. Their human rights record stands for itself as possibly the most repressive and horrific regime in the world. They are a rogue state! They behave in true dictator fashion and I have no respect for them whatsoever.
Todd G, Minneapolis, USA

There is a strange paradox here. None of N Korea's powerful neighbours wants N Korea to develop nuclear weapons and N Korea has disavowed any nuclear ambitions. It has until recently kept its pledge to shut down its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon as specified in the Agreed Framework of 1995. It has importantly never tested a nuclear weapon. Yet there is panic in Washington which already possesses thousands of nuclear weapons. It was reported recently that President Clinton admitted to threatening N Korea with nuclear war back in 1994 and yet N Korea voluntarily signed the Agreed Framework which tied its hands in the extraction of weapons grade plutonium with this same Clinton administration. Yet we keep being told of a madman loose in Pyongyang as a way of scaring the public about N Korea.
Ralph Sato

Russia and China can play a crucial role

Charles, Pyongyang, DPR Korea
Russia and China can play a crucial role in resolving the nuclear weapons issue in North Korea. Presently Russia and China have the largest embassies in Pyongyang and this is indicative of the past interests and relations they have had there. When negotiating with the USA, North Korea will not be able to give an inch. The North Korean press is extremely critical of the US political activities and any sort of compromise will appear that it is giving in to the enemy. The involvement of both Russia and China in negotiating a solution will enable both North Korea and the US to "save face" when it comes to making concessions. It will also make it clear to the entire world where they stand on the weapons issue and both the USA and North Korea will have a better idea of how much or how little political support they can expect to receive.
Charles, Pyongyang, DPR Korea

Why don't the US change their international policy, especially towards North Korea? Their aggressive policy can cause a War, even though North Korea don't want to. Of course, North Korea's attitude is wrong, but the US should know that they have a responsibility on their policy. The US should listen to other countries, especially Korea. Korea is a host not a guest.
ted, South Korea

Since the anti-war protestors believe President Bush is so irrational, why don't they demonstrate both their courage and their fairness, and protest outside the Iraqi and North Korean Embassies and demand those governments renounce their unilateralism and their actions that endanger the lives innocent civilians? And why don't they rally outside the homes of the Iraqi and North Korean leaders and demand money and non-aggression pacts with no strings attached? I'm sure those noble, peace-loving governments and leaders will hear you, respond, and show the world how truly fine they are.
Steve, USA

In attempting to apply objectivity, I cannot get past the following. The US claims it has WMD to protect itself, yet in the hands of any other nation they are a threat to the world. It seems no one else is allowed to apply this logic. Yet the US is the only country to have detonated (two) atom bombs and the only country to have been tried in the international court for terrorism.
frank, Sydney Australia

How many could you feed in N. Korea with the money being spent on its nuclear programs?

J. Torralba, Portland, USA
Why is it that these countries see aid to them from the US as an obligation? If they detest us so much why even accept our help? As far as I am concerned, to hell with all these countries. Let them save their own hide and feed their own people. How many could you feed in N. Korea with the money being spent on its nuclear programs? Priorities are all wrong. The N. Koreans have nothing to defend. The civilized world does not depend on them for anything. So, this is all a big hype to be used as extortion against the US.
J. Torralba, Portland, OR USA

It might be most effective for Bush to call Kim's bluff. Kim is demanding attention and aid from the US, but offers nothing in return. He's desperate and is throwing a dangerous tantrum. Bush should cut off all aid and make it clear he won't come back to talk until Kim stops threatening war. When Kim discovers he can't feed either his army or his people, then maybe he'll start to behave in a civilized manner.
Jim Riedmann, Texas, USA

It gets tiring to read and hear comments which continually criticise the US. There are many countries with leaders whose actions should be questioned. However - in the Western Nations we are fortunate enough to live with relative freedom (this website is a prime example) which is part of what makes us so attractive to so many who want to live here. How liberating that we have the freedom to express openly whether we agree or disagree with War and whether we like or dislike our leaders. Isn't that in itself worth fighting for ?
Amy Horrocks, Sydney, Australia

North Korea is a bigger threat than Saddam, and it is a mistake to treat it lightly

Adrian Aguirre, Juarez, Mexico
North Korea is a bigger threat than Saddam, and it is a mistake to treat it lightly. They have the ability and they have the financial motivation to export weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups. If the "free world" decides to ignore and further isolate N. Korea, we will have seen nothing yet. Which brings me to a more generalized question: Of how have embargoes against Cuba, Iraq, and DPRK helped to overthrow political despots? It doesn't. It hurts those that are innocent, and it pressures those countries to seek underground finances.
Adrian Aguirre, Juarez, Mexico

The reason for the dichotomy in the US treatment of Iraq and N. Korea occurs because N. Korea has WMD already and Iraq is trying to reacquire them. The whole purpose of the US's policy is to prevent proliferation of nukes and other WMD. It requires another approach with N. Korea, as it already has nukes and the means to deliver them. Many people do not realize the destruction that will occur in S. Korea and Japan if war occurs. N. Korea already has 1 or 2 nukes and missiles that can hit Japan and S. Korea. Most Americans and Europeans don't realize that war with N. Korea could result in a nuclear mushroom cloud over Tokyo and Seoul. While oil is undoubtedly an influence in Iraq, the risks of war with N. Korea necessitate a different approach.
Robert, USA

This has been sufficient deterrent to prevent a US attack on North Korea

Rita, UK
Robert, USA (above) points out the reasons behind the different approaches the US is taking to North Korea and Iraq - namely that North Korea already possesses WMDs and could use them if attacked, while Saddam is accused of trying to develop them.

