Purchased a FORA.tv video on another website? Login here with the temporary account credentials included in your receipt.
Sign up today to receive our weekly newsletter and special announcements.
In recent missile tests over the sea in Japan, North Korea once again thrust itself into the news. In early July North Korea, which is believed to have nuclear war heads, tested both long and short range nuclear, short range missiles and although the test failed for the long range missile, it is designed to be capable of hitting the continental United States. Tonight with the aide of our panelists, we're going to take a look not only at these recent events, but also at the status of the nuclear weapons program, of the six party talks and we're going to think through the implications, not only for U.S. security, but for regional stability and for the non-proliferation regime as a whole. Our three experts on North Korea affairs are Dan Sneider, Philip Yun and Sang-Ki Chung, the South Korean Consul General to San Francisco. Dan Sneider is associate director for research at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University. He's the former foreign affairs columnist and foreigner editor for the Mercury News. His twice weekly column was syndicated nationally through Knight Ridder, Knight Ridder Tribune news service, I never get that quite right, reaching 400 newspapers across the country. Prior to joining the Mercury News, he was with the Christian Science Monitor and there he was San Francisco Bureau Chief, he was Moscow Bureau Chief and he was Tokyo correspondent. When he was Tokyo correspondent he covered both Japan and Korea. I should also note that Dan was in part raised in South Korea, being the son of a career foreign service officer, the late ambassador, Richard Sneider. His writings have appeared in many publications including the New Republic, National Review, Time Magazine, The Far Eastern Economic Review and the Financial Times of London. Philip Yun is vice president for Resource Development at the Asia Foundation. Prior to joining the Asia Foundation, he too was at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford where he was a scholar on Korean studies. He's worked both in the private and the public sectors. He was vice president of H & Q Asia Pacific, which is a U.S. private equity firm investing in Asia and he served in the Clinton Administration and in the U.S. department of state as a Senior advisor to both Secretary Madeline Albright and Secretary Warren Christopher. He was deputy to the head of the U.S. delegate of the four party talks, Korea peace talks and he was senior advisor to the U.S. coordinator for North Korea policy. He's a Korean-American. His mother was born in what is now North Korea. His father was born in what is now South Korea. He is an attorney, he practiced at Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro. Mr. Sang-Ki Chung spent most of his career in Asian and Pacific region. He joined at the foreign service of the Republic of Korea in 1977. He served as director of Chinese, of the Chinese Affairs division of the foreign ministry then as assistant protocol secretary to the President of the Republic of Korea and director general of Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was the first Korean Diplomat sent to China in 1990 to set up the South Korean representative office there in China. He accompanied President Kim Dae-jung to North Korea for summit between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il in June of 2000. In 2003 he visited the U.S. as an international visitors fellow. He's an expert in Chinese and Japanese affairs, fluent in of course both of those languages, so please join me in welcoming our three panelists. I'm gonna start with the Consul General, because obviously when we think about the security situation in the region, the country we think of as most immediately effected is South Korea. And so I did want to start by asking you how you view the danger from how your country views the danger from your perspective? Of course we express our strong digress to the missile tests of North Korea, uh, saying that it will bring the North Korea into uh, some uh, tensions and arms race among regional countries. But we also, on the other hand, we have to go ahead with a dialogue with North Korea in order to prevent further escalating of this tensions. Uh, regarding the question of the how much Korean peoples view North Korea as a serious threat, of course in Korea now its democratic country. We have so many diverse opinions on (unidentified). And some conservative groups or progressive groups or students, ordinary people, so really the spectrum of the sort or philosophy among Koreans towards North Korea, there is far left to far right, so it depends in whom you are talking. Generally, Korean peoples are in favor of President (unidentified) of North Korea and even though we think this time the missile test is a very provocative act toward us we think still we have to go ahead with our present policy of 'Sunshine' policy. Of course, in other words in other parts we also should respect and comply with the (unidentified), the resolutions of the security council which we also the member of the United Nations. Yeah, thats all. Ok thank you. I'm going to turn back to the 