Bigger threat – Iran or North Korea?
March 12th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

Bigger threat – Iran or North Korea?

By Adam Levine

There's no question, the U.S. is approaching the two most pressing nuclear threats differently.

One country, for the time being, seems ready to engage with the U.S. and others on changing its nuclear course. That's North Korea. That's at least for time being.

The other country, Iran, has suggested it would be willing to engage with the international community on its nuclear program to a degree but questions remain about how serious the offer is.

Which leads us to this little noticed question to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Friday. Speaking to reporters in Hawaii, Panetta was asked, basically, why is everyone so much crazier about Iran than North Korea.

Security Clearance readers, tell us if you agree with Panetta's assessment – is nuclear Iran more destabilizing than North Korea?

As the questioner, not named in the transcript, asked: "I mean, you and your colleagues in the Cabinet and Washington just gets all excited about Iran. The North Koreans, so far as we can make out, are ahead of the Iranians as far as developing nuclear weapons. But we don't get - people don't seem to get so excited about that. Why is that? Why is there that difference?"

Panetta's answer:

"I think - I think we have - certainly we at the Defense Department and I think the administration continue to have concerns about North Korea and their nuclear capability, and that's one of the reasons we continue to press them to suspend their enrichment process and to step back from their continuing efforts at developing a nuclear capability. So we continue to bring pressure against them. We consider that a threat. That's the reason we have our forces in South Korea. It's the reason that we - one of the reasons we have the kind of force projection that we continue in the Pacific.

With regards to Iran, obviously the concern there is the destabilization that would occur in that region if Iran were to obtain a nuclear weapon. Iran is a country that is - does not behave according to international rules, is engaged in spreading terrorism, in destabilizing countries in that part of the world, and a country that operates on that basis becomes extremely dangerous if it obtains a nuclear weapon. So that's the reason the world is unified. There's a strong international community that has come together on sanctions, on diplomatic sanctions, on economic sanctions, to make clear that Iran has to change its ways. And it's having an impact. Iran is growing increasingly isolated as a result of international pressure. And so we ought to continue that effort to keep that pressure on."

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Filed under: Diplomacy • IAEA • Iran • Kim Jong-un • Middle East • North Korea • Nuclear • Six-Party Talks
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. yamaha yzf r6

    Wonderful website. A lot of helpful info here. I'm sending it to some pals ans also sharing in delicious. And naturally, thank you for your effort!

    April 13, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Reply
  2. Merritt J Swift

    So many against Israel shows the great damage and extent of biased news,deliberate ignorance and a lack of the individuals research.

    April 6, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Reply
  3. Izm84

    The story is talking about Iran and North Korea, not Israel. Stop hating so much on Israel sandman has a point after all...

    April 3, 2012 at 2:51 am | Reply
  4. ghelf

    Iran is the bigger concern for the US. North Korea is China's & S. Korea biggest concern. Just like when when the US told Pakistan "if you are going to raise snakes in your backyard you can expect to be bitten",. N. Korea is China's snake and at some point it will bite the hand that feeds it.

    March 12, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Reply
    • concerned citizen

      When will we bite back against Israel??

      They are the real enemy...

      March 12, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  5. smarter than you

    If we unleash israel and let them fight there own battles it will start world war 3 i guess that is what will happen cause they can handle there own we will find out in the spring

    March 12, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Reply
    • concerned citizen

      Israel would be glass if not for the US.

      They own our country, through aipac monies.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Reply
  6. the wise

    Sandman, ate you not familiar with Israeli attrocities??

    Are you aware that many Jews have great hate towards Israel???

    March 12, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Reply
  7. the wise

    Calm down citizen...I know your rage.

    Take heart in the fact that Israel cannot survive, the world has indeed turned their backs on their criminal ways.

    They will fall comrade, rest assured

    March 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Reply
  8. rich

    They are planted by GOD and no weapon agnst dem shl prosper. God bles ISRAEL

    March 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Reply
    • us soldier

      We will fukking see.

      They will be cleansed by fire....

      March 12, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  9. us soldier

    So glad to see an overwhelming concensus agree, that Israel is the real problem.

