The ICAS Lectures

No. 2003-1014-CLP

Road to Peace in the Korean Peninsula

Charles L. "Jack" Pritchard

ICAS Fall Symposium &
Humanity, Peace and Security
October 14, 2003 12:00 NN - 5:45 PM.
U.S. Senate Dirksen Office Building Room SD 562
Capitol Hill
Washington, D. C.

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Biographic Sketch & Links: Charles L. "Jack" Pritchard

Road to Peace in the Korean Peninsula

Charles L. "Jack" Pritchard
Visiting Fellow, Brookings Institution
Ambassador and former Special Envoy for Negotiations with North Korea,
U.S. Department of State

I came in toward the end of the last session where you were throwing darts at the Chinese Counselor which – it reminded me why I have avoided coming to this group when I was in government for the last couple of years. But I’m no longer in government. I’m no longer here to rationalize the administration policy. I do find in talking to a group like this, you have far better questions than I have prepared remarks. So I’m going to go briefly through, just to kind of bring everybody up to speed, probably some of which you have heard already today. And then devote as much time as you’re willing to the question and answer period. And I’ll only go back about one year because we’ve just passed the anniversary of the confrontation with the DPRK on their covert HEU – highly enriched uranium program.

On the 3rd, 4th, and 5th of October a year ago, Assistant Secretary Kelly, myself, and a couple of others when to Pyongyang, and which we certainly did not provide evidence but simply told them that we had previously been prepared to come and talk to them – it was called bilateral engagement back in those days – about a way forward in the relationship, but that we had discovered a very serious violation of both the spirit and the letter of the agreed framework through their HEU program, and that precluded us from talking about it with them at all. The North Koreans in that meeting on the afternoon of the 4th of October – First Vice Minister C… Suk Ju (??) gave what we believe was a very defiant admission to the HEU program.

Things have moved rapidly, far more rapidly than I think we thought at the time, and while I’m speaking today on my own, I’m referring back to part of the administration. We assumed the North Koreans would react in some manner, ultimately perhaps even withdrawing from the NPT, but we thought that it was such a serious consequence of their actions to do that, that it would probably be several months down the road. One of the first things that occurred is when we returned, we put together, after having talked to the Japanese and the South Koreans at a trilateral – referred to as the TCOG – trilateral coordination and oversight group – meeting in Tokyo – that occurred on the 9th of November. We came back. I went up to New York in my other hat then as the U.S. Representative to KEDO (?) and following the guidance from the administration, pushed for and got a halt to further deliveries of HFO. And as you all recall, the United States was obligated to coordinate the delivery of some 500,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil as part of our obligations under the agreed framework.

We stopped that on the 14th November – issued a rather tough statement. The North Koreans moved rather rapidly and toward the end of December they kicked out the IAEA monitors, unsealed the equipment at Yonghung (?) and began a process that led on the 10th of January to their withdrawal from the NPT, and things moved even faster after that, with the restarting of their 5 megawatt reactor, claims to begin anew work on their 50 megawatt reactor and their 200 megawatt reactor that had also been frozen under the agreed framework. They told us along the way that they had begun to reprocess some of the spent fuel rods – that that they can do to re-claim or extract plutonium, and then around June or so, and I’m skipping beyond the April – and I’ll come back to that – around June or so I was told in New York directly by the North Koreans that they had completed the processing of 1000 spent fuel rods. You heard it again publicly on the 2nd of October. Now we went some three-plus months after I’d been told. Now I can go into perhaps the reasons why, if you’re interested in that.

The U.S. policy up until the HEU was to engage the North Koreans. This administration came in and did a somewhat messy review process that ended in an early June statement that said we were prepared to have serious discussions with the North Koreans on a range of issues across the board, conventional, human rights, nuclear, etc. I spent a lot of time trying to get the North Koreans to a bilateral meeting, and that didn’t occur. I began on the 13th June, 2001 with a meeting with the U.N. Ambassador who was getting ready to depart; gave him a letter for what would have been my counterpart, Vice Minister Kim Gae Guon (?), saying that we were prepared to meet and have a dialogue with them on these issues. You may guess the reasons, but the North Koreans were not anxious to come into a meeting with us. Part of that was because of an exchange of rhetoric publicly that did not sit well with them. They were unsure at to what the U.S. really intended. They didn’t particularly like the idea of an expanded discussion that went into both the conventional and the human rights issues as well.