'Sunshine' Policy in a moment. But you noted its a provocative act toward us. Philip Yun is it a provocative act toward Japan? Is it a productive, who is it a provocative act toward? Who is most, most endangered by this? Well, I think it depends where you sit. I mean obviously the Japanese are very upset about what has happened. Um, and they should be, and from our perspective, are very upset and they should be, we are, from our hand, we find it very provocative because its one thing to have a nuclear devise, which the North Koreans claim they have, but when you have the means to deliver something like that, that it becomes a completely different equation with the possibilities of changing the strategic balance um, that exists on the Korean peninsula. So for us, in the United States, of course its extremely threatening as well. Um, and I think that is why, to a large extend you've heard um, commentary you have in the United States as to what this missile launch does need. Uh, part of the problem is you think about it, is that now we have a situation where um, we no longer have a freeze on what is happening at (unidentified) and the production for nuclear material which continues to go on and now we have the possibility that the North Koreans will conduct missile tests and continue with that. So um, those two as they move together in parallel, creates a real problem for the United States. Um, Dan, Philip referred to a change in the strategic balance. Is that the purpose? Are they pursuing a weapons, a missile program are they pursuing nuclear weapons in order to change the strategic balance or is this about bargaining chips and about political theater? Oh, of course thats a subject of intense discussion amongst people who are trying to understand what North Korean actions really mean. And you can find opinions that say, this is a political gesture, this is an invitation to negotiation. There is some credibility to that because if you look at North Korea's history, they tend to engage in negotiations through escalation. They,they up the pressure, escalate tensions in order to both to open the doors of the negotiations, but also to change their, what they consider to be, their leverage in those negotiations. I think thats probably a factor in this, but I would also argue that if you look at the history of the North Korean ballistic missile program, this is a long standing program, its been going on for at least forty years, Kim Il-sung, the late North Korean leader founded a scientific institute in 1965 in which one of its main purposes was missile development. For the North Koreans, ballistic missiles are sort of a form of artillery. And its a way of compensating militarily for their relative weakness in other areas such as air power. And they very much had the intention and Kim Il-sung stated it very clearly at that time, to use missiles to put a particularly American military assets in the region, and that particularly means Japan, but also within the Korean peninsula at risk. This is part of a military strategy, a military logic if you will. They have been testing and developing these systems for a long time, but they basically put a moratorium on that testing they did it unilaterally in the late 1990's but the meeting range systems which are important to their military apparatus, in fact hadn't been tested. This is what's called the "no dong" missile. They hadn't been tested since 1993. So they had a reason to want to test these systems just for the point of view of their own military capability and demonstrating their ability to put American and South Korean military assets at risk. So I think that to some degree this was an issue of them wanting to test for military reasons and deciding that the risk, from a political point of view, from a point of view of the negotiating process and the relationship with not only the United States, but their allies in China and with South Korea, was not that great. They weren't gonna loose that much from doing this and I think it was a calculated risk in some sense on their part. Not an irrational act, a very calculated one. Even though the test failed, Dan Sneider, it, is there something they could have learned from that test militarily? Was it of use to them and from that perspective? Well, I think that the commentary has tended to be quite off base on this because its focused on the failure of their, of one particular missiles that they (unidentified), two supposedly, which by the way, does not have the range to reach the continental United States. There is another, further development of that missile that maybe could. That missile test seemed to have failed even from that failure, they would learn something. If you look at history at ballistic missile programs everywhere, you have many, many failures. Its a constant part of the process. But they also tested six other missiles, including medium range missiles and short range missiles and they were able to fire them off in succession, fairly rapid succession, including at nighttime. And many people, endless are looking at this actually as as fairly successful test on their part of their command and control systems and an ability for them to demonstrate again, to, what they may perceive as a potential threat from the United States, their ability to