Charles K. Armstrong: Respond to North Korea with Renewed Talks





[Charles K. Armstrong is the Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies in the Social Sciences at Columbia University.]

The skirmish between North and South Korea over Yeonpyeong, an island in the disputed zone between the two sides, has brought new danger to a standoff that has been escalating for more than two years.

It happened just two days after North Korea revealed a sophisticated uranium enrichment program to three American visitors from Stanford University, and in the midst of its leadership transition from Kim Jong Il to his son, Kim Jong Un.

How can the international community respond in a way that will deter North Korea without pushing the situation into all-out war? None of the options is particularly attractive: Strong sanctions and displays of force have already been tried, and failed to stop the latest attack. Military retaliation could easily escalate into war involving the Koreas, the United States and possibly China, with devastating consequences....


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