The ICAS Lectures

No. 98-1124-CUW

North Korea's Missile Capability
and the
Regional and International Security Implications


Curt Weldon

November 24, 1998.

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422

Tel : (610) 277-9989; (610) 277-0149
Fax: (610) 277-3992




[Editor's note: This is a transcription of a recording of a speech by Curt Weldon. Undecipherable or unclear elements are indicated by double asterisks. Paragraph breaks were added. sjk ]


North Korea's Missile Capability and the Regional and International Security Implications:

Questions and Answers

The Hon. Curt Weldon (R-7th, PA)
United States Representative

[NOTE: Questions are barely audible.]

Q: ...and I saw many contrasts... We talked about human rights. And I'm involved in immigration issues and human rights. How can we continue to do business without having a strong hand with China? They're getting what they want or Russia and still giving ** to the countries. Some of the countries that you mentioned and it's not just China, it's France. So now what are we going to do? To get even these countries which are supposedly allies to stop doing that. I mean if everyone's doing it, no matter what we planned, others are going too likewise. So I'm not quite sure if spending all of these billions of dollars without getting the collaboration of these other countries not to sell or you know it's money, it's lucrative...

A: Well first of all, we need effective arms control regimes that the allied nations of the world are largely adhered, are largely signatories to, that are enforced. I mean if the US or France illegally sells technology there's a price to pay for that and we both know that. And you're right. France is one of the major exporters of every technology they can sell. But we also need to convince the Russians and the Chinese that in the 21st century world even with the unstability that both of them have, they need us to work with them practically and aggressively to help put into place, regimes internally that can allow them to stop proliferation. Now Russia is making some progress in that direction. In fact in January of this year, Yeltzin issued a presidential decree for the first time in getting to internally regulate proliferation. They're trying but it needs to be more than that. My concern is that I think that this is a Strobe Talbot** problem that largely drives out of Russian policy. I think that he doesn't want anything to surface that would appear to upset the balance between Clinton and Yeltzin. And you have to from time to time call them when there are things that they may think are embarrassing. You can't ignore and pretend it didn't happen. That's my problem.

The other thing we have to do is we have to do more in the case of Russia especially. We have to do more not less. You know we spend about 600 million dollar a year on Russia. If you are a Russian family you haven't see an iota of that money benefit your quality of life. It's not helping them put more bread on the table. So what does the Russian family think after 6 years of reforms? They think their food costs are going up, their economy is souring their grandparents' pensions have been eaten away by inflation. So their feeling is that reform has been a dismal dismal impact on my life. What I think the administration needs to be doing are some things that require small amounts of money that can affect average Russians. That's why for the past year and a half I have been leading the fight to negotiate an initiative that is modeled after our F** and Fanny Mae to set up a Russian housing mortgage financing mechanism. If you look at what FDR did in this country after the great depression. It was simple. He set up a mechanism federally guaranteed to allow every family including my parents, my father worked in a factory made two thousand dollars a year, 9 kids, but he was able to buy a home. A real house because he could get a mortgage for 30 years and interest rates were really low. In Russia no family can get a mortgage. No family. What we proposed is a western style program very tightly controlled similar to what we did in Israel for Israeli housing. Then with our Russian families to borrow money for up to 30 years at interest rates at below 10% to buy flats and houses and to create a housing industry. If you create a housing industry you give people a stake in the country and if you give them a stake in the country you also help create a middle class. And if you create a middle class as America has then you then create a solid country that will succeed and then will understand that from time to time when we call them on things that are happening there, we are not trying to undermine. Now whenever we go to call Russia the members do what I do ** that we only want to come in when there is something negative to be said. So I think it's a combination of aggressively setting into place proliferation control mechanisms but also showing the Russian people that democracy and free markets also means improvements in their quality of life. In fact if you're in the 15% in Russia who are in the upper income they're doing really well. They are making big money. They got their dachas** out in the suburbs along the beach areas. They're doing well. The rest of the people are probably worse than when they were under communism in many cases.

