ICAS Special Contribution


Opening Remarks to the Full Committee Hearing on

"The Korean Peninsula:
Six Party Talks and the Nuclear Issue"

Chairman Henry J. Hyde

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422

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Biographic Sketch & Links: Chairman Henry J. Hyde

[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge the special contribution with written permission from the author to ICAS.

Opening Remarks Full Committee Hearing on "The Korean Peninsula:
Six Party Talks and the Nuclear Issue"

Chairman Henry J. Hyde

For over a decade, as the eyes of Washington and the world have turned progressively toward other crises in other places, a dark cloud has been slowly rising over the Korean peninsula. The question today is whether that cloud has taken on a mushroom shape and, if so, what we should do.

The Korean peninsula, while small in global terms, is of strategic importance. For Korea lies at a crossroads where great military and economic powers come together: Japan, China, Russia, and America's State of Alaska. The Korean people have long recognized their homeland's vulnerability as a potential point for Great Power conflict. "When whales fight, shrimp get broken" runs the old Korean proverb.

The whales have indeed come to the Korean peninsula, where they waged bloody wars. Almost exactly a century ago, in the spring of 1905, the capitals of Europe were stunned when the emerging Asian power, Japan, sank the Imperial Russian fleet in the waters off Korea. The repercussions of Tokyo's rousing victory in the Russo-Japanese War were felt throughout the Twentieth Century. Imperial Japan, with a new confidence, began its long march toward empire. This was a march which reached its zenith of imperial overreach on a quiet Sunday morning, almost four decades later, at Pearl Harbor.

Imperial Russia, shaken to its foundations by its unexpected defeat, entered a period of instability which culminated a dozen years later in the Bolshevik Revolution. The repercussions of that revolution continued throughout the Twentieth Century until the Berlin Wall became a pile of rubble in 1989.

Almost fifty years after the clash of Russia and Japan over Korea, the peninsula again became ground zero with the outbreak of the first major Cold War conflict. North Korea, on a quiet Sunday morning, in June, suddenly and deliberately attacked the Republic of Korea. Two other Great Powers, the United States and the People's Republic of China, were soon engaged in a three-year long, conflict which left over 36,000 Americans killed, some 17,000 allied dead, and as many as two million Korean civilian and military casualties.

The question before us, then, is will history repeat itself in its fifty-year cycle of cataclysm in Korea, or can a unified, measured diplomatic response within the framework of the Six Party Talks resolve this crisis in a peaceful manner?

Pyongyang must realize that a nuclear free Korean peninsula is a fundamental principle to which its neighbors unanimously subscribe. There is no substitute for the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. While Pyongyang's rulers may find such an inspections regime intrusive, they must realize that, after such previous failed attempts as the well-intentioned but ill-advised Agreed Framework, they have zero credibility on nuclear issues. To paraphrase an expression of President Reagan, with regard to Pyongyang, one "should trust very little and verify completely."

North Korea should be under no illusions concerning Congressional support for normalization of diplomatic relations until it provides a complete cessation of its proliferation activities and an accounting of the abduction of both Japanese and South Korean citizens. Those abducted include the Reverend Kim Dong-Shik (KIM DONG-SHICK), the spouse of an Illinois resident, who is of particular concern to that state's Congressional delegation.

Our colleagues, particularly China and South Korea, may have to reconsider the degree to which they shower assistance on a regime which has added nuclear blackmail to its arsenal of threats. The entire existing, delicate security balance in Asia will be deeply affected by failure to address North Korean nuclear adventurism.

We and Seoul should, as allies, work together to meet this challenge as we have done most recently in Iraq. The Republic of Korea has provided the third largest contingent of forces in the coalition working together in Iraq. For that commitment by Seoul, the American people are extremely grateful.

However, mixed signals on the security question, coming from Seoul, only compound the challenge we face with North Korea. The Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense White Paper for 2004 contained an apparent contradiction which causes some confusion. On the one hand, it deleted the designation of Pyongyang as "the main enemy," although Pyongyang's continued hostility has been a major rationale for the US-ROK alliance. Second, the White Paper stated that, in the event of armed conflict in Korea, the U.S. would dispatch 690,000 troops B over four times the 150,000 U.S. forces now serving in Iraq. This seems to reflect great expectations at a time when U.S. resources are already elsewhere committed. Congress would certainly have a major role in examining the implications of such a massive deployment. It also raises a very germane issue: if you need our help, please tell us clearly who your enemy is.

Finally, let me note the disquietude with which we must view Pyongyang's attempt to make Washington, rather than itself, the focus of scrutiny over supposed hostile intent. Pyongyang's latest maneuver is to demand an apology from Washington for Secretary Rice's recent reference to "outposts of tyranny." Is there any doubt in this room, or in this entire country, that the North Korean regime is tyrannical?

It is increasingly clear that this is a red herring designed to distract attention from the real proliferation issue at hand. It is equally true, and disturbing, however, to note that these propaganda efforts are being met with increased receptivity by younger and left-leaning elements in Seoul.

Questioning the United States over "hostile intent" turns history on its head. It was not the United States that launched an attack in 1950. The United States did not attack North Korea when Pyongyang seized our ship, the Pueblo, in 1968 and held its crew hostage for eleven months. The United States did not attack even when North Korean soldiers murdered Major Arthur Bonifas and First Lieutenant Mark Barrett with axes in the DMZ in 1976. The United States has never threatened to turn Pyongyang into "a sea of fire" as North Korea has threatened to do to Seoul. Allegations of the hostile intent of the United States are patently ludicrous.

Let me confirm here continued concern over North Korean hostile intent directed at the Republic of Korea. This intent has historic reality and is a major reason for the stationing of U.S. forces in South Korea. North Korea must give concrete indication of the abandonment of its own hostile intent for engagement to proceed.

In this regard, the experience of Germany during its years of division is often cited as an example for present-day Korea. A vital part of Chancellor Willy Brandt's policy of rapprochement with East Germany in 1972 was the establishment of reciprocal permanent missions in each of the German capitals. I would suggest, in future discussions within the Six Party framework, that the two Koreas consider the establishment of missions in Seoul and Pyongyang along similar lines, until Korean reunification is peacefully achieved.

In the meantime, we and our South Korean allies must stand together. Any potential miscommunication will only play into Pyongyang's hands.

We have many questions of critical importance regarding Korea to address today and look forward to hearing from our expert witnesses.

This page last updated 3/21/2005 jdb

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