09/17/2013 01:32 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2013

The Korean Peninsular: Parallel Yet Perpendicular

In 1994, North Korea became the first country to revoke the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Ever since then, successive nuclear tests have followed up with international upheaval. Their third nuclear test and successful Unha-3 rocket launch surprised the international community. In addition, they have recently revoked the armistice agreement with the U.S. that ended the Korean War.  The transition of power to Kim Jong-Un has led to a more aggressive and perhaps even stronger North Korea than under Kim Jong-Il. Despite the shifting tides of domestic politics, the international community now more-than-ever stands firm with an Asiatic aligned future: a denuclearized North Korea.    

The U.S. still relies on feeble UN sanctions and China to try to normalize relations. However, Washington certainly needs to reassess its current North Korean policies.  

Quite simply, sanctions have not deterred North Korean nuclear development. The U.S. has backed about six UN sanctions since the late '90s and applied a plethora of their own.

However, as the Belfer Center for International Affairs elaborates, in the past decade, North Korea acquired enough plutonium for six to 10 weapons. They are continuously profiting from nuclear weapons. Countries like Pakistan, Syria, and Iran continue to demand nuclear weapons or energy resources. In 2007, an Israeli airstrike successfully destroyed the Syrian plutonium nuclear reactor North Korea helped build.  But, North Korea evaded international condemnation while still retaining its financial thrust.

Similarly, now, they continue to do nuclear business. In September 2012, North Korea signed the Scientific Cooperation Agreement with Iran. North Korea and Iran exchanged ballistic missile technology and nuclear scientists. Often vague, elusive diction is home to Iranian apathy on North Korea. The National Bureau of Asian Research explained how in 2005, under the title "civilian scientific and technological cooperation," North Korea was able to gain specific Russian long-range missile technology through Iran. The application of sanctions is not doing enough to end North Korea's nuclear agenda.  

There needs to be a priority on handling nuclear sales from North Korea.  Some of the UN Security Council measures need to be enforced more rigorously, and the U.S. needs to implement U.S. specific sanctions against the North Korean-Iranian alliance.
The U.S. often wants China to pressure North Korea to reform.  China can influence North Korea more than any other country. As the Center on Foreign Relations explained, China provides 80 percent of North Korean consumer goods and 45 percent of its food. North Korea continues to rely on China more every year. However, China will not pressure the Kim regime into a disfigured democracy.  China wants to maintain the status quo because they are afraid of South Korea completely taking over the Korean peninsula.  The South Korean takeover will undoubtedly lead to a U.S. military troop presence right on China's doorstep.   

China views the Korean peninsula as a zero-sum game with the U.S.  Only when China believes its military prowess is equivalent to that of the U.S. is China likely to consider replacing the Kim regime. But, at the current pace of Chinese military growth, it will probably be more than a decade before China can feel the same power as the current U.S. military.

Thus, the U.S. should still maintain regional efforts with China by advocating for things like condemning North Korea for ballistic missile launches in tandem. On the other hand, the U.S. should not expect China to do much in the long-term.  

Lee Myung Bak, the former president of South Korea, had extremely close ties with the U.S.
Although U.S.-oriented South Korea was beneficial for some foreign policy makers, it could have potentially deterred independent South Korea negotiating efforts. South Korea would have undoubtedly wanted to seek approval by the U.S., always, which would sometimes slow down efforts. Possibly why the Lee administration never talked about any nuclear development policies with North Korea. In contrast, the newly elected president, Park Geun Hye, seems to be going off on an independent course.  

She highlighted the need for inter-Korean talks. The U.S. should allow South Korea to loosen up a bit, as they are already poised for such a course. The Ministry of Unification in South Korea recently approved of children and welfare benefits to North Korea and underlined the importance of inter-Korean talks for any sort of progress.  

Moreover, the most important effort the U.S. should take to try to denuclearize North Korea is by encouraging North Korea to experience the outside world. Educational and cultural experiences by the North Korean people can force a significant change. The U.S. should advocate for the use of an international educational exchange program with North Korea.  

The North Korean regime will probably choose future officials and class individuals for such a program. They will most likely not allow people to go to the U.S., but North Korea still has other democratic nations to send their people to.  North Korea has diplomatic relations with all EU nations except for France and Estonia. Australia, Brazil, Canada, and many other nations are favorably viewed from potential economic gains by North Korea.

Such permission by North Korea could allow the subjective status deprivation theory to create revolutions and a path to democracy much easier.  The subjective status deprivation theory states people are not infuriated with the living standards of the North Korea because everyone else is poor in North Korea.  However, if citizens start seeing richer people in other countries, then a revolution could more likely occur and much more passionately.  Furthermore, the upper class in North Korea is unlikely to have as much freedom and wealth than other upper class individuals from other countries.  

If the U.S. wants to follow a more comprehensive plan on North Korea, they should change their approach. UN Security Sanctions should be applied more effectively, not just with numbers, China should not be looked upon as the sole negotiator, South Korea should be given more flexibility, and an educational exchange system needs to be brought up.