Around June of 2002 – so we went almost a year before the North Koreans began to come around for a number of reasons; they judged the President’s speech in Seoul in February of that year initially as atrocious; didn’t want anything to do with the "Bush Plan" after that. I spent a good deal of time in New York talking with the North Koreans, explaining to them what U.S. policy was going to be. We never had a very serious discussion about that. And then we began a process that was designed to set up an initial meeting, bilaterally, on the 10th of July a year ago, but as you know, there was an incident at sea in which a North Korean patrol vessel sunk a South Korean patrol vessel, and the U.S. unilaterally withdrew its request for a meeting.

In that period of time, from late June until we set up an actual meeting that occurred, as I said, 3, 4 and 5 October, U.S. intelligence began to get focused on exactly what this HEU program was about, the dimensions of it, and how serious it was going to be. The North Koreans, just to be fair here, had no inclination that we had any intention of coming to talk to them about HEU. When I set up the October meeting, they assumed that it was just a fulfillment of the postponed meeting that we were supposed to have in the beginning of July. They were very anxious at that point to have a dialogue with the U.S. They’d come to the conclusion that they could deal with us. All the things that I had asked for from the U.N. Ambassador – now, as you know, those of you who’ve dealt with the North Koreans – one, they’re not very punctual. You know, you write them a letter asking a request for a meeting for something like that, and it can be years before you get an answer. Because of the manner in which we scrubbed the July 2002, they were anxious to do this thing right, and so when I began to ask for things such as – I wanted to ensure that I could move people on the ground across the DMZ. I didn’t need to do that. We had military aircraft that we could fly, and for the most part we did, directly from Japan into North Korea. I asked for a different air route. I wanted to go directly via military aircraft from South Korea into North Korea. Both of those were designed on my part to force an interaction between the north and the south on the ground, particularly at the DMZ, as a very small, but significant confidence-building measure, where they had to go through the process of the coordination to let vehicles and Americans through the DMZ and into Pyongyang.

The North Koreans responded to me in 17 hours. Absolutely unheard of. They were extraordinarily anxious for this meeting to take place. They were looking for a presidential envoy to come. In this case it was led by Assistant Secretary Kelly. So they were looking forward to that. So when we got there and said, "That’s not what we want to talk about. We want to talk about HEU," they were stunned. They were not prepared for it. So part of the defiance, I think – going back and doing a little analysis of this – was a reaction to what was unknown to them at the time. But regardless of that, that’s what set us in the process of getting to where we are.

The United States decided some time around February – and you go back to the press and you can track this – at one point in time, Deputy Secretary of State, Rich Armitage, told Congress somewhere around the 5th of February that it would just simply be natural that we would move towards a bilateral discussion with North Korea. The reaction by those in the administration who were opposed to direct contact with North Koreans was immediate, and the official policy of the United States changed overnight to what you have seen in the past eight months or so to one in which we were prohibited from having direct dialogue with the North Koreans. Now that didn’t include me and my trips to New York. And going back and evaluating the role of the Chinese, a lot of people are not giving them very much credit for that, but step back and take a look at this process.

There is no doubt in my mind that there would not have been any talks with the North Koreans, not in April in the three-party format, and certainly not in late August under a six-party format, had it not been for the tenacious involvement of the Chinese. So I do give them credit for that. I was actually a little surprised that after what I would term a significant failure in the April talks, that the Chinese would continue as dedicated as they did to try to set up the six-party talks. But regardless – where we are in a one- period is moving from an agreed framework that has any number of critics, some of it justified, others a revision of history in terms of what could have been possible, but a situation in which the North Koreans or are concerns about North Korea’s proliferation issues were under arrest. It was not ideal. It postponed a lot of their obligations down the road, but nonetheless, the activities that we knew of, particularly concerned their plutonium activities, were shut down. They were monitored.

We now have a situation in which they are unfrozen, and not only do we have some type of an HEU program for which we do not know where it is, nor do we know at what state it is, nor when it will begin producing potential nuclear weapons, but we now have an unrestricted movement by the North Koreans publicly down a nuclear path in which they have said, "It is our intention and we are doing it to extract plutonium from the spent fuel. We are going to put new fuel into the 5 megawatt, and as that gets cooked, we’ll extract that and take plutonium from that as well. And we will continue that cycle as well as building our 50 and 200 megawatt reactors."

