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With the December 6 news that it plans to build twenty new uranium enrichment facilities, Iran has dealt a serious blow to hopes of peacefully resolving its nuclear standoff with the West. After months of courtship by the international community, Iran’s announcement appears to be both a rejection of the West’s advances and a signal of its intent to step up its pursuit of a nuclear program. With the US running out of cards to play, many fear that the two countries are on a collision course to military confrontation.

Much like North Korea, the consequences of an Iranian possession of nuclear bomb are dire. The Obama administration has sought to right the wrong of American Cold War policy, when the US provided its then-ally Iran with nuclear reactors in an attempt to curry favor. Preventing proliferation is a priority for the Obama administration and confirmation that Iran has a nuclear bomb would trigger an arms race in the Middle East, with heavyweights such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia seeking to counter Iranian domination in the region. An Iranian nuclear bomb would also bring Israel and Iran closer to war. Iran’s anti-Semitic leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has publicised his hatred of Israel so often that Israeli leaders deem a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat. Just last year an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear sites was narrowly averted after George W. Bush refused to give Ehud Olmert the green light. The Obama administration has since tried to convince the Israelis of the virtues of diplomacy with Iran, but the latest setback means that hawks in Israel and the US will be circling Iran with greater intensity.

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In looking at the news that talks between South Korea and the North are continuing to progress with an upcoming high level meeting between the prime ministers of both nations, I think it’s important to maintain perspective on the matter from here in the United States that takes into account our strongest allies.

Viewing the situation in Korea from afar can offer a certain point of view that is impossible to encompass the whole picture. For example, there may be elements in US politics clamoring for more action against North Korea by continuing to raise the stakes on possible action in the form of both military strikes or continued economic hardship. Are these same groups forced to deal with the direct impact and result of their decisions? Possibly as in the modern age the smallest pebble cast will send ripples across the pond, but does it mean that we must initially address the dilemma focused on isolation?

What I find is most telling is the sheer fact that many of these individuals or groups wanting to continue to isolate North Korea from the rest of the world do not necessarily have to deal with any ramifications at face value in a direct sense. Outside of the hardline South Korean parties that continue to support a forceful stance against the regime, those in the United States are not necessarily forced to deal with any serious consequences as a result of their views or actions since they are not actual neighbors.

Yes, in a world that is continued to globalize the traditional definition of "neighbor" has changed drastically. However in the case of North Korea, a nation that is at the bottom of the modern world according to how interconnected they are to the global system, this particular nation stands outside of the new definition. They are mostly limited (not completely) to traditional physical borders and traditional neighbors in the classical purview of international relations.

They are the "next door" neighbors to the South yet far away from the United States.

But not outside it’s direct and vital interests. That will never change.

This is the balancing act that must be given the most serious attention. Maintaining vital US interests in the region remains a priority but it is critical to recognize the point of view that South Korea holds in the matter and respect the difficult situation they are forced to deal with. They must deal with their antagonisitc neighbors to the North, and are trying to seek reconciliation through dialogue and foreign aid instead of sanctions and veiled threats. The United States should ultimately respect and support the South in their endeavor and it will be better off in the long run.

Maintain US interests, do not undermine our strongest ally in the South given their position, and allow for communications and dialogue to continue.

Diplomacy should be viewed as the only effective solution to the problem.


August 2020

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