    People are waking up.

    March 12, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Reply
    • Sandman

      The only thing I see here are people who think the PLO is the only source of truth. It's a sad thing to see too.

      March 12, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Reply
      • us soldier

        You a sad sight...

        Go suck mote Jew cokk, fukking looser

        March 12, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
      • the wise

        One neednt view any plo material, to see the obvious disdain the world shares for Israel.

        They can only buy US support for so long.

        Then they will fall.

        March 12, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  10. concerned citizen

    Israel is the greatest threat to US security.

    Their aparteid policies, and reckless disregard for international law, have cost the US thousands of lives, and trillons of dollars.

    They must be stopped, the racist regime in tel-aviv.

    Before they usher in WW3.

    March 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Reply
    • Sandman

      Been reading the PLO websites again have you? Wake up and smell what you are shoveling.

      March 12, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Reply
      • us soldier

        You wake up you zionist bitch.

        People like you will see the world burn

        March 12, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  11. Truth

    Iran is the larger threat because it has the ability to destabalize an entire region. If they acquire a nuclear weapon, the entire region begins competing for power. North Korea is already an isolated country with a new unproven leader.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Reply
    • concerned citizen

      Israel is the larger threat, as they have undeclared nuclear weapons.

      It's time to stop Israel.

      March 12, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Reply
      • awesome

        i dont believe u under stand where isreal comes from. thats probably because your a nazi prick. isreal has been fighting with their backs against a wall for how long no they are a uge ally in that area and i support them full force

        March 13, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  12. Smith

    "a country that is – does not behave according to international rules, is engaged in spreading terrorism, in destabilizing countries in that part of the world"

    Well on that, United States comes to mind. As for Iran being more dangerous to North Korea, it only shows how incompetent these analysts are at their job. A country that has not attacked another nation since battle of Karnal almost 300 years ago and a nation that has the world's fastest growth rate in science and technology according to US gov science and engineering report and a country where 70% of university students in sciences are women is called destabilizing. I wonder if this has anything to do with their hydrocarbon resources and whether it has got anything to do with their objections to petrodollar recycling and paper dollars. After all North Korea does not have oil. Iran does.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Reply
  13. reality

    North Korea has no elections, there is no chance of changing the governments whatsoever and they already got 10 nukes , They have missiles to attack America (Alaska), So definitely North Korea is bigger threat.

    IIran is no threat at all because they never attacked any country in last 300 years.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Reply
  14. mipolitic

    well we can go to north korea for a visit and come back home , but there are many that have visited iran and are still there either in prison or dead. so you do the math.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Reply
  15. izay

    3words 4 u!! Iran, terrorist country!!!

    March 12, 2012 at 10:09 am | Reply
    • achilles


      not that they truly exist anyway....

      March 12, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Reply
      • Sandman

        Oh they exist, better than you do. They have more college degrees per person than almost any other country. Most R&D for some very large companies are done there. I love watching the clueless spout trash about a country that would take you in and give you a home if you needed one. Stop reading the PLO websites.

        March 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
      • us soldier

        Ya you piece if shit, because OTHER COUNTRIES FIGHT THEIR BATTLES MOTHEFUKKER!!!!


        bless you US soldier

        March 12, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
      • awesome

        ur ignorance is outrageous

        March 13, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  16. michaelfury

    "a country that is – does not behave according to international rules, is engaged in spreading terrorism, in destabilizing countries in that part of the world"

    March 12, 2012 at 7:45 am | Reply
    • concerned citizen

      So what is Israel...

      March 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Reply
      • Sandman

        Israel is trying to survive after the UN created the country and walked away from them. I think they have a better idea of right or wrong than you do.

        March 12, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
      • concerned citizen

        You fukking bitch...

        The burn children with white phosphorus, and hold illegal weapons, you pathetic fukk.

        March 12, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
      • the wise

        Be calm citizen. As a Jew, I can tell you with certainty that the Jewish diaspora has turned against Israel.

        However, we fear for our families within the aparteid nation.

        March 12, 2012 at 5:10 pm |

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