Now, move down the road some years and assume that they in fact complete their 50 and 200 megawatt reactors, and at some point in time, 18 months or so from now, their HEU comes on line – we will be faced with a North Korea, if we have not done something about between now and then – that is producing somewhere along the lines of 30 nuclear weapons a year. This is a country that doesn’t need one. This is a country that is expending by some estimates, 34% of GDP on its military. What happens when you get into an excess at a period of time in which there is a containment philosophy to put the squeeze on North Korea? Does anybody here believe that they are not capable of transferring plutonium technology or HEU technology or in products to some other party, and of particular concern, at least to the United States in the post-9/11 environment, is the prospect that this material or technology would wind up in the hands of a non-state player – terrorists.

So with that, let me just wrap up very quickly and take your questions, and as long as you remember that I’m not here to define the administration’s policy, I’ll try to answer them as honestly as I can. So let me just stop there and take your questions if that’s all right, Dr. Kim.

______: Ambassador, just one very quick question. There is a David Senger piece that I think everyone in this room read today in the Times that essentially says we know nothing, and we can’t be sure of our intelligence, especially in light of Iraq, and we’re scared to be sure of our intelligence. "We" I guess meaning the United States. One – what was your sense – speaking for yourself, and not for the administration anymore – whether North Korea was bluffing? Do you think North Korea was ever bluffing? Do you think that we should be taking North Korea more seriously? These are the questions that are raised at every single symposium, and you seem to be in the best position to speculate on them.

PRITCHARD: I’m very happy to speculate. That means I can’t be held accountable! But let me say – the consequences of being wrong, if you believe that they are bluffing, are too great. It is – it is not a path in which I’m willing to go down. They may not have a single nuclear weapon. I don’t know that. The U.S. does not have solid proof that they are in possession of one bomb. There’s a reasonable case to be made that they have one, two or more, based upon the unaccounted for plutonium that was a result of the 1994 agreed framework. Do I believe, as they have told me personally, and they have said publicly, that they have completed reprocessing the 8017 spent fuel rods and they have extracted enough plutonium for another five, six, or seven nuclear devices? No, I don’t believe they have. We don’t have any proof that they haven’t. We don’t have substantial proof that they have. Eight days ago I had a private meeting with Ambassador Li Gun (?) from Pyongyang. He was here for another conference. I went up to New York and met with him, and I told him, "I don’t believe you." His answer to me, in very confident terms was, "You’re wrong. We have completed it." Now, to be fair, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials even at the Li Gun level or above, may not know and they may very well simply be repeating what is now the policy line for Pyongyang. But they could be right.

CLAUDIA ROSETT: Yes, I have a question and I’d like to just put a quick factual question in …… two questions. The first one is – do you think the administration should have done something other than confront North Korea last October? And then the minor question appended to that is – why were the spent fuel rods left in North Korea all that time?

PRITCHARD: Let me – the first question – it’s a little complicated, and you know, my fingerprints are on this. But from a North Korean point of view, in their adamancy of saying on the 4th of October the essential, "Yes, we have a program," I found later through North Koreans that they were surprised that we essentially said, "Thanks for the admission," and then we left. From a North Korean point of view, what they expected was a continued and sustained engagement on that point. Now, in hindsight – and you know, I certainly didn’t have the foresight at the time – it probably would have been better to stay in Pyongyang rather than leave, and continue to pull on that string as far as we could. We didn’t do that. That would not have changed the outcome, I don’t believe. In the face of a North Korea that has essentially cheated on an agreement to halt their nuclear weapons program, it made no sense at all to continue to provide them with heavy fuel oil which was designed as a non-proliferation incentive. And if they are in the process of continuing a nuclear program, it just didn’t make any sense at all. But, the lack of engagement in the discussion with them is a contributing factor along the way to the speed in which the North Koreans have backed out and begun their process. They also have put on top of that what they believe to be a very hostile policy from the U.S. And they also believed that of the Clinton administration until the very end, so that’s not particularly new. Why were the spent fuel rods left there? It was part of an unresolved issue with North Korea during the agreed framework. It was put off – it was a sequencing. The North Koreans were required to move the spent fuel some time after the first LWR came on line, but before the second one was completed, so we would begin that process of moving things out. Now, they were not just spent fuel rods safely contained. We went through a number of years where the Department of Energy and the State Department were working with the North Koreans to get people in there to can this stuff. Now, it was simply sitting in the pool, a cooling pond. So it was there as a remnant of the agreed framework, and quite frankly, from a North Korean point of view, I think they always saw it as a bit of leverage. You don’t complete the reactor – we don’t remove the spent fuel. That’s what you’re concerned about.

