Students react to recent threats from North Korea

Sarah Carracher

Senior News Writer

Supreme leader of North Korea Kim Jong-Un has recently threatened the United States with the possibility of nuclear strikes. These threats, which are aimed at the U.S. and its allies South Korea and Japan, are a response to the U.S.’s leading role in sanctions from the United Nations, which punish North Korea for its February nuclear tests.

Though the threats have struck fear in the hearts of many citizens, the U.S. and South Korean governments think it is unlikely that North Korea is prepared to carry them out. Though a report by the Defense Intelligence Agency states with “moderate confidence” that North Korea possesses a small nuclear device that could be delivered via ballistic missile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said it was “inaccurate to suggest that North Korea has fully tested, developed or demonstrated capabilities that are articulated in that report…we do not operate under the presumption that they have that fully-tested and available capacity.”

Students across the College of Wooster campus have thoughts on the issue. “The big questions that observers are trying to answer include: Are these threats substantially different than previous ones? If so, why? What is it that North Korea wants?” said Andrea Patton ’14, who is currently studying abroad in China. “But the theoretical underpinnings of the answers to these questions have two main flaws: The first is our lack of knowledge about North Korea. Government structure, dynamics, personalities, and many other important factors are complete unknowns. The second is that most answers come from models of cost-benefit analyses made by leaders.”

Patton, who has extensive knowledge on the subject, affirmed Kerry’s assertions, saying, “Ultimately, I’m not very worried specifically with respect to an attack on the United States.” However, she expressed concern about the situation between North Korea and South Korea: “Signs seem to indicate that…North Korea has reached a point where it is willing to engage in war. Although the internal political dynamics of North Korea are largely unknown, the dynamics of interstate rivalries have been studied quite a bit, and the South Korean political process is much more open.…We don’t know for sure if North Korea will instigate fighting, but we’re pretty sure South Korea will respond, and therefore the U.S. will as well.”

“Overall, I would say that North Korea does not pose a credible threat to the United States,” Katie Morton ’13 agreed. “It’s debatable on whether or not their missiles could reach the United States.…The bellicose rhetoric reveals the instability of the regime and can be seen as a domestic power play that seeks to shore up domestic support.”

Kennon Hunt ’15 also doubted North Korea’s nuclear capabilities: “It’s their attempt at bluffing the international community into easing sanctions. I sincerely hope they realize that if they do attack, they are ensuring their own annihilation.”

“If North Korea does start a war with South Korea,” said Morton, “the United States would find itself embroiled in a conflict to defend its ally.”

“In terms of U.S. responses, I would rather see direct engagement and talks with the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] than more war exercises that are used as a show of force and unity between the U.S. and South Korea,” said Daisy Bledsoe-Herring ’13. “However it is my understanding that the U.S. has never had formal diplomatic relations with the DPRK, and I doubt they will start now.”

Ned Kelly ’16 acknowledged North Korea’s human rights issues, saying, “I’m very conflicted about North Korean policy. On one hand, I think the United States (and other superpowers) should be proactive in stopping the awful human rights conditions, like the disturbing internment camps. But on the other hand, North Korea is so far removed from world politics that they could make really irrational, brash decisions like nuclear attacks.”

Patton commented on the role of China: “I think this episode could be a very interesting test for China.…China’s willingness and/or ability to play a role in resolving this crisis could say a great deal about the country’s future role in the international system.”