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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


World War III?

The North Korean shelling of a South Korean island two weeks ago killed two people. It temporarily moved the South to crisis status and left U.S. officials scrambling to find a peaceful resolution to the decades-long conflict between the two countries.

The Arizona Daily Wildcat interviewed David Dunford, adjunct instructor at the School of Government and Public Policy and a former U.S. ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman. Dunford is a Middle East expert who recently worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad as a senior ministerial liaison. Based on his many roles interacting with international affairs, here’s Dunford’s take on the North Korean issue and its importance to U.S. foreign relations.

Daily Wildcat: What do the recent developments mean to the U.S.?

David Dunford: North Korea undertook an action that I’m sure makes both South Korea and the United States quite tense. We still have, in the five figures, a number of troops deployed in South Korea and, should a conflict break out, we’re obviously concerned about Korea, and North Korea has nuclear weapons.

DW: On recent military drills the U.S. has conducted with South Korea:

DD: I can’t tell you (from the inside), but my guess is the U.S. is trying to send a message that we won’t tolerate further North Korean misbehavior by sending our military assets to drill with the South Koreans. It’s kind of a normal response.

DW: On talks with the Koreas to resolve the conflict:

DD: I’m sure the United States is working very hard with the South Koreans not to respond aggressively, because we don’t to further provoke the North Koreans.

DW: Is the transition in government, where Kim Jong-Il’s son will take over as a leader, an omen of better relations in the future?

DD: Kim Jong-Il has not been a very sensible leader in our view, and North Korea is in danger of becoming a failed state, much as with Pakistan. We don’t want to see both a failed state and a state with nuclear weapons in the same place. I’m not very optimistic that a change in leadership is going to improve the North Korean behavior. Because it’s not the leader itself … but it’s a clique of people who benefit from the situation and they won’t give up power.

DW: On certain theories of unifying the Koreas once again:

DD: I think there is homogeneity of culture even though that homogeneity has probably been split up a little bit in the 60 years Korea has been separated. I’m pretty sure the United States would like to see moves toward unification, but only if North Korea has a more sensible government. I’m sure South Korea would like to see some rapprochement with North Korea.

DW: Should the U.S. worry about recent attacks?

DD: It is worrisome. It has a lot to do with a power struggle going on now in North Korea, Pyongyang (the country’s capital). Quite often when you see a country moving aggressively like this, like Iran, Burma, Myanmar … It has to do with internal politics.

DW: On the far-reaching effects of the North Korean issue in Eastern Asia:

DD: (It’s part of) why Iran seeks nuclear weapons. They saw Iraq, where they didn’t have nuclear weapons, and were invaded by the United States. They look at North Korea where they do have nuclear weapons and are quite public about it. And North Korea does get to sit around a conference table with China, and Russia and the United States and talk about it.

DW: Is there hope for the conflict being solved and unification of the Koreas?

DD: Probably not. It would be nice, but we’ll see with the change of government … If that shuffles the deck a little bit, maybe something good will happen.

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