The ICAS Lectures


The North Korea's Nukes and Missiles Issues:
U.S. Foreign Policy Challenges and Opportunity

Tong Kim

ICAS Winter Symposium

Humanity, Peace and Security
The Korean Peninsula Issues

February 18, 2009 Wednesday 2:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Rayburn Office Building Room B 318
United States House of Representatives
Capitol Hill, Washington, DC 20515

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.
965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422

Biographic sketch & Links: Tong Kim

The North Korea's Nukes and Missiles Issues:
U.S. Foreign Policy Challenges and Opportunity

Tong Kim
ICAS Fellow
SAIS Johns Hopkins University

Thank you for your kind introduction, Sang Hun.

Sung Kim and I, as Sang Hun pointed out, are not related, but my name Tong - T - comes after S. Sung. So I'm a substitute for him, and didn't have the time to prepare for this talk, but I have written on so many different subjects relating to North Korea so I would refer to some of the things I have written as I go on because I think they are still relevant.

I'd like to talk primarily about three or four different topics. No. 1: where we are today regarding the North Korean issue of the nuclear situation, and what it will take to find a solution to that issue, and also interestingly enough, the deterioration in the relationship between North and South and how South Korea's policy on North Korea will impact upcoming negotiations on the nuclear issue involving the United States and, of course, South Korea will be involved in that also. And then lastly, I think I will touch upon some speculations or my views on the so-called the theories of sudden change in North Korea and also Kim Jong Il's state of health because these are all inter-related when we discuss the issue of North Korea.

Now, in terms of a perception gap between pessimism and optimism here in Washington, or even in Seoul or elsewhere, it's still there and I feel like we are going back to the - or turning back the clock to the early 1990s - '91, '92, '93, when we had precisely the same kind of problems with North Korea involving IAEA inspection, North Korea's resisting to accept IAEA especially after they announced their intent to withdraw from NPT, and then their demand for the suspension of the joint exercise - used to be called the &Team Spirit&, and that exercise - combined the exercise between the U.S. and ROK military forces. And then the constant request from the Seoul government then - I'm talking about 15, 16 years ago, and I think it may have the same type of bearing on the future process of the denuclearization, or the U.S. engagement of North Korea - probably, it sounds like to me all these are (inaudible) . . . because what we were constantly telling the North Koreans in those early days was that we want the North Koreans to engage the South Koreans, and they did not and were not engaging South Korea at all. So these three issues are still very valid. Where we left off when the Bush Administration left, the six- party process was hung up on the issue of verification protocols, and there was a disagreement, disparities of each party's understanding of what was agreed and what was not agreed, with or without North Koreans, but it was clear that there was nothing that was a written agreement. But this is where they left it.

Of course in the meantime there was big progress toward the denuclearization beginning with the 2005 - September 19 - joint statement in which North Korea committed to abandon its nuclear programs and weapons. And in turn, there were some other things that the United States and other countries also promised that they would stick to once this process went on.

Now, where we are today is - other than - we just discussed with Minister Kuang that knowing what China's position will be, and it is highly likely - and I think Hillary Clinton already stated that we are going back to the six-party talks but not &business as usual,& not in the same format as the Bush Administration did. But there will be some adding to that process, it will be tracked (inaudible) bilateral diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang which has not begun yet. And as we all know, we presume that this new administration is undergoing a thorough review of what has been done before, during the Bush Administration, where we are, and what we should do. But I think the basic line is pretty much fixed as far as the goal is concerned - it's going to be a complete, verifiable denuclearization of North Korea. And despite some of the reports, especially coming out in the South Korean press, the United States has never accepted North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, despite the fact or the allegation that the North Koreans, through their propaganda outlet, their information outlet are saying that now that they are a nuclear state, therefore they want to be treated as such, and of course the United States should deal with North Korea as a nuclear state. And they upped pre-conditions - they imposed the new pre-conditions on the - not the process, but final negotiated settlement; that is, for the North Koreans to denuclearize, to give up all its nuclear weapons and fissile materials and facilities (inaudible) ...., it would not only require normalization between Pyongyang and Washington, - DPRK and the United States -, but also it would require their assurance, their decision that they are no longer threatened by the United States. It is a very subjective decision on the part of North Korea to make, and so having said that, I'm just going to go into some of the details of what happened in the past.

