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Conflict in the Koreas

All eyes on the Korean peninsula. We look at the latest.

South Korean marines salute their fellow troops killed in a North Korean bombardment, during a memorial service in South Korea, Nov. 24, 2010. (AP)

Now comes the stare-down on the Korean peninsula. North Korean shells rained down last week on a South Korean island.  They brought the first South Korean civilian deaths from North Korean fire since the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953. 

South Korea is a longtime US ally. No small number of Americans spent Thanksgiving wondering if we were teetering on war. Now China’s in the middle of things. U.S. warships are maneuvering off the Korean shore. 

This flare-up is not over. What next? We look at war, peace, and in-between, on the Korean peninsula.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times. He’s author of “The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power.”

Evan Ramstad, Korea correspondent for the Wall Street Journal.

Jennifer Lind, assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College and author of “Sorry States: Apologies in International Politics.”

Mitchell Reiss, president of Washington College. He held several top diplomatic positions in the administration of President George W. Bush and has extensive experience negotiating with North Korea, including as chief negotiator for the United States in the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization in the administration of President Clinton.

Brian Myers, associate professor of international studies at Dongseo University in Busan, South Korea, and author of “The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why it Matters.”

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  • http://www.bookofzo.blogspot.com Joshua Hendrickson, Talent OR

    Great. Just what we needed–a deranged totalitarian nuclear bully pushing for war not just with his southern neighbors but everyone else … except, of course, for China, who won’t even wag a finger in their direction. As stupid and meaningless a cause for such a thing as any psycho could wish for, does anyone else smell world war three in the air?

  • cory

    What a great time to keep our noses out of it and allow Pax Americana to fade into history. Does anyone think China would allow North Korea to control the entire Korean Peninsula? China wants to be a grown up? Let them handle (and pay for) this garbage.

    Sooner or later someone (likely China) will develop an anti shipping missile that will nullify our glorious Nimitz Class aircraft carriers. At that moment, our foreign policy will change, as our ability to project military power will be neutered.

    Leftfield, Wisconsin

  • Christopher in Jamaica Plain, MA

    If we step back for a moment and take a 40,000 foot view of the behavior of those nations possessing nuclear weapons, I think we’ll notice a trend of irrational, unethical, immoral and deadly behaviors. Yeah, North Korean leadership sucks but, at the end of the day, when you have both (a) leadership capacity and (b) nukes, you can get away w/a lot of messed up stuff.

  • Joe

    Could it be that this was just a push to raise the ratings of “M.A.S.H.” re-runs and marathons?

  • WINSTON SMITH

    Could some regime change be in order? Just asking.

  • Zeno

    If North Korea is not careful they will get themselves into a few wars with other countries. Where the sole reason for going to war is based on the desires of those who put the “decider” into power, based only on political connections, wealth, and the previous rule of his father.

    Perhaps in N.K. the media being a propaganda arm of the most powerful figures within the country is pushing some kind of jingoistic lies upon the populace. Maybe that S.K. and the U.S. are evil empires that possess weapons of mass destruction, and are only concerned with the destruction of N.K. ;)

  • http://www.venturacommenter.org F. William Bracy

    Ventura, California

    This is what Bush never dreamed of, which is what happens when you can’t think past the end of your own nose. Chalk one more up to Republican leadership and the great decline of yet another “empire.” Chances are that just like Alfred E. Newman, they’re still not in the least bit worried. And like the Kingston Trio’s song said in “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” when [oh when] will they ever learn?

  • Loring Palmer

    Please: I hope you’ll give us an accurate history lesson of the Koreas. Because there’s been a tit-for-tat going on ever since the division. And wasn’t this division created to prevent a united Korea from becoming an economic powerhouse that could overtake Japan? This division was absurd and now we’re experiencing another blowback situation.

    And why has a peace agreement never been signed after our Korean adventure?

    Thank you for your consideration.

  • Lor Pamer

    Sorry—I’m living in Somerville, MA

  • jeffe

    What people are forgetting is that the last thing China wants is tens of thousands of North Korean refugees pouring over their borders.