CHRIS D_____: ….. I was with the KEDO Consortium in North Korea for six months in ’98 and ’99. One thing that the North Koreans constantly mentioned to us was regarding the agreed framework. They did not feel that two points in particular – they felt, "Look, we’ve been conforming to the terms, but you guys have been following the terms. No. 1, there’s still no change in the sanctions. No. 2, the deliveries for the light water reactor have been very, very late." So do you feel that in a way, and I’m sure there were other rationales as well – true or not true – which I’ve forgotten – but do you feel that at the end of the day, that they started to break their side of the agreed framework because the U.S. was not carrying its weight?

PRITCHARD: The North Koreans can use any excuse that they want, but the agreed framework, of putting together an International Consortium to build a world class nuclear facility – I was there a year ago in August – this isn’t being done on the cheap. I mean, you could transplant that place anyplace else in the world, and you would say, "I’d love to own this place. It’s going to be a money-making proposition." First class work on it. But putting that $5 billion project together, and working out the protocols with the North Koreans, some of which were intrusive, there was never ever going to be reaching the target date of 2003. We told the North Koreans that during the negotiations, and for whatever reason, the negotiating team agreed to allow the language to go in there that said, "There’s a target date of 2003" even though we were very explicit with them – "That’s not possible. It’s not going to happen." So they hung their hat on the slow delivery for which they are equally responsible on that. So I have little sympathy for that argument. They said the U.S. was not living up to its bargain of reducing sanctions. Well, the agreed framework spells out – and it says, "As you address issues of concern, we’ll begin to do these things." And there were some three minor banking – telecommunications, etc. points that did in fact get kicked off in January of 1995, but in fact, the rest of the sanctions were withheld by the United States because of any number of reasons. Fast-forward to the North Koreans missile launch in August of 1998 in which we began a series of integrated discussion – not just missile guys going off with missile guys to talk about missiles. It was an integrated discussion that led in September of 1999 to an agreement that was put into effect in stages. The North Koreans committed to a moratorium on long-range missiles, and the U.S. lifted a great many sanctions, putting them fully into effect in June of 2000. So sanctions have been addressed, certainly not to the – you know, and part of the problem is, as an example – you know, if you’re doing business in Iowa and somebody says, "Great news! Sanctions have been listed. You can do business in North Korea," your response ought to be, "No thanks." Unless you want to lose money in that proposition. So the North Koreans always had a mis-perception of what would occur when U.S. sanctions were lifted.

VOLLERTSEN (?): …. Any comments from your side regarding North Korean human rights issues, North Korean refugees, and the possibility of any U.S. assistance for refugee camps or U.S. asylum for North Korean refugees, and maybe the possibility of asylum for ………

PRITCHARD: Yeah – I’ll go back to the caveat I started with and "my side" is "me." And I’m not a government official and I don’t speak on behalf of the U.S. government. But there are any number of pieces to this puzzle. A couple of years ago, in a government capacity – I was in Beijing, I sought out the UNHCR representatives there, talked with them. I talked with the South Koreans. I’ve talked with the Chinese on this. You know probably better than anyone in this room, this is not an issue that people are going to want to rationally address, nor is there an easy solution here. The concept of a silent collapse of North Korea because the United States somehow, by setting up camps in Mongolia or getting the Chinese to do that on the Chinese side of the border and begin the osmosis, the flow of North Koreans out of North Korea and therefore the instability and the collapse – I don’t buy into. It would – there’s another aspect of that that I am concerned about personally, and that is – when you have the potential of large numbers of people moving, particularly in a country like North Korea, you’re going to have an increase of death. One of the things that I would be concerned about and one of the things that we go back to a question before I got started on – and Sandy Berger has talked about this before so it’s no big secret – there was planning in the Clinton administration on any number of things to include the potential collapse of the North Korean regime and what that would mean in human terms, and we would have the people and the migration and whatever else the office was called say, "The thing that we’ve got to prevent is mass movement of people." So doing that deliberately, without a plan in place that keeps people alive, seems to me a bit irresponsible. I understand where the question is coming from, and you will not hear from me a justification of the North Korean regime, but it is extraordinarily complicated. It goes beyond the diplomatic to any number of things for which I’m certainly not qualified to get into. And I’ll try to leave it there.

VOLLERTSEN: ……… Without the camps, there will be a disaster ……

PRITCHARD: Well, I won’t argue with you. I firmly believe that part of what needs to be going on right now, and if it isn’t implemented for 20 years so be it – it is North Korea will not continue to exist as a regime or a country in my mind beyond the tenure of Kim Jong Il. The idea of a succession to one of his sons doesn’t stand the test of rational thought. And I cannot imagine that that society will have a peaceful transition. It will be messy. It will be turbulent, and we ought to be thinking about it because even though Kim Jong Il is only 61years old, and he may have good genes inherited from his father who was in his 80s when he died, he could – as any one of us could be gone the next day by natural causes. And if we’re not prepared in some degree of planning, it’s going to be ugly and messy.

LEONARD: What does history show in terms of agreements that Kim Jong Il can be trusted to adhere to these agreements, to … treaties. He’s asking – that’s part 1. Part 2 – he’s asking for a non-aggression commitment from the United States. Is this a strategy to divide the United States politically during an election year? Is it something – partly that, and something else? What do you think?

PRITCHARD: Yeah – good questions. Let me take them in reverse order. No, it’s not a strategy. No, he is not playing to an election year. They’ve been looking for non-aggression commitments from the United States for a number of years. Certainly, specifically, during the agreed framework talks in ‘93 and ’94, and even before that. So this is nothing that is directed at this administration and the election a year from now. In terms what agreements Kim Jong Il and the North Koreans have made that they have kept and therefore can be trusted, you know I go back to an early comment and that is – you cannot afford not to try to resolve this in a diplomatic and peaceful method. Now, nobody has taken off the table ultimate solutions that don’t involve peaceful methods, but you must in a sustained way try. I would say and others would say – and I’m no big fan of the agreed framework, but people will say, "If it were not for the agreed framework, North Korea today would be in possession of 50, and by larger counts, up to 100 nuclear weapons. So in this environment in which we find ourselves fighting terrorism, the idea of North Korea with an excess of nuclear weapons, and a full-blown nuclear program is ludicrous. So I say that the agreed framework served a purpose and you can look to make agreements with the North Koreans – you certainly don’t have to trust them. This administration certainly wants a verifiable solution to the problem. That’s going to be tough, particularly when the standard are either all or none and that there’s nothing in between. But am I prepared to accept some type of verification scheme that history will say, "You know it was only 75% good, that you couldn’t verify the other 25%?" Yeah, absolutely – I’ll take it in a heartbeat. And then when we find that they’ve cheated, just as the issue in 1998 came up that they may have been cheating then at an area called Qum Chan …. (??) you go after them, and we spent eight months in negotiation unbeknownst to use that it wasn’t going to lead anywhere. But we ended up with access on multiple occasions to U.S. military inspection teams under the guise of visits – going in on two occasions, and we had the right to go back there after, to see for ourselves. Now, is it possible to deal with them? Yes. Are you going to be completely satisfied? No. Is it worth the effort? Let’s find out.

STEVE COLLINS: With AFP (?). It seems almost a contradiction that an administration which has kind of made the elimination of weapons of mass destruction and the prospect of them falling into the hands of terrorists a creed in places like Iraq and Iran, but a year since your meeting in Pyongyang, it seems hardly any closer to solving this crisis. Is this, in your opinion, a result of the splits, the supposed splits in the administration we keep hearing about? Is it perhaps a prudent decision to take a hard line initial position for future negotiations? Is it perhaps because there is no palatable solution to this crisis, but as time ticks on and you’ve already talked about what the North Koreans might actually be doing at the moment, it seems that the question is becoming more and more crucial.

PRITCHARD: Yeah. Let me be a little sarcastic at this point and tell you I don’t view going into a room and holding your breath until you turn blue in hopes that somebody else is going to negotiate for you a hard-line strategy. In the Clinton administration which has come under a great deal of criticism for its soft manner, they established a red line early on, as you have heard former Defense Secretary Bill Perry say on a number of occasions – that the reprocessing of plutonium at ……… would lead to U.S. military action. There are no red lines established by this administration. So I don’t know what "hard-line" means other than a refusal to deal directly with North Korea.

________: (inaudible for transcription)

PRITCHARD: Thank you for those 15 questions! I talked with her earlier before I came in! Let me – do we not know North Korea? Are we missing culturally? You know, the answer is – no, that’s not the problem. Yes, there are very few people in the administration who have had the experience of dealing with North Koreans directly in any sustained manner. But that’s – you never have a dearth of recommendations from people who have You know, former Secretary Bill Perry, Wendy Sherman, others, Chuck Cartman (?) at KEDO (?) who has spoken to this organization before – there are any number of people who have had the experience, so it’s not a question that we just don’t know what to do or how do to it right. There’s a fundamental commitment here that we’re not going to be engaged in a long, drawn out process, which I think is a mistake. North Koreans operate on their own time schedule. You know, time and time again we’ve gone into negotiations with the North Koreans, and we’re committed for – you know, pick a day, pick a time – seven days we’ve allocated for this negotiation. And about Day Three we figured out that we can come to a solution on some problem, and we’re thinking, "Okay, by Day Four, we’ll wrap this up and we’re heading home!" And the North Koreans have a very deliberate pace about this and they’ve decided beforehand what they’re going to agree to and if they can get what they need then they’ll reach that agreement. But it’s going to come before Day Seven. I mean, that’s it – period. So will have an artificial problem on Days Four, Five, and Six, and then we will work hard to get back to where we were on Day Three so we can reach the agreement on Day Seven. Now, that’s just – not of that process of engagement is there. The North Koreans are extraordinarily frustrated. They have no clue of who the U.S. negotiators are, whether from a personal level they can trust anyone; not that you require a personal level of trust, but there is some level, human level that enters into the diplomacy that is required. You cannot keep coming up with new people and expect to get someplace very fast. I also think – as you’ve seen in an Op Ed in the L.A. Times and then what I’ve done in the Financial Times on this Friday, that there 1) needs to be a parallel commitment to a bilateral sustained engagement. I’m all for six-party talks. It is a multi-lateral issue. It is not a question of the United States solving this nuclear issue with North Korea. But the idea in plenary session of some six sets of delegates with a minimum of 24 interpreters plus strap-hangers in a big room solving anything in the kind of detail that’s going to be required – not going to happen. Not going to happen at all! So there needs to be parallel engagement by all the parties involved, most particularly by the United States, so you can figure out what’s possible, work with your allies and your friends – in this case we count on that hand China and Russia – to work the weak points of our position to get the North Koreans to come around, so you then can take a sustainable solution back into the six-party process. So there needs to be working level meetings, intercessional meetings. There needs to be a sustained dialogue with the United States. And there probably needs to be a Bill Perry. You know, I was in the White House when the Congress said, "You’ve got to have a policy coordinator." And I was offended. Why do we need a policy coordinator? We’re doing just fine. They appointed Bill Perry and Wendy Sherman was his right-hand person. And it’s probably the first time I’ve ever been wrong in my life! They did a terrific job. And they did it at a level that brought in the entire inter-agency process. They did at a level that sustained the interest of our allies, and they were able to talk directly with the North Koreans with a degree of credibility. We don’t have that now.

LYLE B______ (?): …….. Magazine. I got here late and you might have already addressed this.

PRITCHARD: Oh, I did. Next question, please!!!!

LYLE B______: How can the U.S. lobby ……… to help with the North Korean refugee crisis …… and second of all, I don’t know if you can’t speak to …. Dr. …… ?

PRITCHARD: I can’t on the second. We did talk a bit about that, but not in the direct question that you’ve asked – what can the U.S. do to influence China. You missed the preceding speaker – Chinese Counselor – and the answer is: very little. It is still a requirement to do those things, but if you think that’s what’s going to happen, then you’re not being very realistic. You need to making other plans along these lines. You know, the reality of it is, I come from a practitioner’s point of view, not an academic point of view. Academically, I would rank those things and tell you that human rights is as important as anything that we could do. From a practitioner’s point of view, dealing with other countries – South Korea, whose citizens these are the moment they leave North Korea according to Article III in their constitution, and whose borders it belongs to – it doesn’t happen that way. So there’s a practicality of what’s a priority to the security of the United States. And let me just be blunt. If it were that high, that’s what we would be doing. But it’s not.

