North Korea: Nuclear Precipice Nears?

Anyone observing the worryingly dangerous nuclear stand-off between North Korea and the United States might be forgiven for thinking that ambiguity, opaqueness and contradictory messages are as much a hallmark of Washington decision- making as they are of Pyongyang’s characteristic hermit-like approach to the outside world. Regional neighbours, especially Japan, are beginning to feel the heat in what might become conflict by miscalculation. So where are the escape routes to avoid the nuclear precipice?

The World Today
5 minute READ

Dr John Nilsson-Wright

Former Korea Foundation Korea Fellow and Senior Fellow for Northeast Asia, Asia-Pacific Programme

In congressional testimony in February, the American Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, spoke reassuringly of the inevitability of direct talks with North Korea. That same month, while visiting Seoul to attend South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun’s inauguration, Armitage’s boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell, held out the olive branch of some forty thousand tons of food aid.

Offsetting these reassuring gestures have been a series of recent press reports that hawkish senior White House officials are opposed to bilateral engagement with the North, and may be winning President George Bush’s support for a much more explicitly confrontational posture.

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