The Instigator
Pro (for)
1 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Resolved: North Korea poses a more serious threat to United States national security than Iran.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/4/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,234 times Debate No: 17392
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




Contention 1: North Korea will have longer-ranged ballistic missiles than Iran

BBC News quotes that "North Korea will have nuclear ICBM's (missiles that can reach the other side of the world) in 5-10 years" while FARS News Agency states that Iran only has "short and mid-range missiles". Iran poses a threat only to countries that are in the same region such as Israel, but not countries far away from it such as the US. North Korea, on the other hand, will be able to strike the other side of the world with nuclear warheads in 5 years, making it a threat to the US and all other nations. North Korea has the means and the animosity to attack the US; Iran only has the animosity. This makes North Korea a much greater threat than Iran.

Contention 2: North Korea is more aggressive than Iran

The recent North Korean Yeonpeong Attack on an island that is disputed between North and South Korea proves that North Korea is much more aggressive than Iran. Iran and Israel have not attacked each other and are starting to have diplomatic talks [1]. North and South Korea, on the other hand, have stopped diplomatic talks and have bombarded disputed territory, killing each others' civilians. Common sense dictates that the more aggressive country is more of a threat, especially under circumstances where military power is about equal. The more aggressive country is more likely to attack other nations, especially those that hinder its aims. Thus North Korea is more likely to attack the US because it's more aggressive and the US hinders its efforts to reunite Korea. The souring relations between North and South Korea also makes a North-South war more likely, forcing US involvement.

Contention 3: North Korea has more types of WMD's than Iran

In addition to nuclear warheads, North Korea also has a bio weapons program that although rudimentary by Western standards, is capable of producing weaponized anthrax, cholera, and plague. With ICBM's to launch the biological warheads, North Korea can infect an entire region of the United States or any other nation with a dangerous pathogen. Iran, on the other hand, has publicly denounced the use of biological and chemical weapons [4]. Remember that when estimating a nation's potential as a threat, one must factor in not only the amount of weapons that a nation has, but also the types of weapons. Some weapons are more destructive than others. Biological weapons threaten not only the nation being attacked, but also bordering nations, and depending on how far the disease spreads, nations in other regions as well. North Korea's possession of biological weapons makes it not only a threat to the US, but also to US allies and the rest of the world.

[3] planet debate


. This is a status quo resolution, meaning that we must address threats in the present and near future. Unfounded claims that serve to hypothesize rather than provide actual proof should not be weighed in this debate.

2. The burden of proof is on the Pro, meaning that the power of fiat is reserved for the Con. In other words: the only way for the Pro to win is to prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that North Korea poses a more serious threat. If neither side can effectively prove their point, then the resolution is negated by default.

Now, I will first address my opponent's case before introducing my own.

Affirmative Case:

1AC: North Korea will have longer-ranged ballistic missiles than Iran
My opponent asserts that “NK will have ICBM's in 5-10 years.” Let us understand that such claims are hypothetical. The same source that my opponent cites (BBC news) sheepishly admits, “Like most things about North Korea, little is known for certain about the Taepodong 2 missile.” [1] In fact, the entire article concedes a factual basis, even admitting “Just how far it might be able to travel and with what weight and type of warhead and level of accuracy is uncertain.” Furthermore, Greg Thielmann, senior fellow at the Arms Control Association and a former Director of the Strategic, Proliferation and Military Affairs Office at the State Department, suggested it was "a little misleading" to imply the North could have ICBM-range missiles within five years. Thielmann furthers, “the only serious threat to the US would be an ICBM with a nuclear warhead. Although the North has twice tested nuclear devices, experts believe it does not yet have the capacity to miniaturise them and mount them on a missile.” Let us also understand that these nuclear tests have been failures. According to Tania Branigan of the Guardian, “Pyongyang has been attempting to create a long-range missile for several years. But a test in 2006 lasted only seconds. Two years ago the Taepodong-2 stayed airborne for longer but failed to put a satellite into orbit. Other countries judged that test to be related to the long-range missile programme because it involved the same launch technology.” [2] At the point where there is no actual proof that North Korea is capable of, has, or even will develop ICBMs – in addition to the fact that there is no proof North Korea is capable of miniaturizing and mounting nuclear warheads on said ICBMs, we can see that North Korea's ballistic missile threat is highly over exaggerated, if existent at all. Historical precedent points to failed tests, erratic technological development, and other factors which, when converged, suggest that North Korea is not a ballistic nor nuclear threat at all.

