State Dept Nominee: US Won’t Accept Nuclear North Korea

A Month After a Successful Nuclear Tests, What Does This Refrain Mean?

Speaking at his Senate confirmation hearing Kurt Campbell, the administration’s nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian affairs, declared that if confirmed he would “make clear that neither the United States nor its allies will accept a nuclear North Korea.”

“And there should be no mistake: the United States is firm in its resolv to uphold its treaty commitments regarding the defense of its allies,” Campbell declared. Campbell’s comments were not entirely unique, but rather echoed similar statements made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates near the end of May.

But what, ultimately, does this comment mean? Its not entirely clear. North Korea has just weeks ago tested, apparently successfully, an atomic weapon. It has likewise tested several missiles and seems poised to test one that may have the range to hit American possessions in the Pacific.

Is not North Korea then already a nuclear power in every meaningful sense? And that being the case, what can the US theoretically do about the already nuclear North Korea? Special envoy Stephen Bosworth insisted today that the US has no intention of invading the nation, and the administration seems more interested in rallying the international community against North Korea than in reconciling with the nation. It seems that for the time being, claiming they won’t accept it is about all the US can do.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.