Surely this logic simply supports the arguments made by nations who have, or wish to have, WMDs as a "deterrent"? Robert implies that this has been sufficient deterrent to prevent a US attack on North Korea - there are many other nations around the world who would fear just such an attack by the US - perhaps that is why they all want WMDs?
rita, UK

I think we have seen how well the European system of diplomacy works. It got the world - World War I and World War II. How well placating Hitler worked. We here in the USA have every right to protect our citizens, including invading other countries who are actively trying to harm us. The North Koreans signed an agreement in 1994 or thereabouts, and promptly broke it. So the answer for the "peace at any price" folks is to make another agreement? A bad joke.
Larry, USA

I think both sides could show some compassion when dealing with this issue. I am sure that North Korea is well with in the capacity of the US war machine. So starting a conflict with the US or South Korea would be a suicide mission at best. The other issue is human rights. Are the children of the North starving from economic sanctions? I think we have to make sure that any UN sponsored sanction does not turn the will of the people against us.
Richard Williams, US

The world needs balance

Dmitriy Moroz, USA (formerly Russia)
North Korea should not buckle under US pressure to hold its nuclear programme. In today's world a country's the only assurance that Big Brother isn't going to do to you what it wishes (like they did in Serbia) is to have the nuke (or oil, but there's no such thing in Korea, is there). The nukes are the only thing that make Washington stop and think, and then act really carefully. Let's face it - on the plane of international politics thinking and acting carefully has not been Washington's strong side ever since the demise of the USSR. The world needs balance.
Dmitriy Moroz, USA (formerly Russia)

The problem with North Korea is not the threat of they themselves having a couple of nuclear weapons. They are the world's largest peddler of missiles and missile technology.
Aaron Smith, US

There has to be some middle ground reached, Bush has to pull up and start acting like a leader instead of a power hungry dictator. After all the effort that has been taken to cut down the use and production of nuclear weapons, Bush has come along and set the world off on a spin for war. America can only fix this problem at their elections next year, this time vote in a real leader!
Andrew, Australia

Wouldn't it be great if all the countries of the world had the courage to stand up to the USA and demand an end to all "hostile policies", whether based on America's greed, America's excessive pollution, or America's fear of threat. What right, other than might, does America have to interfere in other countries? And why is America so ready to "break" international law by waging war against countries that have never attacked America? A world pattern of helping those who need help would obviate the need for most wars. Maybe we need to begin in our homes by not passing on our fears and hatreds.
Paul Antrobus, Canada

I think that North Korea is as great as threat as any other nuclear armed country. The US is seeking to prove its point that North Korea is part of an "axis of evil". Is it only today that the US realized the North Korea has nuclear weapons? This whole strategy of the Bush administration is to get Bush more votes and increase his popularity in the States. American propaganda is nonsensically and motivated by US self-interest in keeping their military fit and having power over weaker nations.
Nitish, USA/China/India

North Korea is the country who has kidnapped many innocent Japanese people (and South Koreans) including teens and only a few of them could manage to come back to Japan after a couple of decades. How come we can trust such a nation even if we talk to them? How many times do you want to be cheated by them?
Kei, USA

We must resolve these issues before we all die at the end of the day. No one really wins here. If we go to war with N. Korea there will not be an Asia Pacific. Korea has a missile pointed to Hawaii. Think people think!
Liz, Hawaii, USA

Even China and Russia, North Korea's staunchest allies are distancing themselves from it. Kim Jong-il is an unpredictable person nobody wants to deal with. Perhaps some smarter members of North Korean will attempt to depose him. However Kim, just as Saddam, seems to have an uncanny ability to survive.
Miroslaw, USA

More should be done by the international community to understand North Korea, their problems, aspirations, strengths, weaknesses and culture. Trade, relations with the international community and access to modern technology are very important to every nation in the 21st century.

To ostracize them does not appear to be a very good option as this will leave them with no alternative but to co-operate with other nations who have been similarly ostracized and thus enhance their image, whether rightly or wrongly as a so called "rogue nation".
Clive Walter, UK, ex Indonesia

Every day it seems there is some other country standing up and denouncing the USA and its main allies

Paul, Norway
This is all getting tiresome. Every day it seems there is someone else or some other country standing up and denouncing the "Great Satan" - the USA as well as its main allies (UK, Australia and France at the moment).

