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KSMU's Missy Shelton continues her conversation about North Korea with Missouri State University professor and author Dennis Hickey.
Shelton: In the first part of our conversation, you gave me several reasons that North Korea might do this...whether to blackmail the west for additional aid or to be able to market the missiles to rogue regimes...But has the test firing of these missiles crossed a line?
Hickey: I think North Korea is continuing to earn its reputation as an international trouble maker. I was in Beijing about two weeks ago and met with representative of the Chinese military who used those exact words to describe North Korea. In the past, China has cut off some of its assistance as a sort of reminder that they have some leverage over the north. By the same token, China trades more with South Korea than it does with North Korea and there's some question how much leverage China has over North Korea.
Shelton: We had the missiles test-fired on Wednesday...What's next? What do you anticipate coming out of North Korea next?
Hickey: North Korea is a difficult country to study or understand. What we've seen in the last several years, since the early 90's, they'll engage in one provocative action, obtain some sort of concessions to stop that and then move on to another. For example, in 1994, they were building nuclear weapons. Well, they got some assistance and stopped that. In 1998, they went to missiles. They got some concessions to stop that and then they went back to the nukes. Now they're in these six-party discussions about the nukes and they've moved on to missiles again. I imagine as long as that current regime is in power, we're going to see problems with North Korea. The U-S government and most of the international community hopes for what we call a soft landing for North Korea eventually. We'd like to see it go away but do so in a way that it doesn't de-stabilize the entire world. And it would be nice if it just sort of quietly changed, some sort of internal coup d'etat or something but it's pretty difficult to see that happening as North Korea is a police state if there ever was one.
Shelton: The possibility of a regime change happening through internal forces seems unlikely. Given that, are any countries considering a forced regime change?
Hickey: I understand there have been some suspicious moves in North Korea by the military. There have been some assassination attempts. At least we hear reports of these with big explosions near key figures in the government. On the other hand, as far as the U-S or other countries taking out North Korea, I don't think that's very likely. You've got to remember North Korea already has several nuclear weapons, at least we suspect that. They also have delivery systems. They also have five thousand tons of chemical/biological weapons they're going to use in any sort of conflict. They also deploy their missiles right next to the border of China. Knowing our problems with targeting we've sometimes had in the past, they're counting on the fact that we would miss those missiles and hit China. Also, we don't know where their nukes are. So, it would be a pretty difficult thing to take out North Korea militarily and a pretty risky venture.
Shelton: Sounds like a hornet's nest you might not want to strike.
Hickey: I think that's an apt description of it as a hornet's nest. It's probably for that reason that this administration and the last administration both considered apparently the options of using the military against North Korea, apparently the Clinton people did this in the early 90's and then moved away to something else. I know that North Korea is a horrible regime. It has concentration camps. It's a rogue nation but I don't know if anybody has the answer of how best to deal with it so that maybe it'll just go away.
Shelton: Thank you, Dr. Hickey.
Hickey: My pleasure. Thank you.
Shelton: I've been speaking with Dennis Hickey, political science professor at Missouri State University and author of a book Armies of East Asia: China, Taiwan, Japan and the Koreas. For more of my conversation with Dennis Hickey, go to the KSMU website, KSMU.org