Nuclear Northeast Asia
Panel: Session 2 (Grand Ballroom I)
Date/Time: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 / 14:00-15:15
Speakers: Jun Bong-Geun, Korea National Diplomatic Academy
Bruce Klingner, Heritage Foundation
Richard Weitz, Hudson Institute
Rapporteur: Darcie Draudt, Yonsei University
Moderator Toby Dalton opened the panel by encouraging broad considerations of regional implications and alternative pathways to resolution, including pragmatic options for policymakers.
Dr. Richard Weitz spoke about the ways in which the 2013 crisis is more dangerous than past situations. He pointed to several key differences, following Pyongyang’s three demonstrations of its capacity to detonate nuclear explosive devices. Pyongyang either has, or soon will have, the capacity to launch a nuclear warhead to reach U.S. soil. Second, while 2010 South Korea leadership took time to respond to the sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, the 2013 South Korean administration promptly claimed it would respond to future attacks with equivalent damage. Third, there is evidence of North Korean and Iran sharing nuclear technology. Weitz noted the implications of a nuclear North Korea are not only constrained to Northeast Asia, but also affect the U.S., China and Russia. Despite the importance of effective cooperation by these parties, their cooperation is quite low on this issue, he said.
Mr. Bruce Klingner began by warning that dismissing North Korea’s pattern of behavior as circular would be a mistake. Over the past year, North Korea has violated UN Security Council resolutions, reneged on agreements not to pursue nuclear weaponry, threatened strategic nuclear annihilation and tactical attacks, and rebuffed South Korea and US attempts at dialogue. “We need to focus on behavior rather than possible reasons for the behavior, and form policies accordingly,” Klingner said. He also pointed to the “very pragmatic” three-pronged policy of the Park Geun-hye Administration, which includes building a strong military deterrent; trust building followed by humanitarian and developmental assistance in context of proper behavior; and aiming at eventual unification. Klingner saw benefit in dialogue, but called into question how Six-Party Talks could currently be enticing to North Korea as China already provides them what they seek.
Dr. Jun Bong-Geun began by making a distinction between past and current errors in approaching the issue of North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear proliferation. Past attitudes might be characterized by underestimating Pyongyang’s desire and capability to acquire nuclear weapons; nowadays, Dr. Jun said, the mistake is in somewhat overestimating nuclear capabilities. The posture of the South Korean reaction must address three fronts: military preparations, sanctions, and diplomacy. In order to reverse North Korea’s path to nuclearization, a “Korean-specific denuclearization solution” must be developed. Jun warned against using models from other cases, such as Libya, in which the circumstances were significantly different: in these cases the countries were near the end of the war and the leaders were willing to negotiate. With North Korea, however, the key lies in committing to a sustainable policy backed by domestic consensus and international support. Jun noted that China must work with South Korea on this issue. “We often have high expectations on China. But, we don’t expect them to intervene on something they don’t want to do,” he said.