As we know - the reality is - believe it or not - North Korea has nuclear bombs. I think that doesn't mean the United States - as I said before - [doesn't mean that] the United States would accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, but nevertheless it has tested a nuclear bomb in 2006 and it had enough plutonium to manufacture nuclear bombs in the number anywhere from 6 or 8, and it is conventional wisdom by now that North Korea has some bombs. And we hear so much about the possibility that North Korea might launch another nuclear - not nuclear, but a missile - a long-range missile - Taepodong-2.

Now my hunch is that I don't think North Korea is going to fire another missile during Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Korea because they are watching every movement, every statement, every word that the new Secretary is making and there is the message for Pyongyang, and she made it clear during her confirmation hearing process, and also on her current trip that if North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons, the United States will respond in kind, including normalization. But the thing is - the difference is - whereas it sounds like the United States would normalize its relations with the DPRK after North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons - it sounds like that, but North Koreans are saying, &Wait a minute - we cannot - we will not give up our nuclear weapons before there will be normalization first.& So it's a matter of who's going to make the first move. And I think we can only go back to the principle that all parties agreed upon during the September 19 (inaudible) statement - that is, we take action for action and it is similar to the idea of a principle of simultaneous action that we took during the 1994 Geneva Conference. The Geneva-agreed-upon framework. And you take a step, then we take another step, and so forth. So it doesn't mean two things will happen identically at the same time, but roughly around the same time, so everything is all ready - so once they are sure, they can one action. Because North Korea - it was adamant to give up its nuclear weapons first, and I remember many times that they were saying, &Okay, we are in a duel and we always have our guns in our hands and we're just aiming at each other and you're telling me to lay down my gun first. I can't do that. I cannot trust you, especially given the absence of a mutual trust between the two countries.& Of course there is a long history of hostility between the two countries.

I think by and large, most Americans still do not trust the North Koreans, and for some good reasons, and it is still a dangerous rogue state that now has nuclear weapons. North Korea has not kept its word on some of the commitments that it made in terms of the denuclearization process. And there still is a very strong suspicion in this town, even in South Korea and elsewhere in the world, especially in the northeast Asia region, that North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons.

So these are all questions, but these are exactly the same kind of questions I alluded to that we had at the beginning of engaging North Korea, first the meeting that happened in 1991 - I think the last year of Bush 41's Administration, when Kim Jong Son (?) was the party secretary sent by Kim Jung Il, who by then took over his - his father was still alive and still the president, but nevertheless, it was Kim Jung Il who was running the country when Kim Jong Son came to New York and we sent Harold Cantor (??), then Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and they both met in New York and of course in those days, most Koreans were eager to have a meeting - just a meeting with Americans, and that was a big change. Any historian can document - there was a consistent pattern of North Koreans' wish and their behavior, their wish to improve relations with the United States. Of course, the motive for that desire, that wish is something else we can talk about, but nevertheless it is a consistent policy of the DPRK and especially DPRK under the rule of Kim Jung Il. And I remember when Albright met with Kim Jung Il and Kim Jung Il told her that &it was me that sent Kim Jong Son to New York to meet with Cantor, and the message I conveyed to the United States through Kim Jong Son is still valid.& And that was about 9 years after the first ever diplomatic encounter between North Korea and the United States.

Now, that message has been very consistent. I still see that. In the meantime, North Koreans do not trust the United States and especially did not trust the United States during the Bush Administration. There was some good reason for that too. And it does not want to lay down its weapons, as I said, or as a bargaining chip. If they use their weapons as their bargaining chips or negotiating leverage, they don't want to give that up either. But they always say they will give it up once they're assured of but not until or unless they are assured of survival from perceived threats from the United States. I say &perceived& because it's the perception of a threat that North Korea has been seeing all along for the decades, since the outbreak of the Korean War. And that perceived perception has not changed.

