Hillary Clinton has warned North Korea over the attack on the South Korean ship

US Secretary of State said: “This will not be and cannot be business as usual. There must be an international, not just a regional, but an international response.”


Do we have any new options in dealing with North Korea? If not business as usual, what then?


Bruce Bennett, Senior Defense Analyst, RAND Corporation

1. North Korea likely did not develop by itself the technology of the torpedo it used against the South Korean corvette Cheonan.  We may someday be able to identify the country responsible for that technology transfer.  I don’t think any country would want to be so identified.  More seriously, North Korea may well escalate this provocation like it did the initial provocation in 2006 and 2009, perhaps using some other relatively advanced technology that some country provided to North Korea.  The bottom-line is: The international community should not be providing North Korea any military equipment or technologies or technologies that might have military application.  This includes passing hardware but also internet transmissions, the latter being more difficult to control.

2. Consistent with point 1, no country should be allowing its military experts to go to North Korea.  This is also difficult because they might go to a third country first.  But countries should try to prevent this, and should be prepared to punish those who return home and are discovered to have been in North Korea.  By announcing such limitations, countries should be able to deter much of the travel to North Korea by their citizens.

3. All countries should more rigorously work on enforcing the previous UN sanctions against North Korean provocations, including actions to intercept illicit cargo from North Korea.  If North Korea cannot earn foreign hard currency, it cannot pay for much of its military adventurism.

4. North Korean military and businessmen should not be allowed to participate in military and military-related businesses, conferences, or other meetings in any country.

5. All countries should condemn North Korean acts of war and support action against such acts by the UN.  In particular, each country should condemn North Korea’s actions as being associated with North Korean instability–the only reason I can imagine for such a serious North Korean action (as argued in the academic literature on diversionary war and on cognitive deterrence).  Kim Jong-Il will be very unhappy to hear his country’s true condition condemned internationally–we have to make sure that it is Kim Jong-Il, and not just the common citizens of North Korea, who is punished.

Jenny Town, Research Associate, U.S.-Korea Institute, School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University

In terms of your question about Secretary of State Clinton’s comments, she is right in that the situation does require an international response, simply because it affects regional stability, while testing the alliances on both sides. There are no easy answers, as it is still unclear as to the exact nature of the attack.

A UN Security Council Resolution may be a reasonable response, but the goal of any actions should not be to antagonize an already tense situation or further isolate an already disenfranchised North Korea. Although it may not be appropriate to engage in dialogue with the North in the immediate aftermath of the Cheonan incident on formal levels (during punitive actions), the hope is that during these tense times, the work that is being done on the ground on nongovernmental levels is allowed to continue, and that the trust and relationships on informal levels continues to grow.

After a proportional multilateral response to the incident, then real efforts to reengage and rebuild relations with the North need to be put into play. This does not mean simply enticing them with “carrots” to bring them to the negotiating table, but putting forth proactive, consistent and sincere efforts to built trust with the North; to familiarize them with international standards and practices in a systematic and consistent way as well as the benefits of living by such standards; and to promote improved communication and relations with and among all parties of the Six Party Talks.

Pushing North Korea into a corner led to North Korea’s perceived need for a nuclear deterrant. Strategic patience was based on false assumptions and has proven to be ineffective in changing North Korean perceptions of US and US allied intentions. What we need now is a plan to move forward that includes confidence building measures, concerted efforts among regional and allied partners, and a phased plan that isn’t simply focused on nuclear disarmament, but includes a broad spectrum of tangible and realistic goals, people-to-people exchanges, and programs that not only build North Korean capacity, but reduces its perception of threats from the US and US allies.

Daniel Pinkston, North East Asia Deputy Project Director, International Crisis Group

I think South Korea, the U.S. and their friends and allies will seek ways to increase the pressure on North Korea. South Korea is exploring a number of methods and instruments to target the North Korean leadership, including financial assets abroad. I think North Korea will pay a high cost for the attack, but it will not be immediately apparent. It will take time, but I think much of the international community has the will to pursue this.

Of course, China and how it will respond is the big question. I think they will be very reluctant to impose any strong punitive measures against Pyongyang. Most policymakers and analysts in Beijing view these types of measures to be ineffective or even counter-productive. China is not happy about North Korean behavior, but they do not want to see any escalation. China probably believes they can manage the North Korean problem as long as they avoid any catastrophes in the short term. Most Chinese probably view North Korea as some kind of anachronistic version of their cultural revolution period and that change in North Korea is inevitable. China is positioning itself for the time when that change comes, but most Chinese probably believe this will not happen under Kim Jong-il, so they are waiting for the next generation of leadership. Until that time comes, they want to avoid escalation and conflict.

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