event BI

Asan North Korea Conference

September 25, 2013 / 14:30-15:30
Patrick Cronin, Center for a New American Security
Chu Shulong, Tsinghua University
Gordon Flake, Mansfield Foundation
Shin Beomchul, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Noboru Yamaguchi, National Defense Academy of Japan


Session Sketch

Session 3, titled “International Coordination on North Korea,” examined the current status of international policy coordination among the members of Six Party Talks and proposed major obstacles and possible solutions for such problems. In addition, each speaker represented each country’s point of view on the issue, enabling the discussion to develop with diverse perspectives.

The moderator of the session, Patrick Cronin from the Center for a New American Security, began with his comments on the general steps of the international coordination in Northeast Asia and laid out the agenda for the session, such as the obstacles in organizing the coordination and the current situation of North Korea.

Chu Shulong, the professor at the Tsinghua University, spoke about two major problems in the policy coordination among five countries on North Korean issues. First, there are different approaches and different assessments about North Korea. For instance, the United States, South Korea, and Japan share different sense of urgency on North Korean issues with China, and each country has different opinions about the sanctions. Second, the difference in prioritization exists among countries. China sees denuclearization of North Korea as the final goal, but the others see it as the number one priority issue. The solution Prof. Chu proposed was “more dialogue and consultation” between China and the US-ROK-Japan alliance. By trying to understand each other and to convince Chinese society, there is a possibility of reaching consensus among five nations.

Gordon Flake from the Mansfield Foundation continued to explore the general difficulties on international policy coordination. As countries become more proactive, policy coordination will be more difficult since different priorities come in. However, Mr. Flake emphasized that the cooperation between the five countries is alive and well through Six Party Talks. Although the actual meeting has not resumed, the concept itself is working as a broad regional security mechanism. Then he moved on to discuss about China as the key player in the coordination, because China is the one who disagrees with general policy approach of the United States toward North Korea. Moreover, Mr. Flake suggested more improvements in bilateral relations, such as Korea-Japan relations and inter-Korean relations, for the better coordination. Finally, he clarified the policy objective of the United States as Northeast Asian regional stability, not the North Korean policy.

Shin Beomchul from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs began with his explanation on the rationale behind the North Korean nuclear issue. North Korean political system was built on the emergency system. So out of necessity, North Korea maintains its provocation in order to create its external threat. Mr. Shin suggested ‘financial pressure’ and ‘persuasion through dialogue’ as possible solutions. First, eliminating the source of hard currency for the weapon development is important. However, continuous dialogue and cooperation between the Six Party members should also accompany with such tactic. Finally, he emphasized the habit of cooperation among countries and the trust that builds upon such habits.

Noboru Yamaguchi from National Defense Academy of Japan suggested two sets of problems in the international policy coordination among Six Party members mainly in Japan’s perspective. Mr. Yamaguchi summarized the problems posed by North Korea into four categories: a direct threat of ballistic missiles, a threat to prevent further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, a threat to the stability of the Korean Peninsula, and growing intensity of such threats. He explained that the threat perceptions of each country vary with each country’s geographical location. Moreover, Mr. Yamaguchi emphasized the role of Japan’s relationship with Korea and China in the process of cooperation. He acknowledged that the tension in Japan’s diplomatic relations must be reduced through Abe administration’s political gesture. He claimed that since the level of tension heightened during the domestic power transition period, it is important to accumulate small diplomatic steps among Korea, Japan, and China for the better relations in the future.

During the question and answer section, questions were divided among three topics: the Korea-Japan relations, Northeast Asian security dynamics with the rise of China, and the function of Six Party Talks in North Korean issues. On the topic of Korea-Japan relations, interestingly while Dr. Cronin and Mr. Flake emphasized the cause of trouble as the lack of political will and divergent political trends of two countries, Mr. Shin and Mr. Yamaguchi focused on the intense feelings and the lack of sincerity between two countries. However, all speakers proposed indirect or unofficial meeting in terms of sincere political gestures for the solution of the problem. In addition, knowing the cooperation between Korea and Japan is essential to the stability of Northeast Asia, Mr. Shin and Mr. Flake underlined the need of fundamental foundation for deep understanding and sensitivity on both sides. Then the discussion moved on to the topic of regional security dynamics with the focus on China and the US alliance structure. According to Mr. Flake and Mr. Shin, even after the unification or any change in North Korea, the US-ROK alliance will continue based on its common values – not the external threat, – but will not pose any threat to China or Russia. However, Professor Chu warned that since China sees the regional strategic architecture as US-ROK-Japan versus Russia-China-North Korea, the US and its allies should be aware of such concerns. On the section of the Six Party Talks, all agreed that it is necessary to keep the system alive for the sake of transparency and diplomatic cooperation. However, it will be hard to resume the actual meeting unless new ideas or energy and willingness to show commitment on North Korean issues emerge in the member countries, especially China.