That said, let me discuss a little bit about North Korea's position on the nuclear issue. They still (END OF FILE - NEXT FILE CONTINUES) (inaudible) nuclear issue was a product of the U.S. hostility toward their country and also nuclear threats from the United States. Of course, we had nuclear weapons in South Korea. At one point we had as many as over 760-some nuclear weapons in South Korea. Then that was reduced down to 250. Later I was in Bush 41's meeting with then South Korea's President Roh Tae Woo in a bilateral summit meeting in New York. It took place in New York, and two days prior to the day on which the United States made an announcement - announced that the United States would withdraw all technical nuclear weapons from abroad, and that happened. Only after that, and only after South Korea's President Roh Tae Woo testified to the North Koreans that at that moment that he was speaking there was not a single piece of nuclear weapons of South Korea, and that led to another landmark agreement between North and South in the title of a declaration of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and there was a very important - that's the only nuclear document ever reached with the North Koreans prior to (inaudible) framework and the United States and we were pushing North Korea to honor that commitment. And of course, it takes some background - political background. This is the time when the Soviet Union - nearing the collapse - its own collapse, or disintegration of the old Soviet Union and it was opening diplomatic channels between Seoul and Moscow, and also normalization between Seoul and Beijing and all that had a lot of pressure on North Korea, and this was the time - and North Korea had no channel of communication with the United States, and they thought they would have some kind of agreement for their own survival, they could see the economy was already going down in the North. But that was a very important document.

What happened today, especially since mid-January - about a month ago - North Korea started putting out the new pronouncements, not only cutting off all dialogue with the South, but even nullifying the important agreements that had ever been agreed upon. And there was a new tension there. They nullifying even the validity of the northern limit line and the west sea where they had two naval clashes before, and it is threatening -- and there's ominous signs of the revival of naval clashes on the west sea that might happen, or they will be firing missiles on the western seas and there might be some clashes again, and so forth. And it is a very tense situation. But again it's going back to the days of Kim Jong Son 15 years ago and we still have not resolved and real direction toward the solution of this issue.

North Korea always claimed the root cause of the nuclear problem - their nuclear problem - is American hostility, and there were some sympathetic views among some commentators in the press that, given the long history of hostile confrontation between the two countries and the DPRK may not be blamed for believing that it was facing a threatening United States. And especially during the Bush Administration because Bush announced a doctrine of pre-emptive strikes as part of his war plan against terror, especially after September 11, and the United States invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and crushed the Taliban and Saddam's regime. And more than that, Bush designated North Korea as a member of the Axis of Evil and never showed seriousness in engaging North Korea until after North Korea did the nuclear bomb. So the last two years of the Bush Administration was constructive in the sense that he did engage the North Koreans again, and we made some progress. We reached some agreements including the September 19 Joint Statement and also the February 13 Agreement to implement some of the agreements based upon the Joint Statement. And we made some progress and North Koreans did shut down their nuclear reactor and started disabling - I think about 85% disablement has been accomplished, and they did file eventually - of course they missed the deadline, but eventually they filed their declaration of all nuclear programs including amount of plutonium. Of course, there are two big questionable areas regarding the proliferation - what the North Korean role may have been regarding proliferating nuclear technology to Syria or the uranium enrichment program - to what extent the North Koreans really made progress on that program.

Again, these are still contentious areas and I think they will have to be dealt with. I think Hillary Clinton alluded to the seriousness of these unresolved issues, but nevertheless, it doesn't seem that anybody has any concrete evidence in the sense that North Korea had reached a dangerous point or level of progress with its uranium enrichment program or even with the proliferation program because whatever the North Koreans might have extended - provided the technology or assistance to Syria, the whole facility was destroyed anyway so nothing is left over there.

I talked about some sympathetic views in this town. But on the other hand, there is a more widely held view in this town that DPRK's nuclear development is an immediate threat to the security of East Asia, and a direct challenge to the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. And it has caused serious concern about the possibility of a further proliferation. If nuclear North Korea is unchecked, it might transfer some of its nuclear weapons or plutonium or technology to other rogue states.

And another thing, Washington just simply cannot believe North Korea needs a nuclear weapon as a deterrent because we believe North Korea has enough fire power, more than 10,000 pieces of artillery deployed along the DMZ with which they can just wipe out 30% of Seoul which is all within the range of the North Korean fire power.