CHRIS _____: Is there – do you believe that there’s a kind of split, or two different camps in the North Korean government, i.e., one camp that really does believe in engaging with the outside world and another that feels, "No, we really have to close off," and if that’s the case, is the administration’s sort of more bellicose stance something that is sort of making the more conservative camp in the battle between those who want engagement?

PRITCHARD: The answer is, yes, but probably not. Now, let me explain that. The North Koreans, even during the Clinton administration, even at times when it looked as though the relationship was headed in a positive direction, always presented it in terms of – you know, "You’ve got to help us out here." The Ministry of Foreign Affairs – you know, "We want to have this relationship, but, listen, the hard-line folks back there…" And we kept saying, "Wait a minute, that’s our line. We’re supposed to say we really want to do this, but the Congress won’t let us." So we’ve both played this game. Now, it is true in part. We just don’t know the extent of it. So I cannot make a comparison that says the Bush administration’s hard-line policy and its rhetoric is exacerbating the situation and therefore the North Korean hardliners are going to win out at the end of the day, they’re going to shut themselves off and they’re going to move down a path to nuclearization and there’s nothing we can do about it. I can’t tell you that. There’s a bit of the drama on both sides when it comes to different attitudes in capitals.

_______: It seems that there’s conflict of interest whenever ….. comes up. Like, there is the human rights activist’s view, and also the South Korean government seems to be more interested in the unification process. And here ……. governments are committed, it’s more the threat of nuclear weapons. But on a practical level, there have been many reports that the malnutrition in North Korea is so serious ……… especially this winter, we may create an entire generation of children or babies who may go through malnutrition, therefore they will be under-developed, and the worst scenario would be a whole generation of … retardation. …… So what could be a practical way to solve that problem because whenever there is a headline about North Korea, it’s all about nuclear weapons, but not about this malnutrition, so how can we –

PRITCHARD: Yeah – let me make a couple comments. I don’t have a solution, but if I – as I listened to you, I was thinking: this is the argument that we heard in ’97 and ‘98. It’s not – unless it’s continuing within a very closed circle, that is not the argument that governments are talking to each other about. They are not talking about malnutrition in North Korea now. They’re talking about – we don’t understand, but it appears that people are better off in North Korea today than they were a year ago. So there is, for whatever reasons, a lessening of the dire consequences of not dealing with this situation. In terms of what to do here, I have told the North Koreans for years when it comes to food aid – there is donor fatigue. I’m surprised that it didn’t set in in the manner in which it did until about a year ago, which also coincided to the U.S. donor fatigue that set in at that time. But for years and years, the World Food Program has been able to get the amount of food that they needed to do a level of assistance and sustainment even though critics of the program would say, "There’s no way to monitor this stuff. What the WFP is telling us is not completely correct, so we ought to be stern and demand more of the North Koreans." Lately, that’s been the attitude of wanting to demand more of the North Koreans, but it’s come at a point in time where, quite frankly, the North Korean attitude is, "You don’t want to give us food? Don’t give us food, ‘cause we’re not changing the monitoring." So I don’t have a solution.

LEONARD _____: How clear-cut in focus are the six parties in the negotiations on achieving their objective of denuclearization? And are there collateral issues that come up as quid pro quos that the parties insist on for cooperation? Are there side-tracks like that? And one other facet – is there any identifiable incentive, economic or otherwise, other than altruistic humanitarianism, for focusing beyond the denuclearization issue?

PRITCHARD: Tough questions, but let me pick and choose how I answer that. No. 2 – are there any quid pro quos that come up in the negotiations? A. There are no negotiations. You know, so it’s a meaningless – in terms of what somebody wants to do – do something else. The North Koreans – as Counselor Yang has said, and probably others – have said, both publicly and privately, they would like to have as the objective, a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula. It seems a little strange since they also had a covert HEU program going in tandem to their frozen plutonium program. But nonetheless, that’s what they’ve said, and we do need to pull that string. So there is certainly from the others absolute commitment to that. Now is it tactical on the North Koreans’ side that as they enter into a set of talks that they don’t want to be at to begin with, that they put themselves at odds against the other five? That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So they have ascribed to some of the main objectives, in this case a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula, and that makes sense. In terms of an altruistic approach to other issues, the only one that comes to mind that fits the terminology of altruism comes in food and humanitarian concerns. This president has repeatedly stated that he does not want to connect humanitarian and, in this case, food issues with the political process on other issues. I think that’s impossible. The previous administration tried to say publicly and to say with a straight face to the North Koreans, "We respond to international requests for assistance on a case-by-case basis for humanitarian concern. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the politics of what’s going on." Then we proceeded to negotiate and deal in such a way that we could continue the façade of that, but the North Koreans fully understood that their giving in on some points would result in the U.S. somehow providing additional levels of food. This administration is different. The president has truly said he doesn’t want to see it, and the administration has tried to deal with it that way. I don’t know if they’ll be able to continue that, but they have. …. You missed somebody in the back here.

