Suffolk professors talk options on North Korea

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Suffolk professors talk options on North Korea

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While North Korea is considered a reclusive country, many still venture to the nation in order to learn more about the inner political workings of the government. As a part of social sciences week, the Government and Philosophy departments at Suffolk University held an internal panel this past Tuesday to further discuss North Korea with a few Suffolk professors that have visited the country. Chairperson Gregory Fried of the Philosophy department moderated the discussion among the panel and brought up the question of just war theory with the potential threat from North Korea.

Fried speculated about the outcome of the relationship the United States has with North Korea, now that they have nuclear weapons that can reach the West Coast of the U.S. He said President Donald Trump might be holding war with North Korea as an option to distract the country from what is happening internally.

Visiting Suffolk Professor Friedrich Lohr and previous North Korean diplomat to Germany, said during the panel that Trump does not have enough knowledge of nuclear deterrence. Lohr also compared Trump to Idi Amin, previous dictator of Uganda, with how Trump has seemed to declare his power of being the president of the U.S.

“The problem with Kim Jong-un is that he’s just like Donald Trump. They know how to brag, how to yell, and how to threaten,” said History professor Ronald Suleski during an interview with The Suffolk Journal. “And that’s not [going to] lead to any good.”

Professor Weiqi Zhang, a government assistant professor, along with Professor Lohr, who have both been to North Korea, agree that in Asia it is important to save face.

“We’ve got to find a way for [Trump and Jung-un] to both stand down without losing any face,” said Suleski. “You’re a bully, you’re a braggart, you don’t really want to lose face, but you don’t really want to fight either.”

Suleski visited northeast China by the North Korean border this past June and interviewed many Chinese and Koreans who have been to North Korea. He also visited Seoul, South Korea to search for more information on the secretive country.

“No one wants to talk about North Korea,” said Suleski during the panel. There are too many spies from North Korea, South Korea and China that everyone is too afraid to say anything so they just walk away, especially in the border zones around North Korea.

However, according to Suleski, it does not seem that the Chinese and South Koreans are afraid of war with North Korea. Suleski feels that a lot of people in Asia, directly north of North Korea, or in Seoul, South Korea are not worried about a war.

Japan is more concerned with the concept of nuclear war due to their lack of nuclear weapons and their complicated relationship with North Korea. The Chinese lack a relationship with Japan because of the war with China about Japan occupying land in China. “What if North Korea lashes out on Japan?” said Suleski. “Who will come to their defense?”

Considering North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho’s interaction with Trump at the United Nations two weeks ago, Japan understands that North Korea is at least in contact with the U.S. Japan is afraid they will have no allies to support them if North Korea decides to launch an attack, according to Suleski.

“The whole thing is a tinder box and people are playing with fire: if one spark goes off in the wrong spot the whole place could burn down,” said Suleski.

Everyone on the panel appeared to be concerned about the current relations with North Korea and said that they each have friends there and know people that could be harshly affected.

Zhang also confirmed that everyone has to be careful of what is said when they are in North Korea, based on his experience traveling there. He went on to say that it is unlikely for North Korea to initiate an attack on the U.S. due to their size as a country. Zhang offered his thoughts that North Korea’s best strategy would be to be a neutral small power that played off of two major powers instead of attacking one major power.

“I always say that China is the one to solve it,” said Suleski. “China is the one to bring people together. China is the one to take down Kim Jong-un, if anyone can do it. My personal feeling is that China has all the spies they need in North Korea.”

He said that Asians typically wait a little bit and don’t act impulsively because Asians know the situation will change slightly. China is not acting yet because the Chinese know that every time North Korea sends a missile toward the Pacific, the North Koreans can send it toward Beijing.

On the other hand, according to Suleski, Trump’s antagonizing behavior could potentially end up starting a war. “Trump doesn’t think deeply, he doesn’t in any complex way,” said Suleski. “People say he doesn’t think in a complex way. He sees an issue and he reacts to it.”

Overall, the panel came to a consensus that the relations between the U.S. and North Korea look bleak and each panel member hopes that the nightmare outcome will not happen: the United States will use nuclear weapons on North Korea, and then Russia and China will react with nuclear weapons of their own and the planet will engage in nuclear warfare, ending catastrophically.

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