Even if the defensive nature that North Korea claims of their nuclear weapons is accepted as genuine, there is no - that is to say, for North Korea to deter preemptive strike from the United States, Pyongyang must understand in my view that the percussion from a nuclear armed North Korea would be far-reaching in the sense that it would trigger possibly a nuclear arms race within the neighborhood (inaudible). Even in South Korea there is talk of developing nuclear weapons, and history shows that the United States has worked hard and pressed South Korea hard from developing its own nuclear weapons from the days of the 1970s, from the days of (inaudible) even Roh Tae Woo - we were just watching. We were not just watching North Korea, but also watching South Korea (inaudible) to make sure South Korea does not attack the North; only prevent attack from the North, but also South Korea does not go to the North; and by the same token, South Korea does not develop nuclear weapons of its own. And I think we have succeeded in doing that over the years. It's possible even Japan and Taiwan would go - may opt for going nuclear themselves and then a nuclear regime or proliferation will get out of control.

Of course, another thing - I mentioned joint exercise, Team Spirit before. We should have joint exercises, annual exercises, twice a year, because we tell North Koreans these are defensive in nature, and we invite them to send observers to these exercises to ascertain that the nature of the joint exercises are in fact defensive. But what one side intends to be defensive could be interpreted as offensive to the other side, and this goes both ways - their having nuclear weapons, they say they are defensive, but nevertheless to us, it's offensive, and it creates a lot more danger.

Then North Koreans also want verification. Again, inspection is always a key and critical element of the denuclearization process. We were hung up on this - IAEA requirements in the early 1990s, and we are still hung up on it, and North Korea claims that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula should apply to both North and South of the Peninsula, therefore South Korea should be subject to verification as well. Now, North Koreans know themselves when we discussed these issues at the six-party talks, nobody was talking about denuclearization of South Korea, but it was clear to everybody's mind that they were all talking about North Korea's denuclearization, and North Koreans understood that. But nevertheless this is a political (inaudible) and it's a part of their strategy and even the September 19 Joint Statement makes it clear that South Korea (inaudible) confirms that there are no nuclear weapons in the South, but there has not been a process of verification and that's what North Koreans want today. So the North Koreans - the obstacles are higher. Normalization is necessary, but not a sufficient condition for denuclearization, and then the south of the Peninsula should also be subject to verification, including U.S. bases in the south. In fact, in the early 1990s, the United States - we discussed this - to open U.S. bases in South Korea to North Korea, if they opened their (inaudible) and their military installations where we suspect they might hide nuclear programs. So we are just going back where we were. If history is any guide, we know where we are, but these things just cannot be resolved unless there is some level of confidence, mutual trust on each part.

There is a certain amount of continuity in terms of foreign policy between - coming over from Bush Administration to Obama Administration, especially when it applies to North Korean policy. In stark contrast to the Bush Administration abandonment of all Clinton approaches to North Korea, the Obama Administration - I think it is committed to take up a lot of the stuff where the Bush Administration has left off. I think this is very important. Remember - ABC - Anything But Clinton. Bush would not do anything Clinton was doing, but Obama is not doing that. He says, &Well, we will stick to the six-party talks, with keeping up the direct bilateral diplomacy.& The direction is not to prop up the regime of Kim Jung Il or North Korea which could be a problem which a lot of Americans do not approve anyway - it's contrary to the ideals of the American creed, but nevertheless it is a realistic problem. You just can't deal with a country unless - I mean you just can't impose anything you want on a country like North Korea because history again has proven that pressure on North Korea has not worked. I know something about these people - it would just retaliate. And so the fall back position, if North Korea doesn't do anything today or they fail to meet its own - implement its own commitment, then we're going to go back to sanctions or even create new sanctions and impose them (inaudible) and even Hillary said yesterday, unless you want isolation. But isolation is something North Koreans are not afraid of. They even prefer to have isolation rather than opening for the purpose of internal control. That works rather more effectively than opening up, and once they open up it's going to be a more difficult situation.

So I think the new administration is gearing toward resuming talks with North Korea. I don't know which one is going to take place first - whether we're sending a special envoy to Pyongyang - that would be bilateral. But there is a lot of flexibility in terms of the diplomatic format. I always teach my students - there are two aspects of diplomacy - one format and the other one is substance. The substance has not changed. That is the substance of the U.S. North Korean policy; to achieve a complete, verifiable denuclearization of North Korea. That's the substances. It has not changed. But format is becoming more flexible with respect to the direct diplomacy, vis-a-vis multi-lateral or a combination of both approaches, and it could be supported by even Track 2 diplomacy - just recently a former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, Steve Bosworth returned from Pyongyang. That is a good sign of the roles - a good example of Track 2 diplomacy. And if he becomes - I hear this in the report that he might be appointed, or if he has not yet asked the Special Envoy or North Korean Policy Coordinator in the Administration, I think that would be good because he's been exposed to it very recently. And I think in terms of the conduct of diplomacy and negotiations, continuity is very important. And when the Bush people came in, none of them had very much experience, for example, in dealing with the North Koreans, negotiating with the North Koreans and that was a problem.

