Interview: University of Guam’s Ron McNinch on North Korea’s nuclear threats

Monday, April 1, 2013

With North Korea talking about nuclear weapons which may be capable of reaching the United States territory of Guam, Wikinews interviewed Dr. Ron McNinch, a specialist in East Asian governments, and the chair of Public Administration and Legal Studies at the University of Guam, to learn more about the impact of the latest news on the island.

((Wikinews)) Is the current North Korean threat to Guam and other United States holdings in the Pacific one which is treated as a credible threat of potential nuclear action by the Guamanian and United States government?

Ron McNinch: Threats from a location such as North Korea should always be taken seriously, but to be frank, if North Korea wanted to attack the United States, there are far higher priority targets than Guam. Also, if North Korea is considering an attack, it is much more likely in the form of cyber or special operations disruptions, rather than nuclear strikes. Once a nation uses nuclear weapons, they lose the value of the weapon. It is the threat the weapon holds that expresses power, not using it.

((WN)) Has the current North Korean threat to Guam impacted the daily lives of people living on Guam? Do the locals take it seriously?

RM: In my own assessment of the social effects of this rhetoric, the people of Guam use a pragmatic approach based around typhoon preparation. We prepare of course, but to be frank, the North Korean sabre-rattling last week was drowned out by small children on easter egg hunts and holiday barbeques with beer.
In the Marianas Variety April 1 edition, the threat was lampooned by the editors. This parody could readily sum up the effects of the North Korean threats. [See external links, Ed]

((WN)) Is there potentially economic consequences for Guam as a result of this in terms of tourism dollars or the United States military presence changing?

RM: Our main tourism markets are Japan and Korea, both of which are under the same guns, no pun intended. Therefore, it will not likely affect our tourism.The US military presence is a form of stable tourism-like dollars and the effect of the military build up is best expressed in those terms.

((WN)) In terms of Guam, how does this latest situation differ from past situations where North Korea has engaged in saber rattling?

RM: The difference this time is that North Korea claim to have or might have missles that can reach Guam.

((WN)) What do you think will likely happen regarding North Korea in the coming weeks and months?

RM: Usually, North Korea engages in this sort of behavior when it feels that the international community is ignoring it. Therefore, this rhetoric will likely ratchet down once China tells them to back off. This is a common pattern in the past. This bad behavior affects China more than the United States.

((WN)) What do you think of the how the current situation with North Korea has evolved to date?

RM: The problem with this current rhetoric is that the movie “Olympus has Fallen,” which describes a North Korean action in Washington DC. The real threat from North Korea is the unconventional warfare techniques that they can use on US soil, not convention or nuclear threats. Disrupting basic power, water, medical or transportation services is a far greater threat than a nuclear threat.

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