The ICAS Lectures


United States - North Korea Relations

Curt Weldon

ICAS Spring Symposium
Humanity, Peace and Security
May 19, 2005 12:30 PM -- 5:00 PM
U.S. House Rayburn House Office Building, Room 255
Capitol Hill, Washington D.C. 20510

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Biographic Sketch & Links: Curt Weldon

United States - North Korea Relations

The Hon. Curt Weldon
U.S. Congressman

Thank you very much, Sang Joo Kim. It's a pleasure to be here. And I apologize for being late. I've been in meetings at all involving Iran and North Korea and Russia, and so I finally had a chance to take a few moments and come over and speak to you, and answer some questions, and give you some thoughts. There's a lot of activity right now in Washington on North Korea, whether or not they will conduct a nuclear test, and if they do conduct a test, what would that mean? What will our response be? What will the world response be? And there are no easy answers.

My interest in this issue is basically driven by the fact that I serve as the Vice-Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and the Vice Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and I've spent my 19 years in Congress focusing on emerging threats to our security, both from the standpoint of the technology threats through proliferation from largely China and Russia and the U.S. [sic], and the actions that have occurred here domestically that we have to respond to, whether from man-made or natural incidents of disaster.

My first into North Korea was about 12-14 years ago when I was part of a delegation that went to P'anmunjom to officially receive the remains of what we were led to believe were the first American soldiers being turned over from the Korean War. The official ceremonies in the complex of P'anmunjom that we signed for, the coffins that we brought back and left at our forensic center in Hawaii turned out not to be the remains of Americans, but rather Koreans, and actually in some cases, animal bones. Following that, with great interest I watched the '94 Agreed Framework'. I felt it wasn't transparent enough in terms of what North Korea would be doing in response to our support for the light water reactors.

[I had] continued concerns with North Korea's actions relative to military build-up and what their long-term intentions were. Because I was the chairman of the research committee in the 90s, I followed with great interest North Korea's missile program, both their SCUD missiles, their No-Dongs and especially the launch of their 3-stage Taepo-Dong missile over Japan's territory in August of 1998.

The Speaker named me to the task force on North Korea where I helped to develop the concerns of the Congress on the Korean Peninsula, and then in 2002 John Bolton sent over his assistant to brief me in the summer that we had evidence that North Korea was in fact producing nuclear weapons, which was in direct contradiction to what they had said they would do in '94. What bothered me was not just the fact that North Korea was now aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons in spite of what they said, but that our government had decided that the response was not to talk to them. Now, you can be arch-enemies with a nation; you might hate their leader; you may despise their system; but if you want to resolve the tension and the problems that exist, you have to talk. It kind of reminds me of when I went to Libya, I took both delegations into Libya last year -- the first delegation to Tripoli in 39 years -- and when I walked inside the tent as my last meeting occurred in the desert of Tripoli, Khadafy came in and he put his hand out and shook my hand and said, "Congressman, I'm very happy to have you here. Why did it take 39 years for an American to come and talk to me?" He said, "You might hate me. You might despise me. You might think I'm a terrorist. You might think I'm terrible. You might think my country deserves to be bombed. But at last, why didn't someone talk to me first, and then bomb me?" He said, "For 39 years, no one talked to me, and as a result you're the first delegation that I, in fact, have had the chance to interact with, and I'm extremely pleased that you're here."

I said, "Colonel Khadafy, I can't speak for the past 39 years. I've only been in Congress for -- (at that time) -- 18 years, but I'm here to let you know that we do want to talk and I'm here not to represent our President -- that's not my job -- nor the Secretary of State. I'm here to tell you that on behalf of the American people, if you follow the commitments that you've made publicly and give up your weapons of mass destruction, and our President decides to normalize relations with your country, then we in the Congress are prepared to support that normalization. But, I said, "You have to remember two things, Mr. Leader. America is a forgiving country but we're never going to forgive nor forget what you did to innocent people in committing acts of terrorism sponsored by your nation."