2AC: North Korea is more aggressive than Iran

R1: North Korea Aggression Is a Diplomatic Maneuver

According to Donald G. Gross of Foreign Policy, “The greater the threat North Korea appears to pose, the more satisfaction it gives that country's leadership and the more diplomatic leverage it confers on the cabal in Pyongyang. They see nuclear weapons as a way to compensate for the coun-try's severe economic failure, extreme poverty, and inability to feed its own citizens.” [3] Douglas H. Paal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace explains, “North Korea’s behavior over the past two years—or one could say sixty years—indicates that it has every incentive to use the threat of instability and conflict to enhance its diplomatic maneuverability, gain resources, and reinforce its leadership succession.” [4] The only warrant my opponent cited was the attack on Yeonpyeong Island. This was also part of diplomatic maneuver. Andrei Lankov of CNN explains, “Is this attack [Yeonpyeong] just another sign of Pyongyang's alleged "irrationality?" Not really. As a matter of fact, the North Korean leaders might be brutal and ruthless, but they are very rational, and always know what they are doing (and normally get what they want.) This time, North Korean leaders merely reminded Seoul that they are capable of making a lot of trouble if their demands are ignored.” [5] These demands being the concessions that NK has, in the past, and is currently trying to acquire from the United States. The U.S. and SK recognize this strategy, also understanding that such aggression isn't actually reflective of NK foreign policy. At the point where this is true, we can see that NK doesn't actually intend to seriously bombard the United States nor SK, but rather – use their military power as a bargaining chip.

R2: Iran-NK Military Power Isn't Equal
My opponent asserted that Iran and North Korea's military power were about equal, but this is simply not true. According to Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute, “Pyongyang retains a quantitative military edge, but its equipment is antiquated; North Korean troops are malnourished and get little training. The North is effectively bankrupt and without allies.” [6] Compare that to Iran who, according to, has a defense budget roughly twice of that of North Korea's, and much more army/naval/air force equipment and vehicles than North Korea. [7] [8]

3AC: North Korea has more types of WMD's than Iran
R1: North Korea Can't Transport Biochemical Weapons
There is no proof that NK has or will develop ICBMs. As such, NK is unable to harm anything with its alleged biochemical weapons, because it doesn't have a means of transporting them. See my response to his first contention.

R2: Biochemical Weapons Aren't Unique
While my opponent claims NK has multiple types of WMDs, the only one he cited was biochemical – so that's the point I'll refute. According to the Center For Strategic & International Studies, Iran also has been pursuing a biochemical weapons program since as early as 1982. [9] In addition, contrary to what my opponent told you, Iran is ICBM capable [10]. Thus, we can see that this point is a turn.

Negative Case:

C1: Iran is not restrained by mutually assured destruction through nuclear proliferation
If you look to my first response to my opponent's second contention, I show that NK is a rational actor. Mel Gurtov of Portland State University explains that NK's ultimate goal is its own survival. Even if you don't extend my BBC, Thielmann, and Branigan evidence where I show NK is incapable of using WMDs, understand that NK simply doesn't have an incentive to do so in the first place. The Cato Institute points out that attacking the US or an ally such as SK would be suicidal for NK – because of the M.A.D. which would be sure to occur. Given NK's rationality, there is no incentive for NK to attack (even if they were capable of doing so). In contrast, Iran is capable of proliferating WMDs to terrorist organizations, who aren't deterred by mutually assured destruction. Iran is developing WMDs [11] , so the impact of the contention is clear: a nuclear Iran will spell out doom for the US because Iran will proliferate to terrorists, who aren't deterred. Conversely, NK won't proliferate and is deterred by mutually assured destruction. [12]

C2: Iran avidly supports terrorism
Former U.S. Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell told in June 2007 there is "overwhelming evi-dence" that Iran supports terrorists in Iraq and "compelling" evidence that it does the same in Afghanistan. According to declassified intelligence reports released by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point in October 2008, Iranian support to militants in Iraq has included "paramilitary training, weapons, and equip-ment." The U.S. is fighting two wars against terrorism, Iran undercuts our economic and military investments through its support.