In China, the case here is somewhat different because you already have the rigidity. You don't have the problem with the crime. There the problem is different because the PLA is an owner and investor in most of the business enterprises. So there have been some steps that have been taken and I give credit to Jiang Zenmin and *** They've been trying to get the PLA to reduce their presence in the major economic establishments. I think this is the right track. We should be encouraging that.

Q: ...

A: I can't discuss this. This is a public session. You want me to talk about the Thresher** and the scorpion in a public session! How many of you know what the Thresher or the Scorpion are? Maybe two people in the whole room. The Thresher and the Scorpion are US nuclear submarines that are on the bottom of the ocean, with their crew still on board with their nuclear weapons and their nuclear reactors still in tact. They had accidents. They weren't embarrassed over. But it was a navy admiral criticizing Russia for not allowing us to have access to look at what they allowed to have happened when we won't even acknowledge to our own American people. Do we have to have similar situations occur?. Well three weeks after that hearing the US navy released the film footage of the Thresher and the Scorpion to ABC TV and they wrote and they showed it on either Nightline or 60 Minutes or one of those shows. But the point is if we want to hold Russia and China accountable, we've got to be transparent. And I tell my counterparts who do them all the time you have things that bother you about the US? I tell them I don't always trust our military. There are things that I have to challenge them all the time. All the time you come to me with those but I want the same ability to come back to you.

And China the same thing. I sat across from the number 2 guy in the Chinese military. He was my host General Gang**. now General Gang in case you don't know who he is, he's the guy who issued a veiled threat against the city of Los Angeles against the ***remember on the debate on the straits of Taiwan. He said, "Well I think the American people are more concerned with Los Angeles than they are with Taiwan." You remember that statement. That was General Gang**. And so he was telling me at the luncheon table. I was there with a number of members of Congress and his whole military staff. He was in his uniform. He has an idiosyncrasy where he laughs after every statement he makes. He was saying that "You know, we don't take lightly you sending your aircraft carrier up in the straits between China and Taiwan. This is a problem we will resolve" I said, "General. I understand and I agree with you that we can't let these kinds of confrontations occur and I am working at that but let me tell you something General. We in America don't think lightly of senior Chinese officials issuing veiled threats against our cities." He lowered his head. He was embarrassed but that's what you have to do. I wasn't trying to have the guy go away feeling bad but I want him to know that I understand his position but that he'd better understand mine. And I think if you do that I think in the end you have a stable relationship that is built on candor and not some artificial ignorance of facts and reality.

You know and I'm not and I wasn't even in office for most of the time when Ronald Reagan served but let me tell you one thing about Ronald Reagan whether you like the man or not. When he called the reason why Ronald Reagan is today so popular in Russia among the people when he called the Soviet Union the evil empire that 95% of the Russian people who weren't communist agreed with him because they didn't have what the communist party members had. They couldn't leave the country. They didn't have the dachas**. They didn't have all the nice things. So when he said that is was the evil empire, the bulk of the Russian families agreed with him. But when we have a government that keeps reinforcing Boris Yeltzin who's out of control now and who is relegated to do some second class **status of throwing rocks, how could we expect the people of the country to have any respect for us? Because we're the ones reinforcing Yeltzin whose been reinforcing the Yalu** guards who have taken the bulk of the money in Russia and have sent it out to Swiss bank accounts and US real-estate investments instead of helping Russia stabilize. So what are the Russian people supposed to expect? America just doesn't get it. We've not been transparent. We've not been candid. And that's what we have to do with both countries and if we do that I'm convinced that we can be successful. You can be tough with Russia as long as they know that in the end they know you're caring about where they are.

