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Your comments on North Korea

Kevin Anderson | 18:06 UK time, Tuesday, 20 June 2006

We're just starting off the programme. With North Korea fuelling a missile which could theoretically reach the west coast of the United States. The US, Japan and Australia have warned North Korea not to take such provocative action. South Korea has been relatively calm on the subject.

We had a roundtable of Korea experts, and we also took your calls about one of the most secretive states in the world.

Dean Wilening of Stanford University, said that North Korea was a difficulty regime to deal with. He said the country did not represent a 'clear and present danger', but North Korea did represent a threat to the region.

Ballistic missiles are their only cash crop

He says that North Korea feels more threat from the US and the West than the we should feel from North Korea. The country has lost its major supporters in the Soviet Union and China, and it remains on the brink of collapse. He believes that the country's nuclear weapons programme is real. He said that western countries should monitor the situation.

Dr. Hazel Smith, Professor of International Relations at Warwick University, worked for the World Food Programme and Unicef. She lived in 11 of the 12 provinces. She said North Korea is more of a threat to its own people than to other countries. They cannot provide health care for its people or feed them.

She said that the threat of a missile launch is more of a plea for attention, and she very much doubts that they have the technical capability to build an effective long-range missile. They think the threats of having a nuclear weapon facilitates negotiations.

Aiden Foster Carter, a Korea expert at Leeds University, called North Korea's foreign policy 'militant medicancy', being both a 'beggar and a mugger'. North Korea took such a pasting during the war that it decided that best strategy was to arm itself to to teeth. He said that the country does a lot in secret, but it is done under the full gaze of US spy satellites.

Andy called from Colorado in the US. He served with the US military and said that North Korea seemed very irrational and unncessarily provocative. He didn't feel that North Korea posed a theat to the US, but that the country was merely 'sabre rattling'. He said that when he served along the Korean border, he felt most of the threat came from north of the border.

Dr Smith said that there was a great difference between public and private diplomacy. Propaganda hacks made very provocative statements, while in private, there are very real and rational reasons for what the North Koreans do.

Ambassador Wendy Sherman was a former advisor to President Clinton on North Korea. She said that the North Koreans are very tough negotiators. One has to be ready for some kind of theatre when negotiating with the North Koreans. She said you have to expect them to walk out on talks and be prepared to walk out as well. She echoed comments of others that this was an attempt by North Korea to get attention.

I hope the Bush administration engages in real diplomacy, engages at a much higher level and takes this seriously.

Tourist guide to North Korea

Robert Willoughby writes the Bradt travel guide to North Korea. It covers the area where tourists could actually go. He said that the Diamond Mountains were a special place to go, largely untouched and unvisited by tourists. He said that only a few hundred western tourists visit the country.

But Dr Smith who has been there says that it is a beautiful country, but:

There is a sadness. The people face the most grinding poverty.

Your comments

We always get a lot of text messages from Africa. Here are just a few. Ben in Accra Ghana sent us this text message:

It's sad to know N. Korea spends so much to develop nuclear weapons while its citizens suffer. They should learn from S. Korea.

Christine, an American in Cameroon sent us this message:

I consider N Korea's missle a threat, not so much for its direct effect as for the potential waves that first ripple could create in what is already some pretty volatile waters. I imagine a N Korean deployment will be swiftly followed by a similar event in Iran.

Amadou Koora in the Gambia:

The north Koreans haves every right to have nuclear weapons. Who is USA to decide whole should or not have such.

John Right, sent this message from Lusaka:

Go get 'em RUMMY. Shoot that missile down. Of course, nkorea mean business. To think otherwise would be extreme naivete.


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