Should the U.S. Take North Korea's Saber-Rattling Seriously?
Tensions are on the rise on the Korean peninsula. North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong Un, has ratcheted up the hermit kingdom's provocative behavior, first by reopening a production plant for nuclear material and then by barring South Korean workers from a North Korean factory park run jointly by the two nations. The reactor North Korea threatened to restart could produce about one nuclear bomb's worth of plutonium a year, according to National Public Radio.
World leaders are eyeing North Korea's moves with caution. "Nuclear threats are not a game. Aggressive rhetoric and military posturing only result in counter-actions, and fuel fear and instability," said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The United States, in a show of support for South Korea, flew two B-2 bombers over the Korean peninsula last week and has sent other aircraft to the area as a part of the ongoing military exercise known as Operation Foal Eagle. Senior government officials have also reacted forcefully to the North's rhetoric.
"The bottom line very simply is that what Kim Jong Un has been choosing to do is provocative, it is dangerous, reckless, and the United States will not accept the DPRK as a nuclear state," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a press conference with South Korea's foreign minister. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a call with China's defense minister, said North Korea's nuclear belligerence is a "growing threat."
The North Korean regime is notoriously unpredictable, but some analysts believe that the North's amped-up rhetoric is just an attempt to wring concessions from the U.S. and other nations. One expert at the University of Seoul told the Associated Press that the North is just "keeping tension and crisis alive to raise stakes ahead of possible future talks with the United States."
So should the U.S. take North Korea's saber-rattling seriously? Here is the Debate Club's take: