Only Way To Resolve North Korea Issue Is Through Negotiations. Washington State University political scientist Thomas Preston said the United States must focus upon negotiations and diplomacy, not military options, to resolve the crisis with North Korea over its nuclear program. Saying that both sides are in danger of becoming prisoners of their own rhetoric, Preston warns against artificially inflating the crisis unnecessarily. The national security specialist says the Bush administration needs to approach the resolution of the crisis by dropping its insistence that it will only ‘talk’ to the North, but not engage in ‘negotiations’ with Pyongyang until it completely capitulates on the nuclear issue.

Preston notes that as distasteful as it may seem to reward Northern treaty non-compliance with negotiations, the alternative (a military response) is even more unpalatable given the likely consequences of North Korean military retaliation. He argues that Pyongyang’s motivation for obtaining nuclear weapons is likely driven by concerns for its own security, and that threats to use force or impose sanctions will likely provoke even more extreme reactions from the North. Preston says that it would be impossible, in any event, to pre-empt a North Korean nuclear program in the absence of a full-scale war and overthrow of the regime, the consequences of which he believes would be entirely counterproductive to U.S. interests in the region. Instead, he recommends the United States and its allies in the region actively engage North Korea in negotiations to resolve the dispute and move away from the current confrontational approach.

A specialist in security policy, foreign affairs, and political psychology, Preston joined WSU in 1994. He has frequently served as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Defense (on Korea), the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He teaches undergraduate courses on international relations, U.S. foreign policy, U.S. national security policy, and Russian politics, as well as graduate seminars on international security and political leadership.

Preston is currently writing a book, “From Lambs to Lions,” exploring the impact of nuclear and biological weapons proliferation on future inter-state security relationships in East Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. He also is a specialist in leader analysis and has written on how the personalities and styles of political leaders influence their structuring and use of advisory systems, the quality of subsequent group processes, and the overall nature of the foreign policy decision-making process.

To contact Preston, contact Sue Hinz, WSU News Bureau, 509.335.3583, or 509.981.3858.