north korea nuclear program and US foreign policy

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The United States and North Korea have had a tense policy relationship for decades (Easley 14). North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), has been accused by the US of trying to advance its nuclear program. According to the US, North Korea’s nuclear program poses a threat not only to America’s allies, such as South Korea and Japan but also to the US mainland (Ghitis 5). More specifically, the United States has made deliberate efforts to curb the development of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile by North Korea, which poses the greatest threats to American citizens. On this note, the United States foreign policy with North Korea must be looked at in the context of its allies within the Korean peninsula. Besides the security interests in this region, the United States has economic interests as well. In this way, the nuclear attack by North Korea to its allies will negatively affect America’s massive investment in the peninsula (Easley 21). On its side, North Korea accuses the United States of meddling in the peninsula’s economic, regional, social, and security affairs. It is pretentious for the United States to prevent North Korea from developing their nuclear program, yet America and several countries have nuclear arsenal. Further, North Korea has accused America of pushing for economic sanctions, which are aimed at preventing the nuclear program (Farago 1136). Based on these main issues, the relations between the United States and North Korea have worsened over the years. The following paper seeks to highlight some of the main issues in the United States-North Korea relations and the reasons for changes in the US policy. Further, this paper provides several options to policy changes, the pros and cons of each option, and the best option for the United States. The objective of the paper is to show that although there are several options, the diplomatic process remains to be the most viable solution to the United States-North Korea foreign policy.
As noted above, both the United States and North Korea have basic issues that have negatively influenced their relationship. The tension in the Korean peninsula rose when an international investigative report revealed that North Korea was responsible for the sinking of the warship from South Korea (Easley 26). The Korean War and the nuclear program development by North Korea have made both the South and the North become long term enemies. On this basis, the United States considers North Korea the greatest threat to its allies and interests in the peninsula. Therefore, the United States’ concern is the consistent threat posed by nuclear program (Farago 1135). Connectedly, America has taken the position that peace and stability of the region, as well as its relationship with North Korea, can only be achieved if North Korea stops its nuclear program. In addition, the United States is alarmed by the intention of developing ICBM by North Korea, which is to strike America’s mainland.
On the other hand, North Korea is determined to continue with its nuclear program (Easley 23). The intention is not only to become a nuclear state and be recognized as such by the international community, but also to use such weapons to strike and defend itself from its enemies, especially the United States. The DPRK has raised concerns over America’s intention to strike its territory. Therefore, North Korea sees the United States and its allies as its enemies. Another issue is the direct sanctions imposed by American administration and through the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which North Korea interprets as an attempt to interfere with its sovereignty.
Despite the efforts made by the United States in preventing North Korea from continuing with its nuclear program, it is clear that the past approaches have not worked. In fact, recent events such as testing the long range and intercontinental missiles have shown that North Korea is in the process of becoming a nuclear state (Easley 24). Further, the economic sanctions by the United States and United Nations have not affected the program significantly. According to experts, such economic sanctions are negatively affecting the poor citizens in the DPRK, whose lives have become economically unbearable (Squassoni 374). In addition, the continued threats by leaders from North Korea and the US have only raised tension in the Korean peninsula. Based on these and other reasons, there is а need to review the United States policy and strategy toward solving the North Korean problem.
In reference to the above observation, several options have been considered. In solving the North Korean nuclear program issue, one of the options that are widely mentioned is launching of a military intervention (Minnich 36). The main advantage of striking nuclear sites, installation and any other specific targets is that the United States will be making its intention clear – that North Korean must stop the nuclear program. However, it must be noted that North Korea has nuclear weapons, which it will apply once attacked (Easley 19). The result is that millions of lives could be lost. Further, such action will affect not only the neighboring countries, but also the entire world.
Another option would be doing nothing, thus maintaining the status quo (Easley 13). The status quo is that North Korea will be allowed to continue with its nuclear program and the United States and its allies in the peninsula will remain North Korea’s first enemies. Further, the current economic sanctions will continue being in place, which, as noted above, may not stop North Korea from advancing its nuclear program. The main disadvantage to such step is that due to the aggressive nature of the North Korean leadership, the use of nuclear weapons could take place anytime in the future.
Imposing more sanctions is another option to the North Korea nuclear program. However, it is clear that more sanctions will not make any difference (Easley 15). According to foreign policy experts, North Korean president, Kim, would let his citizens eat grass in order to keep his nuclear weapons (Minnich 35). Therefore, placing more sanctions will make matters worse by negatively affecting North Korean people instead of solving the current stalemate. Consequently, applying more diplomatic approach is the most suitable option in not only solving the problem on the North Korean nuclear program, but also improving the relationship between the United States and the DPRK.
Notably, experts have warned that the current rhetoric between the United States and North Korea will lead to war that might end up causing massive property destruction and loss of lives. Although negotiations are often raised, there are no deliberate efforts to bring the two nations and their allies together (Easley 11). In embracing the need to have a diplomatic talk, it would be vital to explore what each party has to accept or concede. Over the years, the United States’ debate over policy options toward the DPRK has suffered from failure to have candor on all sides. Apparently, calling for military strikes, such as those conducted in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, is a way of showing Washington’s inability to use wide range of diplomatic options. The policymakers in the United States need to understand that based on the inevitable retaliation from North Korea and the mass casualties that will occur, the military option should not be on the table (Squassoni 373).
In the diplomatic efforts, a “freeze for freeze” approach should be incorporated. In this approach, North Korea should stop nuclear and missile tests, while the United States should halt its military exercises with South Korea. The US should convey to the DPRK and the international community that they are ready to talk without preconditions. However, other countries such as South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia must be involved, as in the case of the Six-Party model. The model should only be used as formal mechanism of guiding the diplomatic talks. However, the real responsibility should be done by Pyongyang and Washington. While the direct talk between these two nations continues, close allies such as Japan and South Korea should play a supporting role. On its side, China should be encouraged to convince Pyongyang in halting its nuclear tests and the willingness of Washington to have a peaceful Korean peninsula.
From the above discussion, it is clear that poor relationship between the United States and North Korea is exacerbated by North Korean nuclear program. Notably, the United States fears that North Korea could strike its allies and its mainland, while the DPRK is concerned about America’s interference with its sovereignty. In solving the current stalemate, some of the options highlighted include military action, more sanctions, doing nothing, and diplomatic process. Among these options, a diplomatic solution is the most suitable since it will avoid mass causalities, destruction of property, and displacements, while halting the nuclear program.
Works Cited
Primary Sources:
Easley, Leif-Eric. “From Strategic Patience to Strategic Uncertainty: Trump, North Korea, and South Korea’s New President.” World Affairs, vol. 180, no. 2, 2017, pp. 7-31.
Farago, NIV. “Washington’s Failure to Resolve the North Korean Nuclear Conundrum: Examining Two Decades of US Policy.” International Affairs, vol. 92, no. 5, 2016, pp. 1127-1145.
Squassoni, Sharon. “Through a Fractured Looking-Glass: Trump’s Nuclear Decisions so Far.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol. 73, no. 6, 2017, pp. 370-375.

Secondary Sources:
Ghitis, Frida. “Trump Really Likes Dictators. That’s a Problem for U.S. Foreign Policy.” World Politics Review (Selective Content), 04, 2017, pp. 1-6.
Minnich, James M. “North Korea Policy: Changed Regime.” Military Review, vol. 97, no. 6, 2017, pp. 39-53.

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