When I go to Russia my meetings are about building stable relations, about building trading relations and they know I work at that every day. But they also know I'm going to ask them all the tough questions. I want to know why this woman was assassinated in Saint Petersburg. The second member of the Dumas**. In one year my friend was killed a year ago in July. Assassinated in his home. Even I didn't agree with him. He was a member of Yeltzin's party. He was chairman of Dumas** defense committee. He was the first to call for Yeltzin's resignation. The first to call for Yeltzin's impeachment even though he was from Yeltzin's party**. On July the 3rd, he was shot in the head at his house. The Russian government blamed his wife. His wife's in jail today. I met with his daughter in Moscow in September. She gave me the fax and she told me why ten thousand Russian people came out on the streets in Moscow for his funeral. What did our government do? We don't know what happened? This is democracy? Do we care about human rights? This is not a democracy when you assassinate elected officials and the parliament of the country twice now. And we've not issued a peep. I will when I go there next week. I'll meet with her family. I'll go to her flat in Saint Petersburg and I'll make the statement that yes I want Russian to succeed but a stable Russia does not allow and ignore political assassinations of people because they criticize the communist party or because they criticize the thugs in Russia. Those are the kinds of things we have to do. We have got to get the imagination and attention of the Russian people.

We got to do the same thing in China and if we do we'll succeed. And it doesn't mean that you can't ask those questions or that you can't call them on violations. You have to. You have no choice because there are still people as there are people in China who see us as the enemy. I can tell you there are think tanks in Russia who want to go back to the days of making their money because America was the evil capitalist nation, the imperialist nation. They want us to be the enemy just as we have Americans, some in my party who want to recreate Russia as the evil empire. The same thing exists in China. We can't let that happen. But we got to be realistic and we have to be honest and candid in terms of our relationship. And in my opinion we have not done that for the past ten years or past seven years.

Q: I have a question about defensive capability against medium range missile...

A: We don't have...

Q: as far as I believe we have a star war system

A: No. Nothing.

Q: Nothing?

A: No. First of all the star wars system, when Ronald Reagan wanted to build a shield over the country that could have access in space, that could take out a massive all out attack by the Soviet Union. That's impossible. It's impractical. For the past ten years we've been working on initially what was called strategic defense initiative. Now it's been scaled down to a very specific capability of defeating a limited attack by 1 to 5 missiles. Either a deliberate launch by a small nation, a rogue nation or an accident launch like Russia accidentally launching. We have no system today. Nothing. If a Russian ICBM** is accidentally launched there is nothing we can do. Nothing. I'm the chairman of the R&D committee. I know as much as anybody in Congress about missiles and I'm telling you there is nothing we can do. We can't send a plane up. We can't send another missile up. There is nothing we can do today. We have no system to defeat even an accidental launch of one missile. If it happens it's all over. One city will be wiped out. It will be wiped out and everybody will say how did this happen? It happened because we didn't build a system.

Now Russia did build one. Under the ABM treaty each country could build one ABM system anti-ballistic missiles system. Russia chose to build one around Moscow. It's called the Galache** system. It's been operated three times. In our country the liberals convinced us not to build anything. We have nothing. We have no system. So if there are missiles launched against the US you know that's the way it goes. Now in terms of medium range, the threat is here now. We have had kids killed in Desert Storm by a scud missile. People in Tel Aviv. In fact I'll be going to Israel in January. We'll be doing a joint hearing with the Kanesset**. I had one in Washington in September and we'll be talking to the families who lost loved ones in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem. Tel Aviv especially hit by scud missiles. We have no system in place today. We're building, we're trying. The army's building a system called fad feter** high altitude area defense. Its at least 12 to 18 months away. We've had test problems. We've had 5 failures. The rockets have not worked properly. The navy doing an area wide system and they're building a system using our area's ** ships which Japan has it's called navy upper tier that won't be ready until the year 2000 at the earliest. We're building a pat 3** which is an enhancement of the patriot. That system will be ready in a year. But it won't have the capability of the advancement of the North Korea nodang** and the Iranian Shahab 3** missiles. They're too fast for those systems. Israel is working on the arrow system at a program called nordus**. Nordus** will provide sub capability ** against Russian ** rockets which are cruise missiles. The arrow program will provide capability against a faster cruise missile but it still won't take out the longer range missiles that Iran has. So we have a vulnerability. We are working on a program with the Italians and the Germans called MEAS**. the administration is about to announce that they are going to cancel the program right out. Why? They don't have enough money so the Italians and Germans are going to be very frustrated and they just committed to the Japanese they want to help them. We haven't even funded it, the program with Italians and Germans. So now we are going to funnel it with the Japanese. That gets back to the money issue. So the threat of missiles is real. It's all over the place and unfortunately we have no defense today created against medium or long range missiles. Nothing.

