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Scholars Discuss Asian Security

Published: November 01, 2006

Oceans away from his native Japan, nuclear expert Mitsuru Kurosawa gently spoke about the not-so-delicate issues of North Korea’s recent nuclear test, U.S. foreign policy and Asia’s balance of power during an academic symposium in the Sykes College of Business on Oct. 27.


Kurosawa, a professor of law at Osaka University, was the keynote speaker for the two-day Southern Symposium on Asian Regional Security last weekend that brought scholars from Florida and Georgia to hear Kurosawa and present their ideas for resolving security issues.


The United States, Kurosawa said, must find new ways to converse with North Korea. He said that it had been a mistake for the American government to back away from bilateral engagement with North Korea out of preference for six-party negotiations also involving China, Russia, Japan and South Korea.


“The U.S. must be more active to engage North Korea to have bilateral negotiations or have informal talking within six-party talks,” said Kurosawa. “I think this is the best way to solve this issue.”


Kurosawa discussed how Japan would support sanctions, but only as a measure to bring North Korea back into negotiations, not as a measure to bring regime change. He said that China, in particular, did not want regime change or a unified Korea because their leaders view North Korea as a buffer against U.S. power in the region. 


In addition to Kurosawa, six other scholars presented, and six UT students were invited to observe and ask questions. Dr. Maria Rost Rublee, the event’s program director and UT assistant professor of government and world affairs, said the purpose was for experts on Asia to get to know each other, collaborate and publish their proceedings.


One presenter, Taehyong Ahn, a Ph.D. student at Florida International University, said that both North Korea and the U.S. should remove pre-conditions in order to return to negotiations. He also said that despite distrust, the two nations should communicate.


“We have to talk with Kim Jong Il because even during the Cold War we talked with the Soviet Union,” said Ahn. “In the 1970s, we also talked to China, and all the talk changed the situation.”


Dr. Kim Reimann, assistant professor at Georgia State University, said that North Korea’s leaders probably are bluffing when they say that sanctions will lead to military retaliation.


“They know it’s an all-lose situation if they actually do something,” said Dr. Reimann. “This is the game that’s continually playing out, but it’s a kind of suicidal situation if they were to actually take any military measures.”


During a reception prior to Kurosawa’s speech, UT students mingled with the visiting scholars and offered their own opinions during the event, which was sponsored by the Japan Foundation.


Yuna Scott, a junior from Guantanamo, Cuba, said that she did not believe that sanctions would be effective against North Korea.

“I don’t think sanctions are effective, because if they want to do something, they will do it whether they have sanctions or not,” said Scott. “Cuba has done anything they could for about 50 years now with sanctions, so if a country wants to do it, they will do it.”


Kashima Cortez, a senior finance major, said that she had followed closely the news about North Korea testing a nuclear weapon. Although she remained optimistic for a peaceful resolution, Cortez acknowledged the issue’s complexity.


“I don’t think threats are necessarily the right answer, but then again, what do you do?” she asked. “How do you have somebody do what you want them to do without a threat?”


As with others at the symposium, Cortez stressed the importance of diplomacy with North Korea and other nations.

“I think we as a world need to come together and decide what we’re doing with our life, basically,” said Cortez. “I think the U.S. and its allies need to come together, figure it out, and basically lead by example. We also have nuclear weapons.”


Note: On Tuesday, Oct. 31, the New York Times reported that North Korea had agreed to return to six-nation talks on dismantling its nuclear weapons programs, ending an 11-month boycott.