With the threat of a nuclear North Korea rising, concerns are flaring among both the international community and students.
On Sept. 3, North Korea tested what is claimed to be a hydrogen bomb and subsequently violated the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This test furthered the fears of North Korean adversaries, such as the U.S. and their southern neighbor, South Korea.
Tyler Monestel, a freshman majoring in economics and is from South Korea, has worries growing as quickly as the transnational tensions.
“I definitely think (President Donald) Trump’s way of handling this issue with aggression and insults isn’t working,” Montestel said. “I certainly think we need to take the peaceful option, but they (North Korea) made it clear that they don’t want to do negotiations, so at this point the only option would to be to try and push for more sanctions definitely, and to not fuel the fire.”
Jongseok Woo is a professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies and is recognized by his colleagues as an expert on North Korea.
“(The U.S. should take) two approaches simultaneously: Continue the existing international sanctions and open dialogues for future negotiations,” Woo said. “I highly doubt that there would be any meaningful agreement between Kim and Trump at this moment; but, still, keep bargaining channels is very important.
Trump is known for responding to North Korean threats with ridicule, calling North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, “little rocket man.” This type of reply can be seen in his tweets after North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which landed in the Sea of Japan.
Trump, in a speech at the 72nd session of the U.N.’s General Assembly, commented on the recent missile test that took place on Sept. 17 and went over Japan.
“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said. “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.”
Kim responded directly to Trump in a press release, mocking his address at the U.N.
“Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history that he would destroy the D.P.R.K. (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), we will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hardline countermeasure in history,” Kim said.
“Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation. I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.”
An angry Kim for some students such as Matthew Guiliano, a sophomore majoring in business administration, is nothing that should be taken lightly and egging on the dictator may just make the situation more volatile.
“We should not be instigating and ‘stoking the fire’ with North Korea,” Guiliano said. “This country could possibly do anything to be able to stand up for itself which could include starting a nuclear war.
“The president should try to handle this from a diplomatic standpoint and stop blurting any threat that comes to his head. If we ease the tension between the two sides we may prevent ourselves from being a part of a nuclear war.”
In response to a growing number of North Korean missile tests, the U.N. pursued stronger sanctions, in an attempt to further isolate the nation.
This led North Korea’s allies, such as China, to stop trading with the rogue nation. The Chinese government ordered the closing of all North Korean businesses in China on Sept. 28 until further notice.
Russia has also responded to the sanctions, as their foreign ministry declared they are hosting North Korean diplomats to discuss and diffuse the situation.
Experts at USF, such as Harry Vanden, a retired professor of International Global Studies, say this is the way to go.
“The U.S. must continue with diplomatic efforts — especially through the United Nation Security Council,” Vanden said. “Because of such efforts China is putting pressure on North Korea now and continuing with diplomatic efforts and U.N. backed sanctions is, I believe, the most effective way of influencing behavior by North Korea.”
A main component of the missile crisis is media coverage. This has been turned into a sensationalist issue, which is only feeding the public’s fear.
“The White House and the media are definitely overdramatizing the issue, though there are clearly bases for concern,” Vanden said.
Montana Pearson, a freshman majoring in biomedical sciences and is from South Korea, echoed the opinions of Vanden.
“I think these are just empty threats, because if you look at North Korea, they general just don’t have a lot of resources,” Pearson said. “When it was just one Korea, North Korea was still only known for industry, not really for farming or having many resources.
“I mean Korea by itself is already very mountainous it makes it hard to harvest more. North Korea never started out with a lot to sustain the people and they still don’t have a lot to sustain the people. So I think they just don’t have the resources to follow through with any threats.”
The opinion that North Korea is not a viable threat to the U.S. seems to be a commonality as Josh Kennedy, a freshman majoring in psychology, also doubts the possibility of a North Korean attack.
“North Korea definitely has more bark than bite and that fact has been painfully obvious for as long as the Kim dynasty has ruled that country,” Kennedy said. “The regime definitely likes to play up their country as stronger than it really is when in reality basically every citizen is starving, poor, and at worse, in an internment camp.”
According to the Global Hunger index, North Korea does have a serious hunger issue. North Korea has actually bargained for international aid several times, using its nuclear weapons as a bargaining chip.
The only time North Korea stops testing weapons is to gain aid. In October 2006 after the first nuclear weapons test, the U.N. imposed sanctions on North Korea. Then nearly a year later in July 2007, North Korea shut down its nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, in order to receive an aid package.
As tensions rise, doubts do as well from Monestel, not believing that Kim dynasty will be able to adequately support their people without the help from the U.N. and other nations they have relied on for decades.
“I think that it’ll be tough for Kim’s regime to last much longer if he doesn’t get help from the outside,” Montestel said. “I mean, without the help of North Korea’s trading partners, they’re going to collapse from the inside out.”
After all, according to Woo, survival of the regime is all the Kim dynasty cares about, thus attacking on the U.S. seem far less of a realistic option.
“Pyongyang’s leaders know that, if they attack the U.S., then it will be an end to the Kim Jong Un regime,” Woo said. “Their primary interest is regime survival from a possible attack from the U.S. So, unless the U.S. sends a credible signal that it is going to attack North Korea militarily, Pyongyang will not preemptively attack the U.S. or surrounding nations.”