The Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College has been conducting a series of breakfast discussions in order to spark discourse. On Sept. 19, the discussion on the agenda involved a guest speaker: Hahn Choonghee, the South Korean ambassador to the United Nations.
Many Americans have been anxious about North Korea’s nuclear missile testing, and many have wondered how President Donald Trump’s words may affect U.S. relations to North Korea. According to Choonghee, the answer lies within North Korea itself, as well as through many other international power struggles.
Reflecting on North Korea, Choonghee shared with the room the struggles the country has been facing, and how focusing on missile launches and technological improvements has been an essential task in maintaining peace inside of North Korea. Economic failure and a lack of resources caused many North Korean citizens to begin to question the validity of putting so much energy into the military.
Meanwhile, Choonghee went on to explain that North Korea faces pressure from all sides; South Korea has U.S. armies stationed within it, and North Korea wants to prevent a similar situation by intimidating the United States into not sending armies. Not only is it important to intimidate the United States, but also China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, explained Choonghee about North Korea’s motives.
Choonghee explained that even China is against North Korea’s use of nuclear missiles and yet North Korea finds it important to continue this research.
The use of nuclear weapons is, according to Choonghee, North Korea’s last resort in protecting its regime. North Korean leaders feel that if they are able to continue to advance their weapons, they will be seen as strong, which is more important.
Choonghee stated that the domestic issues within North Korea cause a ripple effect. If the people are not happy, it is likely that they will rebel or form coups. However, just like intimidating other countries, it is equally likely that having a strong military force will prove to citizens that their government is powerful. Choonghee also noted that Trump is right to be concerned — the ability to strike the United States is frightening, and it provides leverage to North Korea.
Choonghee explained to the room that North Korea would like to work with the United States to soothe fears, and until then it will be continuing its nuclear work.