MARK ______: ……. (inaudible for transcription)

MARK ______: . . . . . . how do you think it would play out if the U.S. took more of a back seat …. And with the expectations of ……..

PRITCHARD: It wouldn’t work.

MARK _____: And why not?

PRITCHARD: You know, the United States, how ever it wants to perceive itself, is in fact a leader in Asia. It is beyond my comprehension that we could sit back and allow others to work out a resolution which we would probably be committed to. You know, it goes along with the U.S. troops aren’t put under command of foreign officers. That’s not something that’s going to happen. It’s an impractical approach to the way in which the United States deals with foreign policy problems. Now, that’s – part of the problem that we have here is we’re not doing that. We ought to be knee deep into this with our hands muddy, trying to find a solution here, and using the influence to whatever degree that the Chinese and Russians have in a positive manner on North Korea, as well as working closely with our allies on an acceptable solution.

CLAUDIA ROSETT: You’re advocating a very practical approach that basically dismisses entirely almost the entire North Korean population and deals with the officials you’ve been talking to over these many years. Have you ever met a North Korean refugee and I realize this isn’t to – I understand that politics is not made simply on emotion – but there are enormous issues involved here that speak even to things like the concentration camps in World War II …… Have you known everything –

PRITCHARD: Have I met a North Korean refugee? No. Have I been to North Korea? Yes. Do I deal with North Koreans? Have I spent thousands of hours with North Koreans? Yes. Does that qualify me as someone who understand the human dimension in North Korea? No. Now, as I said before, if you’re going to solve that problem, the practical approach is – you’ve got to resolve the relationship problem first. You know, for years we have been saying to the North Koreans, "You’re pushing for a normal relationship with the United States. You have gotten a free pass on human rights and religious rights, religious freedom. I don’t think you fully understand what it means to have a more normal relationship with the United States." You will quickly fall into the category that China and others do, and the focus will come more rapidly on those areas. As it is now, there is no focus. There is no spotlight, and there is no relationship.

_________: Ambassador, technically, if China stops all the food supply and fuel supply, then North Korea will collapse. Is it so?

PRITCHARD: No, I wouldn’t say that. We have seen over the years North Koreans come up with coping mechanisms, and what you’ve suggested is that the Chinese will voluntarily create instability on their border by shutting off some level of food and fuel that will cause a degree of unrest in North Korea that could cause the collapse of the country. I can’t imagine that the Chinese under any circumstances would push it that far.

________: Even if North Korea is in possession of nuclear weapons?

PRITCHARD: Well, they are in possession of nuclear weapons – at least that’s what we believe, and the Chinese certainly aren’t cutting things off. They are counting on a direct diplomatic resolution to occur. And until that is no longer a possibility, they are not going to entertain anything along those lines, and I’m not a China expert, but I would speculate that they still wouldn’t – in the extreme, would not do that.

TINA _________: I work for the Center …… Genocide ….. I’m a …. violation monitor. My question actually addresses an article that released by a U.N. …. And it was in the Associated Press. People from the World Food Program suggested that in the next six months another famine could break out in North Korea ……. I was wondering how do you think that’ll affect the stability of North Korea?

PRITCHARD: One – I haven’t seen the article, and two – and I’ll try to look it up – but as I said before, and I can’t quantify, but every person that I’ve talked to that has been to North Korea recently would say, "We don’t understand what you’re talking about. Things are far better than they’ve ever been before. There’s no new famine on the horizon." The North Koreans will say, and they have said to use recently, "If new food assistance from the United States is contingent upon doing X, Y, and Z, regarding monitors – keep your food." So you know, I don’t take issue with the report – I just don’t see it in practical terms.

MODERATOR: Well, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. It was a very vigorous meeting ……….

This page last updated 1/23/2004 jdb

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