How much time do I have?

So that's the general direction I see. I want to say a little bit about the South Korean government's policy toward the North. North Korea really waited and hoped that it would be able to work with the new government in South Korea which is almost a year old. I think in a couple days it will be a year old. But in the meantime it has cut off all channels of dialogue and deterioration of inter-relations has hit the lowest in that case, and there are no communications whatsoever. I think that is a result of inconsistent statements and mixed signals that were coming out of Seoul to Pyongyang between engagement and their confrontation. Just like the Bush Administration used to send mixed signals to Pyongyang between regime change and negotiation. So I think the North Koreans had decided early on - I think they're able and they've been watching, and South Korea was refining their rhetoric in different ways, and they started off with the plan called &Denuclearization Opening 3000& meaning if North Korea denuclearizes and are open to society, South Korea would be willing to help North Korea to raise the per capita income of the North Koreans up to $3000 a year within ten years. And this is the same doctrine, Candidate Lee Myung-bak enunciated and ran on during the campaign and North Korea was (inaudible) They did not attack this plan, but after that by April of last year, North Korea did decide that there is no way they were going to talk to South Korea again. And there were all kinds of conflicting - I mean, unconstructive and unnecessary statements coming out of Seoul from high officials. For example, the Minister of Unification of the Lee Myung-bak government, said that we're not going to honor some of the agreement reached with the North Koreans unless North Korea denuclearizes itself. And the next day they (inaudible) all the South Korean officials from Kaesong and then there was one thing and another, and the confirmation hearing - the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified that - when he was asked what his (inaudible) would do if North Korea had already developed a small nuclear bomb that can be used against South Korea - in answer to that question he said, &Well, the first thing we're going to do is - we're going to have to locate where they are, and then we have to strike them before the enemy uses them against us.& And that revived the suspicion or North Korean interpretation of the South Korean (inaudible) intent to a preemptive strike against North Korea, and the North Korean military. What's interesting nowadays is - before the North Korea military did not get involved in the threat process of sending messages or signals to the South Koreans, but now North Korean military got involved in this process and they were saying, &We're going to cut off all dialogue in the future with South Korea.& And they made good on that promise. It just continued to deteriorate.

So my question is - Obama is trying to resolve this issue, but nevertheless South Korea now wants to resume dialogue with North Korea but North Koreans are adamant. They're not going to do it . . . . or talk to the United States. And it's going to be a problem for Obama. But my conclusion is - knowing - and especially listening to and studying very carefully all the statements that Kim Jung Il made, he wants to improve relations and - two things. I mean, he wants to survive in his system, and in that connection, I think talk of sudden collapse or sudden changes in North Korea is not helpful at this point.

I guess I'd better stop here so that I give you some opportunity to make some comments and ask me some questions.

MODERATOR: Yes, we had a very nice overview by Tong, and thank you very much. Now before we open the floor, Bill- what have you got?

CONNERY: Okay. Tong, thank you very much for the talk. Within the past actually few weeks it seems that Kim Jung Il has been more active. I think there was a big celebration of his birthday just a few days ago, and from my recent studies, it seems that they're focusing on his youngest son now - I think it's Jung Un - as his successor. So what do you see - I think Kim Jung Il is now - what? - 67? His father lived into his 80s. Do you think - since he's focusing on his youngest son who I believe is only like 25 or 26 - that means Kim expects to live maybe another 10, 15, 20 years so he can raise up this son to succeed him?

