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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 09:26 GMT
North Korea: Can tensions be eased?
South Koreans demonstrate against the US decision to send bombers close to the Korean peninsula
North Korea has warned that it has the ability to strike American targets anywhere in the world if provoked.

Pyongyang was responding to the decision by the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to refer it to the UN Security Council for breaching nuclear non-proliferation agreements.

And amid mounting tension Japan warned that it would "use military force as a self-defence measure" if North Korea started to "resort to arms against Japan".

North Korea's latest threat comes a day after the head of the US Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, warned that Pyongyang had a long-range missile capable of reaching the west coast of America.

What next in the standoff over North Korea? Would sanctions be justified? Is the US right to seek a diplomatic solution in North Korea and a military solution in Iraq? Should the US back off while tensions are so high?

Thank you for your comments; this debate is now closed. A selection of your e-mails is published below.

It's hard to tell who the "good guy" is now

Sung J Kim, South Korea
I have no doubt that Kim Jong Il is definitely one of "bad guys" in the world. However I have doubts that the United States is the "good guy". It's hard to tell who the "good guy" is now.
Sung J Kim, South Korea

Imagine North Korea continuing to pursue covertly a nuclear program, in the next five years. NK could be a threat to Europe, Asia and the United States. The world cannot allow a rogue state to build weapons of mass destruction and I think the world community is underestimating the capability that North Korea has right now to cause a greater problem in the future.
Marcos Diaz, Puerto Rico

It's terrifying, we're right back to the Cold War standoffs of the 60s

Kamel Darwish, Finland
The latest gesture of brinkmanship from Pyongyang is just another of what seemingly everyone except for Bush, Rumsfeld and Powell expected, demonstrating beyond any doubt what those three diplomatic nightmares are capable of, and still no apology from Washington for the "axis of evil" remark. It's terrifying, we're right back to the Cold War standoffs of the 60s! We all hate this, so why do we keep replaying this same scene from history, tormenting our children with the same terror!
Kamel Darwish, Finland

I believe, in a wise decision, the IAEA has sent this issue for consideration to the UN Security Council. This body will presumably discuss this matter thoroughly. Let us wait and see.
Jaime Saldarriaga, Bogotá, Colombia

N Korea is not a serious threat at the moment. Who in their right mind would fire one of their two or three nukes at a country that has thousands? If they fire one at the US or even the UK, afterwards the pictures of N Korea from orbit would look like a large moon crater. At least we know Saddam is a mad man, he thinks he can take on the US and win!
Daniel, UK

The US should work with the South and not have its own policy towards the North

Y K, Korean in USA
Tension can be eased if the US does not escalate it further. North Korea is just pushing back because the US is pushing first. The South Korean sunshine policy should be used because that is what the majority of the South Koreans want. North Korea is a direct threat to South Korea, not the US. The US should work with the South and not have its own policy towards the North. If there is war, the people that will suffer will be South Koreans not the US civilians some 3,000 miles away. US, work with South Korea!
Y K, Korean in USA

The best thing for the US to do is to begin a long overdue complete withdrawal of all American forces from South Korea and let the two Koreas sort things out. The US military presence in South Korea only aggravates the situation. US tax dollars should be spent on the defence of the US, not protecting other countries or policing the world.
Roger, USA

Roger, USA: I totally agree, but let's not stop there. I think we should pull out of Europe and the Middle East as well. Let someone else bare the burden for trying.
Roger, Chicago, USA

The cost of another Korean War is too much for the whole world to bear.

Daniel, USA
There should never be a war in the Korean peninsular. Although the North Korea uses its nuclear threats against the pre-emptive military strike from the US, the prospects of the war would be devastating to both the North and South. The US should resume dialogue in order to produce a substantive result, close to signing a non-aggression pack with North Korea. The cost of another Korean War is too much for the whole world to bear. The eventual demise or collapse of the North Korean regime should not by the military force but by the peaceful dialogue and reconciliation.
Daniel, USA

As awful and inhumane as the North Korean regime is, it has not invaded a neighbour in the last 50 years, has never used WMD, and is not in violation of a UN resolution under Chapter 7 (the chapter governing use of force). North Korea will make noise, but will not start a war guaranteeing violent annihilation. The regime is close to collapse. The best course of action, for everyone involved is to await their imminent internal implosion.
Tara, USA

Once the unstable regime in Iraq is eliminated, the one in North Korea will realise that the United States must be taken seriously in its efforts to rid the world of despots that would hold the civilised world hostage with nuclear threats. The axis of evil is going down.
Joe, USA

North Korea is militarily strong enough to deter and make Mr Bush and Mr Blair think twice before making a strike. Iraq is weaker. A frightening precedent, this shows that all countries have to be militarily strong enough to make the aggressor think twice.
Andy, USA

North Korea is completely different to Iraq because they have already got some nuclear weapons. Any conflict in Iraq will be for the express purpose of preventing a similar situation arising there. The policy for North Korea is more likely to be one of containment due to their nuclear capability. The hope will then be that the regime will collapse after the cessation of foreign aid as they don't have oil to bail them out.
Andrew Myles, UK

There are several distinct differences between North Korea and Iraq. Firstly, NK didn't invade another country 12 years ago and since then completely dishonour every UN resolution. Secondly, NK's actions are in breach of an agreement with the US, not the UN, which in my opinion does not make them an immediate priority as Iraq should be considered. Lastly, neither situation constitutes the need for war, but whatever happens with Iraq, NK will certainly get the attention it so desperately wants in the months that follow.
Andrew G., USA