Debate Round No. 1


Questions for my opponent:
1. The BBC source you quoted states that "it has been suggested [the Taepodong 2] could have a range up to 15,000km. That would put Alaska or Hawaii within its reach and even the continental US if a lighter warhead were used." How is this not a threat to the US?
2. If South Korea knows that the Yeonpeong attack was a diplomatic maneuver, why have they stopped talks with North Korea?
3. Even if military power isn't equal, wouldn't you agree that the more aggressive country with less advanced weapons is more of a threat than the more docile country with more advanced weapons?
4. According to, Iran is 18th place in military strength and North Korea is 20th. Does this seem like a big difference to you?
5. The Taepodong 2 is not an adequate transport device? By saying this you are devaluing the lives of Hawaiians and Alaskans.
6. How are Iranian WMD's and ICBM's a threat if they can't reach the US? Your source says that the "ICBM" that Iran has can only reach Israel and most of the Middle East.
7. What evidence is there that Iran's nuclear program is not just a peaceful clean energy program?
8. Which country do most terrorist groups target: the US or Israel?
9. South Korea is non-nuclear. Therefore, a North Korean attack on South Korea would be suicidal only if the US gets involved. Since a war between two nuclear countries would result in mutually assured destruction, would the US really be willing to militarily intervene in South Korea's favor?
10. We are fighting two wars against terrorism? What terrorist groups are you talking about?

I forgot to say this at the start of the debate, but I would like this to be PF format. Rounds 2 and 4 are to ask and answer questions. Round 5 is to weigh existing arguments.


Brotherhood forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


I will first rebut my opponent's points, and then rebut his rebuttals to my points.

Opponent's contention 1 (OC1)
My opponent claims that North Korea is restrained from attacking South Korea by mutually assured destruction. However, mutually assured destruction is only in effect if both sides have nuclear weapons. South Korea is begging the US to ship some of its nuclear weapons to South Korea [1], which clearly indicates that South Korea does not have its own nuclear weapons to retaliate in case of an attack. This makes a North Korean attack on South Korea more likely, as the ultimate goals for both Koreas is reunification [2].

I concede that Iran does support terrorists. However, I argue the significance of Iran-supported terrorists in this debate. This debate is about threats to the US. Iran supports terrorists that target Israel (such as Hamas and Hezbollah). The "terrorists" in Iraq and Afghanistan that my opponent was talking about either target Israel and not the US, or are insurgent groups and not terrorist groups. Thus while Iran's economic support to our enemies is a thorn in our side, it isn't a threat to our national security. While the safety of our allies is a matter of US national security, Hamas and Hezbollah are far from capable of eradicating Israel. In the case of a nuclear war between Iran and Israel (which would happen if Iran gave WMD's to terrorists), Israel would win easily ( Thus Iran is restrained by mutually assured destruction, contrary to what my opponent claims.

North Korea, on the other hand, has the means and the intent to deter the US from helping South Korea in its time of need. North Korea's nuclear bombs are more than capable of bringing South Korea to its knees, and the resulting loss of a US ally would clearly hurt US national security.

My contention 1 (MC1)
As stated in Round 2, North Korea possesses a long-ranged missile that can strike the US. The long-ranged missile is the ultimate transport vehicle of any warhead, and thus the ultimate threat to the US. My opponent claims that since North Korea has a history of failed launches, North Korea does not have the technology to launch a nuclear missile at the US. Unfortunately, this claim would be true only if North Korea had recently failed another launch. Launch tests are done to see what is wrong with the missile or launch system, and to see how to fix those problems. In 2-3 years, North Korea improved its missile system from one that lasts seconds to one that can attempt to launch a satellite into orbit. If the trend continues, North Korea should have nuclear capable long-ranged missiles within 5 years. In short, North Korea's lack of technology in 2006 doesn't mean that North Korea doesn't have the technology now, or that it won't have the technology in the near future.

My opponent claims that the Yeonpyeong attack is a diplomatic maneuver. This claim is questionable, since both Koreas want reunification, and this attack may be the start of North Korea's campaign of conquest. Even if this claim was true, however, my second contention still holds because North Korea is willing to attack to get what it wants, while Iran plays nice at the negotiating table.

R1: First, the Taepodong 2 is perfectly capable of transporting a vial of pathogens to the continental US. Second, North Korea doesn't need ICBM's to transport biochemical weapons. The 2001 Anthrax Attack proves the last statement is true.
R2: I implied that biochemical weapons aren't unique in my 3rd contention. I said that, "Iran, on the other hand, has publicly denounced the use of biological and chemical weapons [4]". What makes North Korea more threatening is that it is willing to use its stock.



Brotherhood forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by merciless 7 years ago
I screwed up the number of rounds. Let's do speech 1 and 2 and crossfire 1 for this debate and finish the debate in a "round II" debate.
Posted by Brotherhood 7 years ago
This is a 3 round debate, not a 5 round debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by thett3 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: FF