TONG KIM: Two things on that question. I also thought a second - father-to-son succession is most likely the form of succession again in North Korea. Given the history and also the system of North Korea and especially the history of Korean dynasties. Hundreds and thousands of years - it doesn't matter. And I see where North Korea is where in the western eyes, it is an established Communist state, but to me - I even wrote in the Washington Post one time when I said North Korea seems to be a Confucian Nationalist Monarchy. It's a dynasty. So father-to-son succession is nothing new in Korean history, and a lot of theories - especially if you look at the recent report released by the Council on Foreign Relations talking about the (inaudible) leadership or the widely contested succession or succession failure that will lead North Korea into a chaotic situation and what countries like China or United States or South Korea may have to do and so forth - but my belief on this issue was always - it's going to be father-to-son, and for the past three weeks or two weeks, people got all quiet. They're all trying to buy this idea - either Jung Un, Jung Cho or Jung Nam - his three sons - so they're all focusing on this. But I'm not a fortune teller. I was not predicting this, but my prediction turned out to be very accurate because I wasn't doing prediction for predictions per se, but it's just based on what you know. What you know and then the history - what happened. And you've got to understand what kind of a system North Korea has. They're all in the same boat, and I don't see any North Korean general who will get off the boat to survive himself. They're all in it. And it is good for them. It is a system that worked for a thousand years in Korea. Of course there are rivalries among the lieutenants. They're trying to influence Kim more for his group's political advantage. That happens, but nevertheless, the monarch will be there. And it's not a socialist country anymore. I think North Korea is a dynasty with a strong influence of Confucianism and socialism, but it's not a socialist state anymore. There's a legacy of a socialist system in terms of internal population control and so forth. It's a regimented society, but I think - another thing, people often say, &Well, Kim Jung Il had gone through 20 years of training before he succeeded his father.& Now, time has changed. I don't think he needs the same period - I mean 20 years of it. I mean, anybody will die. Everybody will die at the end, but when that comes, I think - North Korea will be ready. And it will go on. My view is from a historical perspective.

Another thing that many people do not pay attention to - especially in the western world - in Washington - is that North Korea has been a closed society all along. Never been an open society. They've never known any other system than the monarchial system. One ruler. The absolute ruler - always. In the old days, the king had absolute power. The same thing. Even North Korea - I mean, even Kim Jung Il told Albright, &I do also face opposition once in a while. Of course, the level of opposition isn't one like one you see in the United States, but I do have opposition.& That is, until he makes his decision. Once the decision is made, everybody follows his decision and carries it out. And my take of that statement was - therefore, Kim Jung Il is more prudent. He doesn't make light decisions, and he has to make very - he's got to be very serious and he's got to think of implications or what impact his decision will have.

CONNERY: Just one follow-up. Could you say something - I think recently there's been a little bit of shake-up in the military leadership in North Korea. Could you speak about that?

TONG KIM: I think - you know, next month they're going to have another election for the next term of the Supreme Peoples Assembly and that is always a new start, and they could have a shake-up once in a while. But one thing I read out of the recent military shake-up or shifting is that Kim Jung Il chose those more on the side of the harder line, and more loyal to him and to positions like the - especially in the position of the Defense Minister and also Chief of the General Staff are very important positions. General Staff is equivalent to JCS in the United States and South Korea. And they're the ones who will carry out military orders. They evolved from Chu Che and Sun Gun - even before that, (inaudible) and then from (inaudible) To (inaudible) and (inaudible) Alliance and then to Sun Gun - military first policy. And they are marching on. As I've been writing in my pieces, we are not ready, the United States is not ready - &just leave us alone.& I heard this many times from the North Koreans saying that - &just leave us alone. We lived, we survived ourselves for thousands of years. We're not just a young country. Just leave us alone and we will live in a way we want to.& But that doesn't mean they're not interested in unifying Korea under their terms, but again, if you study all the statements that Kim Jung Il made with respect to his interest in improving relations with the United States, improving - and also his interest in unifying the country, he said two things very important as far as I was concerned. He said, &If Korea is unified under Communism, it will benefit China. Under the Democratic system, it will benefit Japan.& He didn't say the United States. He doesn't want to see rivalry between China and Japan which are traditionally the invaders of Korea historically. So he said, &I am opposed against unification by system - either by Communism or Democracy. It's got to be something we can work out between north and south.& And he again said - he's been very consistent. He has no objection to the continued presence of military U.S. presence in Korea because he recognizes the U.S. role as that of a stabilizer that contributes to the regional stability against - and otherwise, there will be a power vacuum, but on one condition. They have to improve relations with North Korea and I remember Kim Jung Il even said, &I know South Korea is the old friend. We want to become a new friend to the United States. From the perspective of the United States, it's good to have old friend and new friend as well.& But that was almost 10 years ago.