Q: Congressman **, I just really enjoyed your speech. I think this is exciting. Always. I heard your speech a year ago. This is another subject. But especially tonight I really enjoyed the way coming in to tell us the problems. And as a Chinese American in this country we just wanted to appreciate the way you pinpoint the problems. You are courageous enough to challenge us for that kind of question and the problems we have today. And one thing is that I am so happy that you are the chairman in charge of the research committee. And as I was researcher and a young entrepreneur, one of the problems I see in this country is right now there are several vehicles that the government is using to promote new technologies such as ** other types of , those new ideas. But the problem I see is in the screening process and recently we submitted a grant to the SBLL**. We got very good comments from the reviewer. He said this is best of technology and that the point of the reviewer because of the cost in fact they are talking about re** it's not really the cost issue. So I'm confused. So finally they said, "Oh you got a very good score. 246 the passing point is 250. And then we got 249 and they said, "Chris we don't have enough money to fund you this time." So this is the for me as an entrepreneur. But we are American Heart Association this year to present new technology because right now each year the government spend about 4 billion dollars just to ruin and rule out the heart attack patients. And with this new technology we are going to trim line and assist efficiency and make the right diagnosis and as I said these are some of the problems of in terms of the screening process. How could we just lie in a smart region working with you coming from the smart region. Put the technology aside that's just an end point in terms of fut** goals I think that's some problems maybe you could advise me on how to deal these kind of problems.

A: I'll be happy to Chris. In fact we're trying to link up Fort Dietrich in Maryland** as the site for most of the health care R&D money for the military. And by linking us all together with Fort Dietrich** we can get kind of in an on-going basis, a relationship with the senior people in the Pentagon who are spending our health care R&D dollars. Now you know when people think of defense they think, 'well I don't want to be involved in building guns or missiles.' Do you what the largest funder of breast cancer research in America is? Do you know what it is? The Pentagon. 300 million dollars a year. All of our breast cancer research is funded though the Pentagon. 300 million dollars a year. Prostrate cancer research? The Pentagon. Most of our major health care R&D initiatives are funded through DOD. And with the kind of technology Chris is talking about if we're linked up in real time with Fort Dietrich, then if they want to test some new initiative or we develop some new technology that could be used in the civilian health care industry why not test it first in the military cause the military oftentimes has the greatest need. They need ** medicine they need virtual surgery, they all need all the kinds of cutting edge technology that civilian worlds are going to have and by linking in with Fort Deitrich and by having them know our capabilities in a real time way then it makes it easier to sell them when we have an innovative technology like with what Chris is talking about. Chris, what I like to do is at some point in time, you briefed me on that and let me follow up on that Chris.

Q: Speaking about the missile defense issues how is Mr. Clinton's administration dealing with Korean missile threat?

A: You know it's the same thing. We have an agreed upon framework that the Clinton administration negotiated with North Korea, that supposedly the North Koreans gave their word that they would stop their nuclear program for weapons. The problem is that the Congress has had evidence both though the intelligence committee and the national security committees that North Korea has not been abiding by the agreed upon framework. In fact now they have constructed a massive underground complex where we think they are still doing their nuclear work underground which we can't see. Again part of our solution with North Korea is that we got to engage the Chinese because the Chinese have access there that we don't have. But again it's also taking a hard line with North Korea. And you know I think we have had mixed signals sent to North Korea. Many in the Congress are concerned that we've sent the wrong signals. That one day we're tight with North Korea and then the next day we are overlooking of what we know to be violations of the agreed upon framework.