    The other thing is that Seoul has more fire power facing down on it than any other city on earth. If a war did happen Seoul would be devastated and the loss of life would be on the scale of the last Korean war.

    The regime change needs to happen through China, they control the purse strings here.

  • Richard in Newton, MA

    Following eight lost years under the Bush regime where the likes of Bolton served as frontman for negotiations, I thought the world welcomed a newer, gentler Obama administration? Well, the Six Party talks on the peninsula have not been held in quite some time, we’re in the midst of one of the worst months of Sino-US relations in recent history, the FTA has proven to be far more contentious than previously thought, START has fallen apart, Copenhagen proved to be pretty much a disaster and on and on. What happened?! Is it a problem of communication even in foreign policy/dipomacy? Is it Hillary?

  • http://z15.invisionfree.com/Augusta_Alternative/index.php?act=idx John Randolph Hardison Cain

    David Sanger is another shill for The Pentagon and the American Establishment like Judith Miller and Michael Gordon.

  • Derrick Muwina

    North Korea is a serious problem, not so much for the development of nuclear weapons, but because no one knows what to do with it. The entire world is afraid of angering North Korea and even China is pandering to a serious threat. If China considers itself a world leader, or emerging world leader then the Chinese need to start making bold and honest decisions.

  • http://challenginglachesis.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    If 4 casualties and some blown up houses really has gotten them mad enough to start rattling their spears, perhaps South Korea should consider how much more of those same things would happen if they go to war. If they don’t like seeing destruction, choosing to go to war would be like cutting off their nose to spite their face.

    Newton, MA

  • Jack

    I don’t mean to find excuse for N. Korea, but I think our government is largely responsible for the tension there. This year alone there are five military drills between us and S. Korea, and a number of drills with Japan and Vietnam. Like this time, N. Korea warned S. Korea not to conduct military drill in the area where both countries claims authority, but S. Korea ignored the warning.

    A few months ago, people in Japan and S. Korea strongly objected the presence of America military bases in their land. As a result of the increased tension, we have successfully kept those bases.

  • http://challenginglachesis.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    And, regarding Loring’s comment about how the North/South split was deliberate to impede economic success: I hope that some Koreans have read “We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families”, and recognize what Desmond Tutu is getting at in the beginning of Chapter 12 when he asks, “Hey? Hey? Hey? Hey? Do you want to tell me that blacks are stupid? Eh? Are you stupid?”

    The seeds of divide and conquer are very divisive, just like the words of some of your guests. It’s not their fault though, they’re fed the same stories of hatred that we all are. Some just aren’t wise enough to look past them and realize that we are all human.

  • EIO Boston

    This tells you why it is important to maintain som economic, financial and manufacturing independence. In the end you look ot fr your own

  • Nick

    A potential Korean military conflict would be DEVASTATING.

    It would be foolish to view warfare as if passively watching a recent Star Wars movie.

  • catherine tobin

    I refuse to panic thinking that North Korea is
    targeting civilians .My understanding is that a military base was targeted and that 2 men painting a building were killed.

  • Derrick Muwina

    North Korea is a serious problem, not so much for the development of nuclear weapons, but because no one knows what to do with it. The entire world is afraid of angering North Korea and even China is pandering to a serious threat. If China considers itself a world leader, or emerging world leader then the Chinese need to start making bold and honest decisions.

    Boston, MA.

  • Mary

    A GOOD FRIEND WHO LIVED IN SOUTH KOREA, IS MARRIED TO A SOUTH KOREAN TOLD US THAT THE ATTACK WAS BASED ON CRABBING RIGHTS.

  • Frank LoPinto

    Imagine scenario where there is war in the Korean Peninsula and China does not intervene. Imagine that resulted in a reunification of North and South.

    Now the US and ROK would be responsible for all the refugees especially if China sealed it’s border. This would further strain US resources and put South Korea’s progress in retrograde.

    Would this not benefit China which sees Noth Korea a drain on its resources?

    It seems to me that a North Korea that is now the responsibility of the US and South Korea benefits China.

    So this may be China’s play.