demonstrate that they could retaliate to an American attack. So I think its wrong to think that this was a failure, I don't think it was. I just want to add here, I completely agree that, I think lost in a lot of the commentary is the fact that North Korea's testing is precisely for what it appears to be, you know a security reasons. I also happen to think, because of the lack of external constraints on, in terms of their relations, uh, with other countries, that the other factor is there was in part perhaps another internal factor involved in this and one is there is some reports out of North Korea that there is some dissent of some kind and the missile launch was a way to galvanize the population that's gonna be coming under increasing amount of distress. And so this could be another motivation. The other consideration is well is that Kim Jong-il is getting constant pressure from you know his generals in the military saying, you know we gotta do this, for our own safety and our own security. Again, this is the generals talking to Kim Jong-il so again there is a, an internal constituency here that he has to keep happy and it just seemed like given all the things that are going on the world that it seemed to be an opportune time for this to happen. And can you imagine a circumstance in which this, this will escalate further? Meaning, Dan made reference to an escalation. Well, I am very worried that we're going to see further escalation. First of all, I think Philip touched on a very important point, we don't really know what's going on inside the North Korean leadership at this point. We haven't seen Kim Jong-il himself for more than a month. He disappeared even from normal events in North Korea where he would have normally made an appearance, for example the anniversary of his father's death I believe. The, he hasn't shown up anywhere. There is some people who, its hard to know what that means. The military has been very assertive, making very strong statements of late, the tone of North Korean statements, official statements is highly, even by North Korean standards, highly belligerent of late. Its not only that they took, carried out these missile tests. For example, in the on going dialogue between North Korea and South Korea, which is a very important dialogue, North Koreans have actually started to shut off some of those channels. For example they closed off the official contact point in (unidentified), they, when the last North-South ministerial meetings that took place, the North Koreans took a pretty tough attitude and those meetings ended up ending a day earlier. We see a lot of signs that even preceded this launch of a kind of tightening up, a kind of closing down of their contacts to the outside world. And one of the most important things is their relationship with China. Its very unusual to have the Chinese as they did, very publicly tell the North Koreans, don't so this, don't launch these missiles. The statement came from the Premier, Chinese premier to that effect, they generally conduct their relationship with North Korea quietly and private. And we had a Chinese delegation, very high level delegation that went to North Korea after the tests. They were not received by Kim Jong-il, again very unusual, you would have expected it given who was there, so there is a lot going on here that is worrisome and in that context, I think the possibility for escalation has to be taken seriously. It doesn't have to be another missile test, it could be again cutting down other avenues of contact with the outside world, it could be military tensions along the demilitarized zone. People forget, but the DMZ is between North Korea and South Korea has been the scene of many incidents over decades. Its been relatively quiet in recent years, but I wouldn't be surprised to see something happen there. So I think if you know, if the trend we're seeing is going to continue, I think we have to worry about that. And then we have to worry about the possibility that actions will be misinterpreted, miscalculation, overreaction, all those things become elements of concern situation like this. I am going to ask Mr. Consul General, ask you a question about this notion of miscalculation, I mean to, how large is the risk that we will misread their actions? That we won't understand them in a larger or appropriate context? Number one. And number two, I wanted us, since we are talking about nothing but bad news thus far, is to give us a sense of what positive may have, you know what positive outcomes may have resulted from the 'Sunshine' Policy from your perspective? First, if you would just speak about the notion of misreading, miscalculating. Yes, this perception and this perception is always the issue in international relations, even between China and the U.S. or Korea and Japan, or Japan and China always the perception and misperception brings unexpected results or unexpected relations, we should be very careful not to aggravate the situation by misreading or by miscalculating the others motives so just now as Dan said, it is a mystery to know exactly what is the objective of North Korean parts of this missile test. So, but, still we are the same Koreans, so through dialogue or through several various contacts, or various levels, at least we get some feeling that