[FROM THE FLOOR]: I want to hear Sung Kim because if Sung Kim were here maybe he would give a different speech I guess.

TONG KIM: A lot different from mine!

[FROM THE FLOOR]: Right. But I have a fundamental disagreement with you on two major points. No. 1, you said what's happening now between the United States and South Korea and North Korea is a repetition of what happened in the early 1990s before the General Agreement. But you know, 20 years passed. The world changes so much in 20 years. The only thing not changing is North Korea of course. As you said, it's a mixture of socialism and a feudal society, and they just want to give power to the son again, and this is a failed state. You've never seen such a failed state in the world. You see even Zimbabwe or Myanmar. That's much milder in scale. Now given that, now with the U.S. - the new government came in - if you read Obama's inauguration speech, he wants to have a good relation with every country, but you know, the other side must come forward, change, and also he wants to help poor countries, but the poor countries must help themselves. And North Korea is not. Now given that, North Korea wants to have good relations with the United States because if you have diplomatic relations, clearly that's a guarantee for the North Korean regime's security - but why they feel then so insecure? Because Kim Jung Il knows that to achieve diplomatic relations with the United States they have to change. They have to accept international norms, they have to comply with the human rights aspect, they have to come with, you know, with China -- (inaudible) not all become market economy - but he doesn't want to do that. He's avoiding that. If you liberalize, you open up - he may lose his power base.

MODERATOR: So what's the question?

[FROM THE FLOOR]: My question is - I disagree with his observation on that repetition of training (inaudible) So now - then on the second point on South Korea - the South Korea - this so-called (inaudible), which is denuclearization and then making North Korea a $3000 per capita income - is not really a strategy. It is some sort of objective. Why (inaudible) Bak came up with that? Because he won the election, and then people overwhelmingly rejected the policy of the (inaudible) Sunshine policy, so he has to come up with a new objective - while North Korea is nuclearizing, South Koreans say we don't want to help. Let me finish! Now, come back to what the U.S. government might do. Of course this is the process - they are now reviewing their North Korea policy. But as you said, if Mr. Bosworth becomes one of the architects of the North Korean policy, we can hear all kind of things that now - . . . in North Korea, nuclear is only one issue. You have to deal with a much broader issue, more long term issues. North Korea must become a responsible member of the international community. How we can really make that possible through the six-party process or a bilateral process - to do that clearly - I come back to Mr. Bosworth's book (inaudible) Foundation book two years ago - that was outstanding. He's suggesting so-called conditional engagement policy by which the U.S. and South Korea must approach North Korea's internal reforms so that they can deal with the external and they also become a responsible member. I think that's the best way to achieve these things rather than - you said that blame goes to outside, not to North Korea. North Korea must change. They may not be prepared to change, but we have to push them to change.

TONG KIM: Okay - I want to quickly respond to all your objections to my analysis of where we are and my comparison to where we were in the early '90s. I still stick to my assessment in the sense that the fundamental nature of the problem between the United States and North Korea - or the fundamental nature of the problem that North Korea has itself has not changed. And all the three factors I mentioned are still relevant. That said, I mean, the world has changed, and even the North Korean situation has changed, and North Korea may have -is attracted (?) to some - the (inaudible) processes in plutonium, but nevertheless they did not test a nuclear bomb and they did not have some nuclear weapons as they claim they do today. So that's the change. But nevertheless, the fundamental issue has not changed therefore. In the olden days it was a lot easier, that we can just talk of confidence of (inaudible) issue in the Clinton Administration, a package deal. I think a package deal which would include the issues such as the human rights and international illicit activities and what-have-you, or the suppressive nature of the government and how we can transform North Korean regime and so forth - we just cannot deal with all these issues all together. And you also mentioned about the recent (inaudible) arrangements. They may spin out of the six-party talks if we're successful, but I think my point is - what we've got to do is - we've got to focus on the resolution - denuclearization of North Korea. I think that's what we've got to focus on first. The security issue first, and if we just link all these other issues, I don't think we're going to go anywhere. It's just going to be doing the same thing that we were doing in the past. My point is, the mentality and perception in this town and the same thing in Pyongyang - the mutual perception has not change. That's what I'm saying.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much for a mixed question. Thank you very much. Would you please identify yourself?