  • Mr Park

    Why are there no Koreans on the panel? It’s like a talk show in Korea discussing America and Mexico, but with only Korean ‘experts’ on the subject. Yeah, it’s good, but….

    If China pushes NK too much, then you put China in a box. China will be called on as to who they back more, the US (where China hold lots of bonds) and getting used to the growing wealth, or backing a bully child because of a land buffer. If NK gets the wrong answer what would they have to lose?

    Go back to the first paragraph, “Don’t think like a rational westerner! NK has nothing to lose. The survival of a govt isn’t as important as a legacy.”

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Sad though I am about North Koreans with the misfortune to live on the north side of the DMZ, I know enough about brainwashing and cultural insularity to feel that the North Koreans are probably unable to escape their orientation to the “Dear Leader,” their protector and guide. Most of us have enough experience with religion to know how this sort of orientation works.
    In short, the people, after a while, become part of the problem, as well as the leaders. I highly doubt that the leaders think they are being militaristic and self-sustaining in the power for selfish reasons. I am thinking they persuade themselves along with their people about their beneficent motives.

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    Ellen,
    “I know enough about brainwashing and cultural insularity to feel that the North Koreans are probably unable to escape their orientation to the “Dear Leader,” their protector and guide.”

    I just hope that we here in the states are able.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    http://www.charlierose.com/guest/view/7012Mohammad-

    Javad Larijani is an Iranian politician, cleric and academic. Larijani is the head of the human rights council in the judiciary and a top adviser to the supreme leader. Additionally Larijani has been the Director of Institute for Studies in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics in Tehran. Previously, he has been a Majlis representative and the director of Majlis Research Center, and a Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs. (That is from the Rose website, citing Wikipedia.)

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3625019.stm
    (That link, 2007, is for comparison. It seems to me in Iranian relations, here is the nut to crack, no pun intended; in North Korea, the “nut” to crack may have more resonance.)

  • Richard in Newton, MA

    Rather disappointing episode on a topic that is quite serious. I’ll also echo Mr. Park’s point of there being a lack of a Korean guest. Are there no Korean or Korean American experts on the subject of Korea? That aside and briefly…

    The war games which continually give the north hissy fits have been a response to their belligerence like the north sending down commandos to assassinate a ROK president, failing, then resending another assassin who also fails but not before killing the First Lady, killing ROK and US officers via ax attacks on the DMZ, blowing up a commercial airline full of ROK cabinet members, etc. etc…It truly is odd that the south is often blamed for being the provocateur. In what theory of proportionality is the bombardment of civilian targets lasting an hour whereby two civilians are killed in response to a border dispute considered just or responsible? And the victim is the one to be blamed?

    Also, the south Koreans have been demonstrating precisely because they’ve tried to feed the starving northern brothers via massive rice shipments during the past decade -plus of the Sunshine Policy only to be rewarded with more belligerence as gratitude. They, like the UN food programme workers, knew well that when the North insisted upon white rice shipments, that these donations would mostly end up feeding the bellies of the ruling elites and their army rather than going toward feeding the starving people, but they still donated and delivered with hopes that even a small fraction would find its way to feeding some of the people.

    Again, it truly is odd when people choose to blame the south.

  • twenty-niner

    “Sooner or later someone (likely China) will develop an anti shipping missile that will nullify our glorious Nimitz Class aircraft carriers.”

    They already have it. It’s called an ASBM.

    http://www.usni.org/news-and-features/chinese-kill-weapon

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    I would rather resources are spent/shared in caring for each other than destroying each other (Nimitz/ASBM). I see the challenge as anthropological. We evolve in an elongated dependence/devotion to mother/family which is culturally fomented. Way back to the story of the Holy Family, and the idea of marriage being forever, and you can’t divorce your own family, things like that.
    This basic loyalty/fidelity articulates itself beyond the basic biological need (long childhood) into the values of fealty based in fear (dependence), and loyalty based in helplessness (tyranny), as opposed to the kind of joining up (“confirmation” in religious terms) that is more democratic, where those being loyal, those pledging fidelity, are actively becoming part of the decision-making apparatus.
    If loyalty is coupled with actual responsibility, then you have a team likely to progress. If you have loyalty based in blindness, devotion based in helplessness, then you have problems. Not only don’t you have democracy; you don’t have a population able to direct itself with any kind of maturity.
    My prescription for the North Koreans? Maybe the same as for the Afghan “police” force, which has no experience with group cohesion and responsibility.
    What’s that? Maybe Twelve Steps? In which they all confess there is a Higher Power? No, no, just the opposite; in which they confess they are the adults and will have to take responsibility. Or try. In North Korea, when they see dear leaders playing with “fire,” someone there hopefully has the wits and the political skill to step up and turn things around. Who would that be? No such North Korean????