Same thing with Iraq. Look at Sadam. He tests us on a regular basis. He's doing it right now again. We go to the brink and we back off and he knows we're spending hundreds of millions of dollars everyday just to maintain our presence there. You're paying that bill. How much longer can we keep our troops all over the world? You're talking about being the world's policemen. 27 deployments in 6 years. We are all over the world. How much longer can you afford to foot that bill? And when you start to pull those troops back you watch what happens. Are we prepared to stay in Bosnia forever? Are we going to stay in Haiti forever? Are we going to stay in the Middle East forever? So we better face the fact that we are going to have to spend a lot more money on the military and if we're not prepared to do that than we better bring some of those troops back home or get our native allies to pick up more of the cost. You know the debate in Congress over Bosnia wasn't whether or not we go into Bosnia. Everybody agreed with that. The question in Congress was why is the US sending 36 thousand troops to Bosnia when Germany is sending 4 thousand troops? They're right next door. The debate is why is the US paying the bill for this. Japan can't have a military. We know that well. Let them pay some of the cost. They're an established industrialized nation let them pay some of the bill. But that's not what's been happening. We're paying the bill and we're putting more troops there and you can't keep doing those things. Folks it's your money. Any other questions? Q: what is the real intention for the ***

A: ...selling technology? Because they have so many people willing to buy. Because they have so many customers. They've got the Syrians. They've got the Libyans. They've got the Iranians, the Iraqis. They'll I mean they already sold scud missiles and you know there all kind of nations and rogue groups that will pay the right price. So they're filling a market void to some extent where the countries that were allied with Russia when it was the Soviet Union. North Korea will sell anything to anybody. It also gives them they think leverage. I mean you know they now got the ability to hit South Korea with missiles and with weapons of mass destruction that's a severe threat to South Korea. Its' a serious threat to Japan. So I think it's a combination of both leverage and selling.


A: I don't think they'll ever do that. But you know it's not even a threat of an attack. Let me give you a little. This should scare you. And if there are physicists in the room and I know there are you'll know what I'm talking about. You know what one of our biggest concerns is? It's not a nuclear attack. It's a nation like North Korea having the ability of a 3 stage rocket with a small yield nuclear weapon on board. To put it up in the atmosphere off of our coast and exploding it. The electromagnetic pulse not the nuclear weapon depending upon where it is. 200 300 miles up it could wipe out every bit of electronic capability that America has. It would fry all of our electrical systems, all of our electronic systems, all of our computers, every automobile and truck would stop dead because the ENP** pulse would wipe out everything and wouldn't harm the people. People would still be there. They would say what's going on here? Why did my car stop? Why did my truck stop? Why can't I call on the phone? Why is my power off? Because of one low yield of nuclear burst in the atmosphere and the electromagnetic poles given off from that.

That's the problem. If North Korea does it what do we do? Do we attack North Korea when all of our systems are down? When America is chaos? And it will be chaos. Can you imagine every freeway with every vehicle stopped because the ENP** burst has knocked down and fried all of the electronics in those vehicles? That's what would happen. Am I right or wrong? You physicists? We've had hearing after hearing and the only solution is to harden all of our systems. The only systems we have hardened today are our ICBM** systems to respond. Well who do we attack then if we don't know where the launch came from? Who are we going to attack?

Q: ...what's your opinion about ***

A: Well I mean obviously I would like to see Korea eventually be one Korea. But I can't tell you how to do that. That's got to be Koreans telling us how to do that. I think our support has got to be steadfast with our friends in South Korea. Steadfast. They must never doubt our strength, our support, and our resolve to be with them. And North Korea must know that there will never be any doubt there whether by maintaining our troops or by helping them with their air defense system. But how the unification will occur I don't know. But with the current administration with North Korea, I don't know how that comes about. But eventually we're going to have to have a dialogue. I think that dialogue probably eventually comes though China. I don't know how else we'd get there. I mean I'd be one to go to North Korea myself but I don't have any ties there and I don't know who does in this country unless there's some other way. I mean we've tried to extend, we've tried to use a two part process of trying to help them with food need and you know their people. But the current regime in North Korea is just bent on this massive military buildup and this massive underground complex with is very elaborate and very costly. And they're continuing to deploy missile systems that are some of the best in the world. So it's going to take time. But I think the thing we can't do is to allow South Korea ever to become vulnerable. That would be the worst mistake.


This page last updated 8/28/99 jdb

ICAS Fellow
Speakers &
Lectures &