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Nuclear Blackmail

Nuclear BlackmailNorth Korea’s arms threats are nothing new, says a Tufts expert -- who thinks that this time the United States should respond with a carrot instead of a stick. Beijing.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.15.03] During recent talks in Beijing, North Korea offered to scrap its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles program in exchange for oil, money, and normalization of diplomatic relations with the United States and China. While the offer may initially look like a step forward, Tufts Sung-Yoon Lee says it falls short of progress, and shows that the country's leaders are back to their old tricks.

"The North Korean strategy is to raise the bar to an extreme level, to test the limits of U.S. tolerance of its nuclear program, and then to come back down to its original set of demands and thereby create the illusion that it is making a major concession," Sung-Yoon Lee, assistant professor of international politics at the Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, wrote in an op-ed for Asia Times.

Lee, a Korea expert who teaches a course on international relations of the United States and East Asia, wrote that this method of coercion is not new.

"North Korea is back to playing its old game of nuclear blackmail," she wrote in the Times. "And much of the world lies at risk of being bullied by the same old fanciful refrain, ‘Our nuclear program in exchange for money and security.'"

In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, the Fletcher expert says that the U.S. has acted accordingly - presuming that if North Korea has used this threat before, it will do it again.

"The Bush administration has always operated under the presumption that it's virtually impossible to prevent the North Koreans from producing nuclear weapons," Lee told the Monitor.

But Lee says that the North Korean strategy may finally be wearing thin. With heightened international attention paid to their most recent nuclear declarations, the Tufts expert wrote that "the latest bluster can only lend greater legitimacy to the U.S. position, and might even push China off the fence to exert more pressure on its problematic neighbor."

Losing longtime ally China could leave the rogue nation in a difficult position.

"The North Koreans are now in danger of pushing themselves into a corner," Lee told the Monitor.

The Tufts professor said that instead of taking a military position, the U.S. should attempt to engage North Korea.

"The U.S. strategy henceforth should be to further engage the moribund regime, [pushing] for a peaceful reunification on the Korean Peninsula, while garnering the support of world public opinion," the Fletcher professor wrote in the Times.

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