  • michael from Quincy

    One would have to be crazy to think going to war with N.K. and it be a slam drunk or even easy. But I guess someone will find away to link and push for war with iran (since they don’t have a bomb) 1 million man strong NK does.

  • michael from Quincy

    Thanks to the caller for pointing out there is more to the conflict than what the guests would prescibe to us.

    “I would rather resources are spent/shared in caring for each other than destroying each other (Nimitz/ASBM). I see the challenge as anthropological. We evolve in an elongated dependence/devotion to mother/family which is culturally fomented”

    Ellen have you ever watched the outer limits (found on Hulu) there a episode where a alien comes in the form of a priest and gives 4 men powers to do what they wish, at first it seems to be a blessing but turns the man against each other, friend against friend, brother against brother. It turns out it was a test, and the alien would have destroyed them but stated that by the behavior of the men that human kind would destroy itself so there were no need to.

    Another was a UFO heading to earth and they were two sides one stating it was a threat and to destory it the other was stating to try and decode the meassage and to wait most of the U.N. decided to follow the U.S., in the end the president took the Harks point of view and sent nukes against it(1st attempt failed), at the same time the meassage was decoded that they wanted peace and any more attacks would result in destrution. The U.S. attacked anyways along with russia were both destroyed.

  • michael from Quincy

    “Another was a UFO heading to earth and there were two sides one stating”

    “gives 4 men the power to do what they wish”

  • Pancake Rankin

    In the 30s Kafka wrote “Amerika”. Upon entering New York harbor the Balkan immigrant sees Miss Liberty, “with a sword in the right hand, and the left hoisting a lantern to light the way to easy conquest.” Mirror, mirror… who’s the fairest of them all? Yep Iran, even with 80 million potential civilian victims seems easier pickins’. Blackwater and KBR can’t afford a slack quarter. The FED can’t do nothing as meaningful as perpetual warfare! Nothing can compare (excuse our deficit spending, let’s take it out of entitlements).

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Michael, I haven’t watched Outer Limits (I put a link to hulu on my desktop a while back but don’t use it; I’ll take your story though). It seems a lot of science fiction covers this issue (there was a young adult book I read a while book on a similar theme), so someone may come up with a solution. The problem is as old as Adam and Eve: there is good and evil, both in man and existentially (displace it onto God and the devil).
    However, with weapons of mass destruction, especially now that those weapons can be wielded by regimes (such as North Korea or a minimally organized bunch of jihadis) that have no intention of good global governance, no plan for prosperity or sustainability, it seems the mean-gene will have to be aborted.
    Perhaps it’s the human race itself that will have to be sacrificed (by powers we can unleash but not control), but then again, maybe we can retrain ourselves out of the fear and tribalism that works against our best interests. (Or genetically neuter ourselves???)
    IMHO: The malice that looks only as far ahead as my own greed and insecurity will not suffice in an age when we’ve enabled our deeds and misdeeds to be massive, and massively destructive.
    One approach is to get real destructive towards evil-doers, no matter how many collaterals (all of Seoul?) are in the way. Another approach is consider human nature anew.
    Science fiction does go there. Keep us apprised what you learn.

  • michael from Quincy

    terrorist attack in iran targeting nuclear scientist
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11860928

    The scientists were targeted by men on motorbikes who attached bombs to the windows of their cars as they drove to work.