Well, today, a year later, Libya has given up their weapons of mass destruction. They are cooperating with us on terrorism, and we accomplished that without having to fire a single weapon. So no lives were lost. In fact, I've used that example with the North Koreans on both trips, as well as meetings at the University of Georgia, and on the Senate side with Ambassadors Han (?) and P.. to convince them that in the end, we did not seek regime change with Khadafy -- he's still there. We did not preemptively strike their country. And so it would be possible to believe that the President's words are, in fact, true -- that we, in fact, could live and exist with - Kim Jong Il still in a position of leadership and that we could in fact have a more normal relationship between our countries.

And so in 2002 when we stopped talking, that's when I decided, as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, I had to do something about it, so I went up to New York and reached out to Kim Jong (inaudible) or to Ambassador Han and started a process that's now had me meet with him eight times, both in New York, in Washington, and down in Georgia. And it led to me requesting and getting the approval to take the first delegation in two years ago, six members; and then to follow that up with a second delegation this past year, three months ago.

The trips to North Korea have been very fruitful and very valuable. Some would question the role of a Congress in this kind of delicate foreign policy situation, and I remind them that our constitution does not allow us to have a king. We have a President who's head of the Executive Branch, who is not above the Congress, but is an equal branch to the Legislative Branch of the government, that has the responsibility to tax the American people, decide how much money we're going to spend on our foreign policy, set the parameters of that foreign policy through legislation, and then to oversee the implementation of that foreign policy. And I will never back down from that responsibility that we have in the Congress.

I can give you some examples concretely of why I think what we've done is so important. The first was on our first trip to North Korea -- sitting across the table from the foreign minister, Kim Gye Gwan, who we had met for about five hours on the first trip, and they were railing about the U.S. and how the problems between our countries had all been caused by President Bush. And how they didn't have these problems under President Clinton. That Madeline Albright had been to P'yongyang as had Secretary Perry and that they'd had a positive relationship. Therefore, this whole current dilemma was caused by Bush.

At that time, Eliot Engel, one of the most liberal Democrats from Long Island New York, jumped up and said "Wait a minute! I didn't support George Bush. I didn't vote for him. I campaigned for Al Gore. This is not about George Bush. This is about your actions. It's about you launching a missile over Japan's territory. It's about your state-sponsored acts of selling illegal technology. It's about the treatment of your people. It's about the relations with your neighbors. It's about your nuclear program. It is about your own actions. And I'm here as a Democrat to say that Democrats and Republicans fully support what you said you would do in giving up your weapons of mass destruction peacefully."

Well, no diplomat could say that with the same forcefulness as a Democrat member of Congress. That's a value of the activities that we've been involved in both times we've been there.

The second example of why it's important to do what we've done was on the second trip. For 10 hours we met with Kim Gye Gwan over four days. As we sat across the table from him each night over dinner and then privately, and talked about what could possibly work, what couldn't work, what their goals and objectives were and what ours were, being an educator by profession, I felt as though I was almost in the classroom giving a lecture on Politics 101 in America. Now, a respected diplomat like Kim Gye Gwan is not going to sit across from our lead diplomat and ask him how the American political system works. That's not going to happen. I think they felt very comfortable asking members of Congress about our system, how it operates, how we interact with the White House, and whether or not this policy toward their country really was bipartisan, really was sincere and represented America, and whether it as just the work of one person or a small group of people. And so again, I think we played a constructive role.

