9 January 2018   Leave a comment

There has been significant movement in negotiations between North and South Korea concerning North Korean participation in the Winter Olympics and on political and military relations between the two states.  Significantly, however, North Korea has been quite clear and insistent that US concerns about the North’s nuclear program are not part of these discussions.  North Korea’s chief negotiator, Ri Son Gwon, made the following statement in reference to the discussions between North and South Korea after South Korea introduced the idea of “denuclearization”:

“All our weapons including atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs and ballistic missiles are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, nor China and Russia….This is not a matter between North and South Korea, and to bring up this issue would cause negative consequences and risks turning all of today’s good achievement into nothing.”

It remains to be seen how South Korea will proceed.  A great deal of the tension between the two states comes from the US concern that the North Korean nuclear program threatens the US homeland.  That concern clearly affects South Korea since it relies upon US power in any confrontation with North Korea.  But as far as nuclear weapons are concerned, South Korea is already vulnerable to a North Korean nuclear attack.  North Korea has successfully driven a wedge between South Korea and the US.  Whether that wedge can be exploited depends on the willingness of South Korea to tolerate continued testing by the North Koreans despite US opposition.  South Korea cannot afford to ditch the US alliance entirely because it serves South Korean interests with respect to Japan, China, and Russia.  The US and South Korea must now decide how to recalibrate their interests.


Economic inequality is responsible for the widening gap in life expectancy in the US between rich and poor.  According to Julia Belluz who summarizes the report of the National Academics of Science:

“This life expectancy divide between rich and poor Americans has been growing for decades. A report from the National Academies of Science looked at life expectancy by income groups between 1980 and 2010. In 1980, the richest cohort of middle-age American men could expect to live until about 83 and the poorest, to 76. By 2010, the richest American males had gained six years in life expectancy, living to 89 on average, while life expectancy for the poorest men hadn’t improved.”

This discrepancy can easily be explained by better health care for richer individuals and a host of other factors associated with the benefits of higher incomes.  As such, the data provide a compelling reason to regard income inequality as a serious social and political problem.


Uri Friedman has written a fascinating and well-informed essay on how the US National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, thinks about the contemporary world political system, particularly with respect to the question of how to deal with North Korea.  Interestingly, Friedman dissects McMaster’s views of various scholarly articles and books and finds that McMaster finds tremendous resonance with today’s patterns and those of the pre-1914 world.  I personally agree with that framework, particularly as it emphasizes the role of technological change in destabilizing the political order.  What I find most intriguing is that McMaster’s perspective is so well-informed but that he has to accommodate the views of the President Trump whose knowledge of history seems to be limited.  I highly recommend the essay.


Posted January 9, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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