    According to the conservative news website Mashregh News, Dr Abbasi is “one of the few specialists who can separate isotopes” – a process that is crucial in the manufacture of uranium fuel for nuclear power stations and is also required for the creation of uranium-based nuclear weapons.

    of course the west and the U.S. will denounce such terrorist actions right? But somehow I doubt it since the U.S. is involve with supporting terrorist groups in iran. Unless its from S.A

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/28/us-embassy-cable-leak-diplomacy-crisis

    The cables names Saudi donors as the biggest financiers of terror groups, and provide an extraordinarily detailed account of an agreement between Washington and Yemen to cover up the use of US planes to bomb al-Qaida targets.

  • michael from Quincy

    “One approach is to get real destructive towards evil-doers, no matter how many collaterals (all of Seoul?) are in the way. Another approach is consider human nature anew.
    Science fiction does go there. Keep us apprised what you learn”

    Isn’t they a saying about how evil never dies, as for destructive would cutting off arms, legs, torturing there wifes mothers destructive enough to stop there evil or does evil shift from say N.K to the U.S. and anyone questioning the U.S. goodness is destroyed? When one is considered good and the other considered bad, than this can be used to justify evil in itself.

    When was the last time you heard our government admit to using properganda against it’s citizens? How about MSM?

    One would think that the U.S. population would see threw such but if you look at history this is not the case. Todays talk of the nation, and nearly all news hours shows are trying to spin/distort/ and twist the leak information. Why would the U.S. government tell the truth, by honest when they don’t have to? Don’t have to be accountable? TOTN has a former ambassador talking treason.

  • michael from Quincy

    “Isn’t the saying is evil never dies it just Manifest itself in another form”

  • Joseph

    Let’s see . . . Obama’s deficit reduction commission in scheduled to release its recommendations on December 1. Everyone expects that it will only recommend disappointingly small cuts in military spending based on what has been leaked so far. Just days before this report is to be released the U.S. engages in hostile response provoking military exercises with South Korea in waters claimed by both North Korea and South Korea. Knowing the nature of the North Korean government they initiate hostile action and talk. Everyone suddenly worries about the U.S. showing any weakness or ordering any reduction in our over seas military presence. Just saying . . .

  • William

    Eventually, some North Korean General will attempt a coup and kill off the leadership of North Korea.

  • Brett

    There’s really only one solution: declare victory in Iraq (sorry, wait, we’ve already done that), increase the troops in Afghanistan, get engaged in a long and costly war with N. Korea (maybe start out with increasing “advisors” to S. Korea then gradually increasing presence to full participatory military ground war, like Vietnam or Korea in the early Fifties), use the “win the hearts and minds” of N. Koreans strategy, introduce a whole new generation to red scare tactics (we’ve always played the commie game better than we’ve played demonize a Muslim, anyway)…of course there’s that nuclear capability wild card…damn!! Oh well, I remember the air raid drills in elementary school and the neighbors with bomb shelters quite fondly; and, if religion isn’t gonna scare the bejesus out of these kids nowadays, then a commie in a military uniform with a nuclear warhead might!!!

  • Zeno

    -N.K invades S.K.
    -U.S. backs S.K.
    -China Backs N.K.
    -U.S Clears Trade debt with China.
    -China Nationalizes all U.S. corporate holdings.
    -U.S. corporations now move focus to India.

    Possible?

  • Bush’s fault

    What me worry? North Korea is an hour away from evaporation. Sleep well.

  • Richard in Newton, MA

    Joseph,

    That’s one way of looking at it. Another is to consider that following this latest episode, ROK had pledge to further increase their military spending. They don’t buy MIGs from Russia.

  • michael from Quincy

    “Oh well, I remember the air raid drills in elementary school and the neighbors with bomb shelters quite fondly; and, if religion isn’t gonna scare the bejesus out of these kids nowadays, then a commie in a military uniform with a nuclear warhead might!!!”

    Being born in the 80′s I missed all that, but the commie thing just might be to old, as this was tried during the Mccain 2008 bid. Remember “We are all Georgians” or “The Russian Bear” I was talking to a friend about mccain saying such and he was thinking the circus :P for some odd reason.