PETER: I'm with the Congressional Office here on Capitol Hill. My question was regarding the Taepodong 2 Missile. There's been speculation that North Korea is planning on testing another test in the coming weeks. Being that the initial testing failed, what do you think the chances are that the DPRK perfected the capability of the missile which has the range of hitting the Continental United States and the capacity to deliver a nuclear warhead? And on top of that, there are reports that at the initial testing, there were representatives of the Iranian government present, possibly to see if it worked. What do you think the chances are if the test is successful, that North Korea plans on peddling their weapons to other rogue states?

TONG KIM: I can't say how successful or unsuccessful their next test might be but certainly it has been proven that they do have the basic capability to launch another missile - a long range missile. Whether or not they will proceed with that launch is something else. And it is highly calculated because their initial response through KCNA is that it's not for military -

PETER: They say it's for a space program.

TONG KIM: (inaudible) &we do have scientific interest in exploring space just like any other country in the world.& And so it's not new that they say these things either. When they first launched the missile in August in '98, they said the same thing. But Kim Jung Il himself recognized - &Oh, there is some military aspect of this thing. Therefore, if somebody else will put the (inaudible) in the orbit for us, free of charge, then I will let them do it. And we are very interested in that idea.& So again, these are . . . The same thing with the (inaudible) 8 years ago, and we've come back to the same place again.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Minister - Minister from the Mongolian Embassy. Thank you.

MINISTER: Thank you very much, Mr. Tong Kim for your (inaudible) presentation. Mongolia is located in Northeast Asia and we have the northeast Asia security and the issue is a very important issue for Mongolia. And also we have an advantage. Mongolia has an embassy - -- North Korea and South Korea. It's very friendly relations yes. And all the North Korean nuclear issue, one of the security issues for Mongolia, and I am wondering - three questions: First, the South Korean government, the previous government, (inaudible), they want to promote more bilateral relations with North Korea and we thought that in the six-party talks is one very substantive approach to deal with the North Korean nuclear issues. But at the same time, Japan and South Korea, China - they have given more importance to bilateral gains. It's lacking the more (inaudible) six-party talks. And what is you comment on that issue? And also now President (inaudible) Park's administration - they completely are turning back to a bilateral relations. It's a very sudden change, and in this regard I want your comments also. I will welcome them. And second, you mentioned that normalization and denuclearization of North Korea nuclear - and normalization of U.S. A and North Korea. At the time of the Bush Administration, North Korea didn't trust the Bush Administration - you mentioned this. And how do you think now the Obama Administration in terms of (inaudible) between U.S.A. and North Korea - what does the U.S.A. have to do for (inaudible) . . . more trust to North Korea in regard to the normalization (inaudible) . . .to bilateral relations? Third, I'm wondering - has North Korea enough plutonium, uranium to develop nuclear weapons? If they have enough plutonium and resources, how is this a potential - how potential can they make nuclear weapons?

TONG KIM: I'll quickly respond to your question with respect to what the Obama Administration will do in this circumstance. I think Obama Administration is watching the latest move on the part of the DPRK - North Korea, whether or not they're going to really launch a missile. That's one. And of course, at that same time, I think Pyongyang is watching Washington very closely - every statement and every policy statement coming out of Washington to determine what response, what strategy they will have to come up with. So we are watching very closely each other.

With respect to the claim that North Korea - I mean, (inaudible). Halverson (?) - I mean, he is a long-term Korea watcher. He just came back recently from Pyongyang and he was told that North Korea had weaponized all plutonium in the amount of over 30 kilograms - that they reported it to the six-party talks. Therefore, that weaponized bombs should be excluded from verification. So they were creating more obstacles. And I think these are all rhetoric. Of course, (inaudible) a lot of harsh rhetoric against the South, but I think between Washington and Pyongyang, once we start engaging either directly or through six-party talks, I think this rhetoric will be toned down and they will get to the real essence of what the issues are and I think the North Koreans are very pragmatic once they sit down at the table of negotiations themselves.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. And let's give Tong a big round of applause, please.

This page last modified February 23, 2011 jdb