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Learning Activity: North Korea nuclear tension


(CNN Student News) -- Students will explore possible U.S. responses to the North Korean nuclear threat.


Ask students: What U.S. interests do you think are at stake in the wake of North Korea's recent missile launches? If you were a U.S. policy maker, what information would you need to know before recommending a response to the North Korean nuclear threat?

Have students develop a list of questions about North Korea's nuclear threat, and then have them assign the questions to the following categories:

  • History of/Facts about North Korea
  • History of U.S. relations with North Korea
  • History of other countries' relations with North Korea
  • History of North Korea's nuclear program
  • Kim Jong Il
  • Organize students into small groups, and have each group research one of the above topics. After the groups present their findings, have students assume the roles of U.S. policy makers who must decide on a course of action regarding North Korea. Refer students to Web sites and to the CNN Student News program to learn more about the following possible U.S. options for responding to North Korea's recent missile launches:

  • Multilateral discussions as part of the six-party talks
  • Bilateral discussions with North Korea
  • Economic sanctions
  • Military strike on nuclear capabilities
  • Missile defense
  • No action
  • As a class, discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each option. Ask: In what ways, if any, would each option address U.S. interests in the North Korean nuclear standoff? Then, have students write proposals stating which, if any, option(s) they would recommend and why.

    Correlated Standards

    United States History

    Standard 27. Understands how the Cold War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam influenced domestic and international politics Level IV [Grade 9-12]

    Benchmark 1. Understands U.S. foreign policy from the Truman administration to the Johnson administration Standard 30. Understands developments in foreign policy and domestic politics between the Nixon and Clinton presidencies Level IV [Grade 9-12]

    Benchmark 5. Understands the influence of U.S. foreign policy on international events from Nixon to Clinton.

    World History

    Standard 44. Understands the search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world Level IV [Grade 9-12]

    Benchmark 11. Understands common arguments of opposition groups in various countries around the world, common solutions they offer, and the position of these ideas with regard to Western economic and strategic interests


    Standard 22. Understands how the world is organized politically into nation-states, how nation-states interact with one another, and issues surrounding U.S. foreign policy Level IV [Grade 9-12]

    Benchmark 3. Understands the major foreign policy positions that have characterized the United States' relations with the world

    Benchmark 5. Understands the process by which United States foreign policy is made, including the roles of federal agencies, domestic interest groups, the media, and the public; and knows the ways in which Americans can influence foreign policy

    Benchmark 9. Understands the current role of the United States in peacemaking and peacekeeping

    Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education (Copyright 2000 McREL) is published online by Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) (, 2550 S. Parker Road, Suite 500, Aurora, CO 80014; Telephone: 303/337-0990.


    North Korea, Pyongyang, Kim Jong Il, NPT, six-party talks

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