They don't like the policies the free world is trying to bring and they don't like it when we intervene in conflicts or situations around the world. I strongly believe that the US and its allies should just pull out of all the areas where they are trying to help and let them get on with it. The truth of the matter is that all these areas would collapse in ruins within a few years and come begging to the international community for aid.
Paul, Norway

North Korea has learned to master the art of brinkmanship over the last 50-odd years, but one can only wonder how much more patience the region has for tantrums such as these.
Simon, Canada

Why exactly is this the fault of the US? This is a problem for North and South Korea to work out. The US is not being aggressive. It is simply saying it's not negotiating. The US isn't going to be forced into giving money to a country that will take the money, let their own people starve and feed their military. South Korea needs to step up to the plate and make peace with its neighbour. Then maybe we can bring our military home.
Eileen, USA

It is also important to remember that North Korea has made it clear that it has no qualms about distributing its weapons technology to others. Should the US sit idly by while small disgruntled nations and terrorists gain more powerful weapons? Perhaps it is frowned upon to be a police force, but we have to at least protect ourselves. These nations prove a great risk to our nation's stability.
Mark, USA

There is no oil in North Korea so the US is not interested. The US is also scared of North Korea because of its ties with Russia and China. North Korea has a powerful military unlike Iraq, and the US is trying to make out North Korea deserves another chance, their way of saying "Come on lets not get heated because we are scared of what you might do".

The US defence secretary also said "We can fight two wars at the same time", then the rest of the US Government said they had no intention of attacking North Korea. What is going on? Does the Bush administration know what each other is thinking, or do they just say what they want to say?
Dom James, UK

We must have the same rules applied across the board

Andy, UK
Personally I think we should take the same hard line approach against Korea as we intend to against Iraq. Surely we can't allow such nations to have weapons of mass destruction and we must have the same rules applied across the board. If they don't allow UN weapons inspectors in we should go to war with them too. George Bush must make his stance with conviction and not just pick and choose his enemy as and when it suits.
Andy, UK

North Korea is not governed by the world's police force led by George W. Bush. They are under no obligation to roll over and allow themselves to be controlled militarily or in any other way by the West. A belief in Socialism and being brave enough to put it into practise is not cause for concern - it should be welcomed. What I fear is a world which is wholly governed by the US, and to whom we are drones.

North Korea has no desire or intention to invade any other sovereign state: their nuclear programme exists now solely to produce energy for the North Korean people, who have been treated appallingly by the US and the West purely because of their political stance. It is George W. Bush who presents the biggest threat at the moment to world peace, with his imperialist pretensions. The US needs someone brave enough to stand up to him - what a pity Britain is so desperate to exist in darkness beneath the US's shadow.
John Gimblett, Wales, UK.

War is not an alternative here

Kelly Rigel, USA
North Korea needs to be placated as quickly as possible. War is not an alternative here. China proved back in the 50s it was not willing to accept a capitalist presence so close to its own borders and North Korea is its most lucrative client state for arms and other goods. Any action by the US and South Korea against North Korea, provoked or otherwise, will only end disastrously for the West.
Kelly Rigel, USA

North Korea does not greatly distinguish between the US and the UN

Charles, Pyongyang, North Korea
I'm an expatriate living in North Korea. North Korea highly values their policy of self-reliability: Something they are perfectly entitled to. The US is constantly voicing its concerns about the nuclear threat from the North but we must remember that there is an entire US army, thousands of miles from home, with their weapons pointing into North Korea.

Unfortunately, North Korea does not greatly distinguish the difference between the United States and the United Nations; as far as they are aware, the two organisations work together. The expulsion of the UN monitoring team should not be viewed as a hostile move but a practical defensive one. If monitoring must be done, then it must be performed by an organisation that does not appear to be a puppet of the United States
Charles, Pyongyang, North Korea

Why not complete the original task in hand?! Catch Osama Bin Laden and his related ring leaders. It seems the USA is jumping from one uncompleted task to next.
Al, UK

We cannot allow our paranoia to lead to imperialism

Bryan, Seattle, USA
Bush has taken a very hard line since 9-11 on just about everything. America is still in a bit of shock from this. However, we cannot allow our paranoia to lead to imperialism. In short we need to get over 9-11. Quite frankly, more people died in car crashes last year.
Bryan, Seattle, USA

The double standard should be obvious with regard to US attitude toward Iraq v North Korea. North Korea is not a threat to Israel. Our blind support of Israeli aggression got us into this mess in the first place, yet the Bush administration has gone out of its way to re-emphasize our stupidity with respect to supporting Israel at all costs. The only other nation fully in support of a US attack on Iraq is Israel. The picture should be obvious.
John, USA

Nobody except United States should be allowed to have nuclear weapon because America is the only country that represents all nations of the world and is a real democracy. Our contemporary world is relatively stable, without great wars in Europe because of America's great influence on Europe. North Korea and all other countries including Russia, China, France, UK etc. should be disarmed as soon as possible.

Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

See also:

17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
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