Korea's stance of pre-emptive strike against a potential aggressor is just the stance the US is taking on Iraq

Aaron R, USA
The only reason why there is a significantly larger focus on Iraq is for one reason only: Oil. One country admits to being able to produce nuclear weapons while the other keeps giving into more demands (while Bush keeps saying that they're not complying). After all, with the military build up in the Middle East, it would not be profitable unless the US actually went into Iraq and took the oil. And since the US is a capitalistic nation, it obviously wouldn't do anything unless it profited the country financially. Korea's stance of pre-emptive strike against a potential aggressor is just the stance the US is taking on Iraq.
Aaron R, USA

If the U.S. increases its presence and North Korea did detonate a nuclear weapon at those forces (perhaps even with non conclusive evidence pointing to them) would the U.S. use its nuclear weapons in full force against the regime and its military? And would the U.N. support such a strike with such high civilian loses? - Or would it propose full scale invasion, the likes of which have not been seen since WWII? At the end of the day, which do we value more? The lives of 100 of our citizens, or the lives of 1000 of someone else's "Third World" citizens? Not an easy question, but one we answer everyday we let world hunger, disease and warlords continue throughout that part of the world while we live in comparative comfort.
Dave Smith, Scotland

Simply stop helping the country out. The aid is not getting through to the people and it is reasonable to assume that the money and resources needed to support their vast military program is coming at least in part from not having to buy the stuff that other countries give them. Until either someone invades them (which doesn't bear thinking about) or their own population turns on them, the North Korean leadership will continue to do exactly as it pleases. And that includes making nuclear toys to threaten everyone else with
Paul De St Paer, UK

The North Korean regime is not reasonable. However it's more unreasonable for America do anything to this country. I'm tired of listening to American talking like a final judge for whatever happens outside of America. If America is a police of this world, I can't trust the corrupt police. Don't interfere in others' business for your own sake.
Jlee, Ireland

Yes, it is true that North Korea's regime is unreasonable and unpredictable. But, we have to make it clear that the problem is the regime and very few people in power. Most of people living there are innocent and suffered from poverty and starvation. A war against North Korea will bring them to the worst situation and nobody will gain from such a war including South Korea.
Peter, South Korea

The North Korean regime is not reasonable

Steve, USA
Tens of thousands of innocent people are dying of starvation in North Korea. Those who are brave and strong enough to flee the country, or complain about the situation, are captured and put into a political prison and get slave laboured until they die. A dialogue and diplomacy works among reasonable people. The North Korean regime is not reasonable.
Steve, USA

The difference between this and Iraq is that North Korea did not lose a war and agree to disarm as a clause in the peace agreement. It agreed to stop its nuclear manufacturing as part of private agreement with the US that the US has been in breach of for years.
James, Netherlands

This is another example of the US bullying a smaller nation. Every escalation in North Korea is in response to aggressive posturing by the US. An "all out war" will only hurt the people of South Korea while the US remains safe thousands of miles away. Why not let North and South Korea try to resolve their own differences, as they have been doing in the past? Without interfering, and see what happens.
Rhett Pomfret, UK citizen in Germany

Tension could not be eased while US is sending its 52 and B1 bombers. North Korea has to be concerned and perhaps pre-emptied strike would be the proper course of action.
Chris Cuberovic, Canada

North Korea is an even greater threat to world security than Iraq

Alex Kim, South Korea
The North Korean Government is a major threat to global security based on their disregard for human rights, international law, mass murders of their own citizens and willingness to commit horrendous evils to maintain power. North Korea is an even greater threat to world security than Iraq. No civilised dialogue will work since this regime only recognises brute force and power. We cannot wait for this outlaw regime to implode; we must work together to disarm this regime even if we have to risk war. If that means pre-emptive attack on North Korea's nuclear facility, then so be it.
Alex Kim, South Korea

In a sense, North Korea is taking the same attitude as the US is over Iraq. Namely, it is talking about a pre-emptive strike against a potential aggressor. It seems the more the US becomes obsessed with policing the world, the more likely it is to provoke a serious conflict.
Nick, Wales, UK

Can the US fight two wars at the same time?

Colin Heyes, UK citizen in Germany
This will see if Rumsfield was right. Can the US fight two wars at the same time? Or will it find a 'different solution' to a country that can actually fight back?
Colin Heyes, UK citizen in Germany

This is a militaristic, unstable regime which sells weapons to anybody who will pay. On top of that the general population lives in extreme poverty. This needs to be nipped in the bud, ideally by diplomatic means but with force if it doesn't work. As with Saddam, waiting is not an option.
John, France

Bush and Blair know well that it is one thing attacking a weak nation like Iraq and a completely different scenario when it comes to North Korea. Why is there is no talk of war when it comes to a country which kicks out UN inspectors and starts a nuclear facility? Should not Mr Bush and Mr Blair talk of weapons of mass destruction that North Korea actually possesses and do something about it rather than fight a country like Iraq under the perception that it has WMD?
Srinivas Krishnaswamy, India

Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

See also:

06 Feb 03 | Asia-Pacific
19 Feb 03 | Asia-Pacific
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