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Negotiating North Korea

Negotiating North KoreaAsserting its nuclear program amidst desperate social conditions, North Korea – say two Tufts experts – will be hard to appease – and harder to disarm. Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [01.03.03] For the past two months, the United States has been struggling with how to deal with North Korea and its reinstated nuclear program - a situation made increasingly desperate by the country's failing economic and social conditions. It is unclear what course the Bush Administration plans to take, especially as the government weighs a possible invasion of Iraq. But a two-front U.S. war against the "Axis of Evil" is not likely, say two experts from Tufts.

"We're in this situation now because North Korea's condition has become even more desperate than it had been," Stephen Bosworth - dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts - said in an appearance on ABC's Nightline on December 30.

Bosworth - the U.S. ambassador to South Korea from 1997 to 2000 - said that desperate conditions have created a grave situation in the communist nation.

"The economy has virtually collapsed," the Tufts dean told Nightline. "They are in the middle of what is undoubtedly a cold winter. And they are frustrated by their inability to engage effectively with the administration of George Bush. I think that they have deliberately cranked up this crisis."

Sung-Yoon Lee, a professor of international politics and Korean history at Tufts' Fletcher school, agrees.

"On the part of policy makers, there is much concern," Lee told National Public Radio's Talk Of The Nation on December 30.

Speaking to the radio program from Seoul, South Korea, the Tufts professor said that even if the U.S. could engage North Korea in talks, negotiations are unlikely to result in disarmament.

"I don't think the North Korean state is likely to give up on this nuclear program," Lee told NPR. "Such is the lure of possessing nuclear weapons. It's a very grave issue."

In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Bosworth agreed on the gravity of the situation.

"I think this is very serious," Bosworth told the Monitor. "The stakes are larger here than in Iraq."

The Fletcher dean noted, however, that the Bush Administration should deal with North Korea separately, regardless of what it plans to do in Iraq.

"The two cases are very different," the Tufts dean told Nightline. "They may both be part of the axis of evil, but how one deals with those two countries requires very different approaches."

Bosworth said that while the United States is considering the use of force against Iraq if Saddam fails to disarm his nuclear program, U.S. concern for allied South Korea would prevent it from attacking the North.

"All you have to do to realize why [military force is not an option] is to visit Seoul, Korea, and realize that the warning time of a North Korean assault on the South is 53 seconds. That is how long it takes an artillery shell to travel from just north of the DMZ, where the North Koreans have several thousand of those, to downtown Seoul," Bosworth told Nightline.

Lee agrees that, at least for the time being, the U.S. is not likely to seek a military solution to the situation.

"It's not the time to take military options at this point," he told Talk Of The Nation.



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