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Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World Hardcover – January 10, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (January 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400062942
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400062942
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,321,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

We are now paying the price for ignoring the numerous provocations of North Korea's "totalitarian dynasty," Chang (The Coming Collapse of China) argues, and the cost of that strategic failure, he predicts, will be staggering. Though the book is littered with trite aphorisms and pop culture vocabulary, Chang's basic thesis—that "the success or failure in creating a lasting geopolitical order for this century begins with the world's response to Kim's blatant challenge"—is on target. Arguing against both Robert Kagan's idea of quasi-perpetual American global domination and Francis Fukuyama's famous "end of history" thesis, Chang points out that both America's pre-eminence and the universal appeal of democratic principles are increasingly questionable propositions. Just witness our inability to devise an effective response to North Korea's nuclear brinkmanship and to nondemocratic China's growing influence and power. In his final chapter, Chang suggests a way out of the madness: partial nuclear disarmament by the U.S. in order to kick-start an international mission to force Kim to abandon nuclear arms. The current administration, however, is doing exactly the opposite by attempting to win approval for a new generation of tactical "mini nukes." It's a strategy that has both eroded international sympathy and exposed the great hypocrisy behind America's nuclear nonproliferation initiatives. Chang goes way too far, however, in asserting that America needs to choose between keeping its nuclear arsenal and keeping New York. (Jan. 17)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Chang has lived and worked in the Far East and has written extensively on China and North Korea. He does not break new ground here with any startling revelations. However, he does effectively reinforce the case that the stakes in dealing with this frightening Orwellian society are immensely high. Chang begins with a familiar portrait of North Korea under Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il. In describing the son, Chang unfortunately repeats several unverifiable rumors about his odd tastes, but he still shows conclusively that he is a dangerously ruthless and power-worshipping tyrant. Chang also asserts convincingly that North Korea's nuclear ambitions extend far beyond the possession of a few weapons for their deterrent effect. He suggests that they will soon present an existential threat to our Asian allies and to ourselves. His solutions to the impasse may strike some as premature, but they will have to be considered if the situation deteriorates. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 53 people found the following review helpful By maskirovka VINE VOICE on January 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As someone who is fascinated by North Korea, I am keenly interested in any book that comes out about the country. The literature is sparse and most of it is either dry as dust academic tomes, politically slanted tripe (mostly from the left but occasionally from the right), or hopelessly out of date.

This is a shame because North Korea is a country that the US might find itself coming to blows with some day, and if you don't know the enemy, as the saying goes...

Unfortunately, "Nuclear Showdown" falls in the category of superficial and breathtakingly naive. I base the superficial comment on the fact that the part dealing with North Korea amounts to about 160 pages of text. But the naive part is that Chang's solution is that the US abjure nuclear weapons.

From what I could gather, Chang seems to think that this will give the US the moral high ground and make it easier for the US to pressure and/or persuade aspiring nuclear powers not to obtain nuclear weapons. North Korea would be presumably the first target of this new "Concert of Vienna" approach.

I could write a book about why Chang's solution will never be implemented and if it was would not work (and in fact jeopardize US security). Here, I will simply repeat something that I learned while studying proliferation, arms control, and security issues in graduate school. The incentive to cheat and the reward for doing so goes up as the number of nuclear weapons in US and other countries' hands declines.

In other words, if the brave new world that Chang prescribed ever materialized, a country that was clever enough could reap substantial benefits from developing (or retaining) a clandestine arsenal of nuclear weapons. One such country might be North Korea.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By William Tam on January 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A perceptive book, especially on the complex relationship among the various countries that are involved in the nuclear negotiation: US, China, South Korea and Japan. It shows that the author has lived in that region for many years. I especialy find the chapter on South Korea very thoughtful provoking. He hear many people say that South Korea is no longer America's ally but this book shows that the changes in South Korea society are finally beginning to favor conservatives who still support a strong relationship with America. This books examines those countries one by one. I only wish that the chapter on South Korea is longer, especially how that society is changing. I also find the book really understand the motivations of the Chinese leaders and the changes in Beijing's foreign policy. The book also discusses and issue that is rarely mentioned: the problems between China and Japan and how they are affecting the nuclear crisis negotiation. I only hope that the Americans handling this crisis have such clear understanding as well. They don't seem to be doing a terribly good job at the moment.

There are so many things that people over here doesing know but need to know about that region which is becoming very important.
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By K. Landers on February 5, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Even though this book is several years old, the author really gives you a good insight on to how North Korea really is. It's amazing that in that country the more things change, the more things stay the same.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Frederick C. Meek on July 31, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book will assist the reader in understanding the complications involved with our relationship with North Korea, China, South Korea and other countries that have an interest in our nuclear safety. I'd recommend the book. It's an easy read. Some of our politicians and newscasters ought to read it.
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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Yuichi Yamamoto on February 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Gordon G. Chang's "Nuclear Showdown", like his previous book ("The Coming Collapse of China"), allows you many different ways of reading it. Some might read it as an intriguing prescription to resolve the ongoing nuclear standoff among the member nations in the six-way framework, just to say that will, or won't, work when they are through with the 225-page book.

In fact I was impressed by Chang's propositions such as the one in which the author suggests that in the wake of the virtual bankruptcy of the Nonproliferation Treaty and other U.S.-led antiproliferation initiatives, America take a unilateral step to drastically reduce its nuclear arsenal so the American president, who could now "order to eliminate all human life on this planet several times over", can "kill everyone only once." I am not sure, though, if Chang really means it because he says this is an "extreme dream".

However, my way of reading "Nuclear Showdown" was quite different because I hadn't assumed the author was just bringing up a quick recommendation or two for Christopher Hill, head of the American delegation at the six-party talks, to convey to his North Korean counterparts next time he meets them in Beijing. True, Chang talks a lot about the threat being posed by the North Korean tyrant, but he does that only from a broader perspective far beyond the framework of six-way talks. Actually I read it as if I was reading a work by Arnold J. Toynbee, British historian who intensively scrutinized the rise and fall of civilizations. This is especially true with the last three chapters - "The End of American Primacy", "Civilization's Last Weapon" and "Last Exit before the Dark Ages".

This, coupled with Chang's readable, sometimes witty, writing style, makes "Nuclear Showdown" a real page-turner.
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