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Nuclear Test Spikes Fears On North Korea

Nuclear Test Spikes Fears On North KoreaIn the wake of what North Korea claims was a successful test of a nuclear weapon, experts from The Fletcher School say the international community has a lot to consider.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [10.16.06] When North Korea announced that it had successfully tested a nuclear weapon, world leaders universally condemned the act. Experts in international relations from The Fletcher School at Tufts say that the next steps taken by the United States will be critical to resolving the issue.

Adil Najam, an associate professor of international negotiation and diplomacy at The Fletcher School, says that North Korea is challenging the United States to back up previous warnings against nuclear testing.

"The problem is we have gone on record saying, 'Don’t do this. Don’t do this.' Now North Korea is saying, now what?" he told the Boston Herald. "It’s really a crisis not in the sense that we are at the brink of nuclear war, but we are in a much more precarious point where they have made their move. It is impossible for the U.S. not to make a move."

While severe sanctions have been threatened against the isolated nation, Stephen Bosworth, dean of The Fletcher School and former U.S. ambassador to South Korea says they won’t mean much to the North.

"We can try to tighten sanctions to some degree, but there's not much to sanctions," he told The Wall Street Journal. Already a poverty-stricken nation, North Korea has little to lose.

"That regime is not very responsive to it's own citizenry and just having more economic hostility is not going to cause them to change their minds," he said in comments to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

But Bosworth doubts that the international community will pursue a military response.

"I think it's almost impossible to contemplate that there would be any sort of military action taken against North Korea by the U.S. or anyone else, given that North Korea holds South Korea hostage to its conventional military capability," he told ABC.

North Korea could also retaliate against other U.S. allies and interests in the region.

"We have to remember that North Korea has the capacity to reach out and hurt Japan and U.S. bases," Bosworth told The Wall Street Journal. "It's not a situation where we could selectively bomb North Korea, and do things without the threat of retaliation."

According to Michael Glennon, a professor of international law at The Fletcher School, the breaking point for the U.S. would be if North Korea began supplying nuclear weapons to terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda.

“That’s where the real threat lies. If they proliferate, that is where the bright line will be drawn,”he told the Boston Herald. “The United States’statement was clear: If they come anywhere near that line, the sky will fall.”

Diplomacy, Bosworth asserts, remains key to finding a solution. But in the wake of North Korea's nuclear test, he says it is a trickier path to maneuver.

"Former Secretary of State Jim Baker has stated just in the last couple of days something I believe very strongly, which is that we should talk to our enemies. Otherwise there is no real hope of diplomacy," he told ABC. "But I think nonetheless it's very unlikely that the Bush administration is going to be willing to change its position on this in the foreseeable future. To now offer one-on-one talks with the North Koreans would seem to be a gesture of weakness, not of strength."

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