Panelists discuss North Korea problems

Some experts blamed the Bush administration for a lack of action.

by Mike Enright

A group of experts met on campus Friday to discuss the escalating problems in North Korea, a member of what the Bush administration dubbed the “axis of evil.”

Some panel participants said the country’s problems have been long overshadowed by Iraq and blame the president for not taking action.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale was joined by four international relations experts at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs to talk about the ongoing Korean Peninsula crisis, which has increased in intensity since North Korea’s July test launch of medium and long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Desaix Anderson, who worked as a foreign service officer in the U.S. State Department for 35 years, opened the discussion, faulting the Bush administration for the breakdown in diplomacy, which has been almost nonexistent since the July missile test, he said.

“President Bush has spent more time in my home state of Mississippi than he has in North Korea,” Anderson said. “Bush’s approach to North Korea has been abysmal, a Katrina-size failure.”

Anderson said President George W. Bush has “squandered” the chance to address the North Korean issue, instead “demonizing” Kim Jong Il’s government and refusing to actively participate in negotiations for largely ideological reasons.

L. Gordon Flake, former Korea Economic Institute of America research and academic affairs director, disagreed somewhat with Anderson’s view of the cause of government inaction, attributing it to “priority, pessimism and politics.”

“In terms of foreign policy, our first priority is Iraq, our second priority is Iraq and our third priority is Iraq,” Flake said.

He also said there is little incentive for the administration to push for progress in negotiations because there is little to gain politically, even if they succeed, but there is much more to lose should they try and fail.

Despite cool diplomatic relations with North Korea, the United States has consistently provided the country with humanitarian aid to help it deal with famines and floods, said J. Brian Atwood, Humphrey Institute dean.

“There are people out there who are tempted to cut off humanitarian aid all together, to just starve them out,” Atwood said.

But cutting off aid to North Korea could potentially backfire and actually cause them to use nuclear weapons, Atwood said.

University economics junior Seong Kim, who was born in South Korea, said he remembers hearing about the missile tests on the news this summer while in his homeland.

Kim said most people in South Korea weren’t worried about war breaking out, but when the missiles were launched it was a big deal because people initially didn’t know it was just a test.

“I know it was just testing, but it was a missile, so it was still scary,” Kim said.