It's time to get tough with North Korea

It's time to get tough with North Korea

In 1968, the US Navy's ship USS Pueblo was caught in North Korean waters. The country hailed the boat's capture as a great victory for its "Great Leader", Kim Il-sung.

The small fishing boat-sized ship is now a prized exhibit in the capital, Pyongyang. In the isolated country, the state portrays even small incidents like this as huge successes.

The same happened with the recent shelling by North Korea of the small South Korean island of Yeonpyong. Foreign observers speculate that the unprovoked attack was staged to help boost the standing of "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il's youngest son, "Young General" Kim Jong-un, who is set to replace his father. The timid response of South Korea's government and the international community has only emboldened the North. It's beating the drums of war more openly.

Turning a blind eye to the North's provocations is no longer a good option in dealing with the regime and its "Dear Leader". Yet military retaliation would not be a good course of action as the North boasts of having nuclear weapons. The recent sabre-rattling by the North might indicate that hardliners inside the country might want to fortify their position. Military aggression from the South and the US would only strengthen their hold on power.

Rather, external pressure should be applied in other forms, such as tightening economic sanctions. The country already suffers from chronic food shortages and the regime can ill afford to lose foreign aid supplies. The US might also want to phase out its military presence in the South so as to deprive the North of its main source of propaganda.

North Korea has re-emerged as a threat to global security. It is crucial that new ways of dealing with the regime do not make the situation worse. Economic policies and decreasing US military involvement is the way forward.

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