even though they result to such kind of provocative actions, but if we try till we have a hope, bring them to dialogue table. Thats why we try our best. But we in our efforts in the U.S., has argued, that they have to, for example with respect to the nuclear program, they have to first give up their uranium enrichment program before coming to the table. How do you think that is understood by the North Koreans and is that an effective approach? I better ask my friend, Philip will talk about that. I think maybe what you're asking is, maybe what part of what the audience wants to know is sort of why were stuck in a certain way, why we are where we're at and why its taken so long. And I'll address the issue of mis perception or perceptions there. I think on one level the reasons why were stuck has to do with one thats procedural and you allude to that. Its who goes first, ok, um it also happens to be whether you dismantle the, you know and then you get all the benefits or not. The other thing has to do with also process, as you've heard, six party, four party, or bilateral. And some how we've gotten wrapped around the axle on something like that and not getting to the substance. For some reasons that has become very, very important. Just to recap, I mean what the North wants is bilateral talks with the United States, we say no, must be in the context... Right. And we can talk later, perhaps, about what those reasoning, what the reasoning is for those, but we've sort of gotten stuck on that point. But there's a deeper issue here that's involved which kind of makes me less sanguine about where we are right now. And I think its a fundamental gap, its fundamental between the U.S. and North Korea. Um, I think on one level, each side is convinced they can't deal with the other. Um, the U.S. know what's the point of having to deal with North Korea if they cheat. Um, you can't trust them, what's the point? Any agreement that you have is going to not be worth the piece of paper its on. From the North Korean perspective, they are saying well, why should we deal with the current administration? In a reality, they want regime change. They want us to, if they had their choice we would be off, you know, we'd be destroyed. So why should we disarm first and leave ourselves open to that? The second thing is interesting in terms of why we have this steep mistrust. And its going to take me, how to articulate, its a way to articulate how each views the other and it has to do with the lack of mutual understanding. And the way I describe this is that the U.S., the U.S. side has no understanding how threatened North Korea is by the United States, ok, from our standpoint, and I grew up with this, U.S. is the side of good. We stand for certain values and you know we don't attack countries preemptively, we don't and there is certain values that we believe in and that's something that we grew up with and so when someone says we're threatened by you, North Koreans saying, we're threatened by the United States, we can't understand that. On the other hand, North Korea doesn't understand how threatened the United States feels by North Korea and the missiles. From the North Korean perspective, they're this tiny country several thousand miles away, their economy is broken, um and the United States is the most powerful country in the world and why are we threatened by them? Thats what they say and they said while in reality that's an excuse for having an excuse so they can, for regime change. So that's the way they look at it. So you've got these fundamental gaps here, not only process wise, but really on an issue of deep trust and so that's why, until that is addressed, we are not going to be able to move forward on the other pieces. I mean, the elements of a deal, people have talked about for awhile there and a lot of smart people have thought long and hard about it and I think, you know that we have touched upon that they are there. But its really having the conditions there in order for that deal to come together and that's where the challenge is right now. I'm going to come back to you for the elements of that deal, but just, just hold on the notion of regime change, cause this is not out of, there have been some comments from, coming out of Washington with respect for regime change and I'm wondering what is your assessment about really, is there a yearning within the DPRK amongst the population for regime change or are, is there any evidence that that might occur? That may be possible, but I'm skeptical. You know we shouldn't assume that the people in North Korea are waiting to be set free. Um, we've made that assumption in other places as well. Um, and you know there is always the assumption with us that youth con notates more enlightenment some how, particularly if you are in such a restrictive society as North Korea. Um, but I think we need to think about the possibility that in fact the generation waiting in North Korea could be actually much more nationalistic, much more isolationistic, much more xenophobic, uh, than the current regime, current generation of leaders now and the reason I say that is the first generation of North Koreans existed, well came, were born when Korea was one country and um, they were at a time when North Korea was relatively prosperous and had