China must intervene as tensions increase on Korean Peninsula

BY KYLE GRACZYK ‘16
Contributing Writer

For the past month, the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK) has increasingly made the international community nervous with the expansion of their controversial nuclear weapons program. At the head of this campaign is the young, yet belligerent, leader of one of the most repressive regimes in the world — Kim Jong-un. Taking over for his famed late-father Kim Jong-il, the defiant young man is garnering a similar strongman image. However, the way in which Kim Jong-un is carrying on the family enterprise has become uncharacteristically sporadic and irrational.

The leader of the so-called “hermit kingdom” (referring to how the country remains isolated from the international community) has publicized various propaganda videos showing North Korean rockets destroying American cities and slamming into the Capitol Building.

The international community has several reasons to heighten its awareness of this situation. Recently, the Supreme Leader has moved several rockets to North Korea’s eastern border, increased the capacity of its nuclear reactors, closed down a joint industrial facility along the demilitarized zone (38th parallel) shared with South Korea, and threatened to shell disputed offshore islands.

Escalating tensions have called into question the will and ability of the United States to defend its democratic ally in South Korea. South Korean leaders are nervous that sequestration and budget cuts will impede the United States’ response. In a jointly symbolic and physical act, the United States launched fleets of warships and fighter planes towards American military outcrops in the Pacific and around South Korea’s coastline. So where do America and the international community move from this point? It has been obvious the countless rounds of economic sanctions imposed on North Korea by the United Nations General Assembly have failed to stop the country’s nuclear program.

It is amazing how heartless the North Korean regime has proved to be — continuing to invest tens of millions of dollars into the largest standing army in the world, which includes scores of nuclear warheads and rockets plus a cold-war era defense system — while millions of its own citizens have died of starvation and utter destitution.

Besides the vital role of the United States in calming tensions, China must play a larger role as an intermediary between the Koreas. China has no excuse sitting on the sidelines; China can use its shared political heritage (communism) as a bargaining chip in an effort to move talks forward with its southern neighbor. The international community through the United Nations must generate alternative strategies and punishments that will hit the North Korean regime at its core.

Perhaps the international community should rethink its strategy in handling the rogue nation. There has to be an explanation for North Korea’s defiant behavior, which some have termed “insecurity.” Individual people — and a disproportionate amount of teenagers — experience this phenomenon: a lack of identity or rightful place within his/her surroundings, an unknown future, etc. Thankfully, we have found ways to treat this feeling by supporting these individuals. With this being said, why can’t we apply this methodology to the collective, country-level in North Korea? It turns out, there are many reasons why North Korea is plagued with insecurity.

For one, the country represents one of the last Marxist-Leninist totalitarian states in the world. This automatically makes the country stand out in the international community — for the wrong reasons. Second, the leadership has to feel not only embarrassment at the lack of development but jealousy of the impressive growth of the majority of the world, while it lacks the ability to properly clothe and feed its own people.

The popular method of meeting North Korean aggression with equal aggression on behalf of America and the world only exacerbates many situations between the two parties. With a renewed spirit in reconciliatory foreign policy, we can make this world safer by removing some of the hostility and angst on behalf of the North Korean government.

Questions? Email Kyle at kgraczyk@fandm.edu.

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