    I was amazed how Jennifer Lind try to play down what the effect would be on S.K. if the north attacked it. Sounds like a certain someone saying Iraq would be a slam dunk. But if you wanna scare the bejesus of us 20 somethings say North Korea will disrupt our iphone internet service, preventing facebook/twitter/you-tube from working or shut it down and blame the N.K. and see how many of us would be out for blood.

  • Ed Owens

    I listened to this show today and the entire time I was thinking…uh…didn’t anyone notice the part in wikileaks about Hilary ordering spying on the U.N. and the other half the time I was thinking…uh…did anyone notice that the Saudi wealthy are still funding Terrorism? Did anyone catch that? I mean 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. Have you all forgotten that? How about a discussion about Senate Bill 510 that is about to make it illegal to grow your own food? Anyone worried about that?

    All day long I wondered about these things while NPR talked about the Points of Distraction. Hello! Hello! Saudis funding Terrorists and we know it! Hello! Hello! Anyone in there?

  • http://mpoguelcsw@gmail.com Mary Pogue

    My son is in the Army & stationed at Yongsan Military base. The info he is getting tells him that the US media is over blowing what is really happening. We become very worried here in the US every time I hear a negative report. Not only is my son there, but my daughter in law & 2 young grandchildren. It is so hard to know exactly what is happening.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Mary, I would worry too if I had relatives there, but I think “overblown” is a good description. Here’s why. There is ALWAYS a threat so long as North Korea has a regime such as it is, militaristic, presiding over a starving population, their only strong point their ability to scare themselves and others with weapons (weapons that they apparently sell to a certain country within range of Berlin and Vienna, but anyway). There is ESPECIALLY a threat when there is a Dear Leader in the process of passing power to another generation, who has to establish credibility or whatever.
    So we seize an occasion to focus, but I guess we see why our troops are over there. If we pulled out, the North would spill back into the South (I heard someone speculate). It’s a good time to think about that.
    I am wondering how it is your daughter-in-law and little grandchildren are there as well. There is beautiful countryside there. How many military get to bring their families? Or want to? Is YongSan on the island that was bombed? Can you e-mail him/them?
    I hope they are able to enjoy it anyway. I lived through the Cuban missile crisis (November 1962) without ever knowing about it till decades later. I was away at school at the time, in the hills. There was nothing we could have done about it anyway. So.

  • Zeno

    “My son is in the Army & stationed at Yongsan Military base. The info he is getting tells him that the US media is over blowing what is really happening. We become very worried here in the US every time I hear a negative report. Not only is my son there, but my daughter in law & 2 young grandchildren. It is so hard to know exactly what is happening.” – Posted by Mary Pogue

    Excellent point Mary. In fact the story we get here is S.K. propaganda, filtered through U.S. propaganda. So how are the people to make rational decisions on what is likely nothing but lies and strategic omissions.

    I noticed that the day after the shelling incident that this story was fifth in the list of most read stories on the internet. Dancing with the Stars was on top and second was the royal engagement.

    Our media does not present what is important, but what the public wants to consume. Our blindness toward world affairs is the peoples fault for only wanting candy and not the vegetables.

  • Dennis.in.Omaha

    One last parting comment…

    There is a temptation in the media to reduce all news stories in Korea to the North/South conflict.

    Lots of news worthy things happen every day in Korea, but unless the story involves the North/South paradigm, it seems to be ignored.

    I can share a few little tidbits…

    I came to believe that Koreans are highly cultured when they would invite me into their home, even though I was a simple Army private and had no power to influence their lives one way or another.

    and

    Koreans do not lock their houses of worship generally because of a very strong taboo of not messing with another religion’s house of worship. So most churches, temples and mosques are unlocked at the front door. In this way they seem very liberal even though they have conservative sentiments. But there is an explanation for this taboo. Whenever another society comes in conflict in or with Korea, they keep samples of their houses of worship around. Next time, when the invader finds a whole bunch of his own temples around, he might not be so cruel.

    and

    Koreans are natural capitalists. They have been deal-making between two aspiring neighbors, China and Japan, for a very long time. This North/South split is a very weird anomaly in Korean history.

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