a lot of contact with the outside world. The generation that's sort of in waiting came to being when there was only North Korea. Um, and they came and saw North Korea go from relative parity to South Korea to a country that has become one of the poorest countries in Asia and there is a deep sense of frustration as to why that is. And a lot of the propaganda that you hear, blames the United States. So this generation is waiting, in waiting is in a sense um, waiting to make their mark and if they come into power, um, it may not be what we, what we expect. And just a real short story, when I was in (unidentified), I met, I heard about there was some people in the military at the sort of, you know junior, senior colonel level which is a brigadier general and at the colonel level are much more radical in a sense than their elders and that they were just waiting and itching for a fight with the United States and I remember I went with delegation to North Korea and we went into the ministry of defense and this guy said the only reason I'm meeting with you is because I was told to meet with you and I don't like the United States and this is the first time anyone from the U.S., from U.S. government has gotten, has sat in the ministry of defense here. And he was Korean and um, you know he talked about the general sort of fire breathing, you know, we're going to bomb you, and we're going to do these other things to your home town and what was interesting is when I shook his hand its hard to say, its hard to articulate, but I felt an incredible disdain for me because as a Korean-American I was a traitor and I think that Bill Perry talked about how he seemed, you know this general seemed a pretty scary character while I personally felt very threatened because I felt like um, if it wasn't for my diplomatic status, he would have jumped across the room and done something. So, this is the feeling that I got from this guy and sort of made me feel, at least from an anecdotal basis, that this is something that we need to consider and not assume that in fact, um, you know Kim Jung-il is (unidentified), things are going to be better. Mr. Consul General, to what degree is this about North Korea? We understand from Dan that this is about security from each countries standpoint, but also from what, to what degree is this about respect and how do we, how can we find other ways to provide North Korea with the security it seeks and the respect it seeks without diminishing our own sense of security in place? These uh, we have a long relations with North Korea during last fifty or sixty years. Until very recently, we were each other's enemies and since June of 2000just we, we began this exchange of (unidentified) and economic corporations. Now that we are in the process of some confidence building up, then economic corporations. But still we have, see, a lot of issues to tackle, the security issues, the economic corporation, or the reunion of separate families, but uh, by our experience during the last fifty years since the Korean War till late 1990's, we found that there is no other alternative than to have dialogue. Just hatred brings hatred ok in and out. Action and counteraction, so we concluded that there is only one way just to serve the issue, just tom through dialogue and negotiations, even though it is not very simple, or sometimes takes a very long time, but still we have to have patience and have to go through it. But other ways we can not think of. Somebody talks about some mystery (unidentified) or but, as South Korean people we cannot accept it because if there is any kind of some second Korean War, South Korea will be the first attacked, first place, so. Dan, you know, of course there is this talk of there was this talk of a military option, is there a viable military option? This would be, that's an interesting question, because of course, there is sort of like the question of perceptions of North Korea and South Korea, it depends on who you talk to. I think there are still people in the administration and in the department of defense, who believe there is a, some form of at least coercive pressure that can be put on North Korea. Clearly we're engaged in a policy of , an attempted policy of coercion through economic means. Um, we are doing that now through financial sanctions, uh and maybe, I think the administration hopes they can use the U.N. resolution on the missile launch to open the door to forms of economic sanction. But I think there are also people who think in terms of least limited military options. We saw former Secretary Perry and Ashland Carter, who served in the Clinton administration wrote an op ed piece, fairly provocative piece suggesting that we should attack the missiles on the launch pad and destroy them and they argues that the possibility of this leading to a wider war between North Korea and South Korea was manageable and they didn't see that escalation taking place. I personally don't share that, that view, um I think the danger of any type of military action leading to a wider war is an extraordinarily real one and I have the greatest sympathy for those people in South Korea who, for whom this is their number one concern. And I think that as the Consul General just expressed, I think that's why South Koreans constantly come back t