Deterrence Works With North Korea

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

In addressing the threat posed by North Korea, Ashton B. Carter and William J. Perry ["If Necessary, Strike and Destroy," op-ed, June 22] ask an important question: "Should the United States allow a country openly hostile to it and armed with nuclear weapons to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons to U.S. soil?" In fact, we have. Washington let the Soviet Union and China get away with both the bomb and the missile. The result: World War III never took place. Nuclear deterrence proved robust.

In 1994 Mr. Perry rattled the military saber as the Clinton administration evaluated strikes against North Korea's nuclear plants. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. Had they not, as the U.S. commander in South Korea warned, a retaliatory strike by Pyongyang could have ignited a new Korean War, resulting in hundreds of thousands of military casualties on our side alone. The United States has kept the peace on the Korean Peninsula now for more than five decades. Deterrence worked and continues to work because it plays on the one thing Kim Jong Il values more than anything else: his life.


Los Angeles

The writer served in the State Department's Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs from 1989 to 1990.

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