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The North Korea Diplomatic Disconnect: The Reconciliation of Soft and Hard Power

Well, I've thought quite a bit about the situation with North Korea recently, and I've determined that their continued brinkmanship is something that, should it go unaddressed, will lead to one of two major outcomes: 1) A major conflict on the Korean peninsula or 2) internal tensions leading to the destabilization of the regime and its eventual end. While I've always felt that number two is inevitable, and will likely occur before the end of the decade, the question is whether it will occur with or without the advent of a major regional conflict. The thing that will really determine the outcome in this situation is how the international community, particularly the 5 powers that regularly attempt to negotiate with the North, choose to engage the North over its various violations of established understandings. Ultimately, this comes down to these parties resolving to approach the situation through soft power, or through other options. Can soft power by itself solve the issue?

Personally, I feel that it is never too late to negotiate, at least when dealing with something like a nation state with a well-defined leadership structure. However, because the North has been so unreliable when living up to its commitments, and so many attempts have been made to encourage them to back away from their confrontationalist attitude, I wonder if we are finding ourselves at the point where some kind of intervention is needed, especially in the light of the recent test and the threats made regarding the armistice.

Intervention? How would that be accomplished? This is the tricky part...how can the international community or, at the least, a concerned super power, undertake such a thing, what would it look like, and how could it be done in a safe way?

I really should clarify what I mean by "intervention." What I don't mean is attacking the North and starting a conflict. I don't mean ratcheting up tensions on the Korean peninsula. What I mean is more along the lines of finding ways to reach out to elements of the North Korean regime, members of the inner circle or, at the least, high ranking members of the party. Failing in that, there should be some kind of attempt to make contact with and assist those who have been abandoned by the staunch regime supporters in Pyongyang: the thousands who currently find themselves in concentration camps, and the millions whose suffering is arguably the same...the starving rural poor. Again, the key is doing so in a clandestine way, a way that does not raise the prospect of a conflict.

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