Global Ethics Corner: North Korea: Engage, Ignore, or Confront?

Jan 6, 2012

With the recent death of Kim Jong-il, the United States is once again wondering what to do about North Korea. Is engagement with the nation's new leader, Kim Jong-un, the answer? Or should the U.S. isolate the rogue state and continue to ignore its threats?

With the December death of Kim Jong-il and the assumption of power by his son, Kim Jong-un, the United States faces an all-too-familiar question: What to do about North Korea?

Relations between the West and the so-called "hermit kingdom" have long been characterized by saber-rattling, nuclear threats, and Western concessions.

In recent weeks, North Korea has resumed its bad behavior. The nation has fired short-range missiles into its coastal waters and promised a "roar of revenge" as punishment for neighboring South Korea's failure to send an official representative on a condolence mission to Kim Jong-il's funeral. The South Korean capital is a mere 35 miles away from the North Korean border.

Now the Obama administration finds itself wondering how to handle this highly belligerent rogue state. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says current U.S. strategy is to ignore North Korean threats. Former president Jimmy Carter advocates engagement with Pyongyang.

The George W. Bush administration sought to isolate North Korea and labeled the regime a member of the "Axis of Evil." Former members of that administration are urging confrontation with the totalitarian state to finally put an end to its demands.

Many believe that the road to a successful rehabilitation of North Korea runs through Beijing. But China's overriding interest in regional stability has led it to support the tenuous status quo on the Korean peninsula.

What do you think? How should the leadership change in Pyongyang affect U. S. policy? Is the time right for a change, even if it risks military confrontation? Or should the Obama administration continue to ignore North Korean bravado in hopes that Kim Jong-un will prove more open to engagement than his father?

Photo Credits in order of Appearance: [also for picture 2]
U.S. Navy
Henrik Hansson/Globaljuggler
Pete Souza/White House [also for picture 13]
Eric Bridiers/U.S. State Department
Presidencia de la República del Ecuador
Eric Draper
Helene C. Stikkel

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