On our second trip when the CIA told us we would not visit this site or that site because they wouldn't allow us, we had total and complete access inside the country. Now, we were limited by the time we were there, which was four days. We were told we wouldn't be allowed to see the underground subway. So I didn't ask to see it. But an hour beforehand, when I was over there going on one of our visits, I said to our handlers, "I want you to take us to your subway system right now." And they said, "Okay. What do you want to go there for?" I said, "I want to ride in it. I want to see what you've done." We went to the subway. The metro complex was filled with young children, a lot of Korean children. They were standing in orderly lines being led by their teachers. There were adults coming up and down the escalators. We got on the escalator. There was music blaring out with the themes and the songs of support for the dear leader and the great leader and the regime. But in the end, we took all the photographs we wanted. In fact, during the trip we took over 1,000 photographs and three hours of videotape. We photographed and videotaped going down the escalator, which was the deepest escalator into a subway I've ever been in. We photographed on the station platform of the subway, and we photographed when we got on the train. We interviewed the few Koreans that could speak a limited amount of English on our video cameras, and no one stopped us. We photographed soldiers in uniform who happened to be walking by, and no one told us as they did in the Soviet Union, "You can't film the military." We took photographs of bridges. We took photographs from the top of Juche Tower of the entire city of P'yongyang. And the only place you weren't allowed to photograph was in the T (inaudible).. market itself. They forbade us to photograph the Korean people as they were purchasing their food and their supplies. I told them they were making a mistake because the people in the West say there are no goods and services in P'yongyang, and it would be helpful for us to show this. But they wouldn't let us film -- rows and rows and small shops where the North Koreas were selling food, meat, poultry, shoes, furniture, textiles, clothing. As you walked down the narrow rows of these aisles of these stalls, we were in the midst of thousands of North Koreans who were going about their business. They could care less that we were there. That was the only place we could not photograph.

In visiting North Korea, both times I've been there, I became convinced that it is possible for us to achieve a peaceful solution to the crisis. But I'm also convinced that we cannot achieve a peaceful solution to the crisis as long as we call each other names. Now, what is so frustrating to me, and I'm somewhat of a simple person born the youngest of nine kids with parents who only went to the 8th and 6th grade, but who had the most important thing in life, and that's called "common sense." It doesn't take a Ph.D. to understand that if you want to deal with a problem that you have with someone, you don't start off by calling them all kinds of names and expect them to sit down and talk to you. And so my concern really is with not just our administration, but the words coming out of P'yongyang, where each of us have spent the last several years deriding our system, calling our leaders names, referring to Kim Jong Il as a pygmy, as a tyrant, as a dictator, the axis of evil, the outpost of tyranny. We all know the things we could call Kim Jong Il. We're not stupid. I mean, we don't have to say positive things about a system we don't like or don't support. We don't have to praise the leader that we might not respect. But what we can't do is publicly criticize that person and tear that person down publicly, because that's only going to invite what we have now, which is basically a stand-off. They won't meet with us and we won't meet with them.

Now, we say we will, but the fact is we haven't been. And so therefore, my concern today is that we have to find a way to get the two sides -- and the other four parties back to the table. I support the six party process. Cutting a deal between the U.S. and North Korea alone, in my mind, is not going to solve the problem unless you have the observers of the other four nations who are neighbors there in the room with us. Now, the U.S. and North Korea can do the discussions, but in my opinion, I agree with the President, you've got to have the other four countries involved.

Now, we'd like to think that China should play a more aggressive role, and I agree with that. But I've been to China many times. I've met with the Chinese leaders many times. I met with their foreign minister and their parliament the day after we left P'yongyang. They'd already been briefed by the North Koreans. But we all know, as I found out on my trips to China, that after talking about North Korea for five minutes, they always change the topic. They want to talk about Taiwan. In the minds of the Chinese, that's the issue. And that's the overriding concern they have with America. It's not North Korea. It is Taiwan. Well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that as clever as the Chinese are, that as long as we're preoccupied with North Korea and they know that they hold the ace card, the trump card in solving that problem, and their main priority is Taiwan, that perhaps they want to use that to maybe accomplish their objective, which is to achieve the re-unification of Taiwan with the Mainland. So I think in the end we're not going to be able to rely totally on China.

Now, Russia needs to play a more aggressive role, but right now our involvement with Russia amounts to a personal friendship between Bush and Putin and nothing of substance below that. In fact, there's a great deal of distrust between our two countries and our people. It started out in the early 90s and continues today. One of my big focus areas is to try to change that. And that's why I gave the administration a series of policy options that would bring Russia more closely to the U.S. so that we could ask Putin and demand of Putin to be more constructive in solving the Korean crisis with us. In the end, in fact, I'm convinced that the ultimate solution to the Korean nuclear crisis is going to involve the construction of energy pipelines from the Russian Far East at Sakhalin down along the R (inaudible) corridor into South Korea. The (inaudible) family from (inaudible) who I've met with frequently, and South Korean Gas have expressed a willingness to fund such pipelines in cooperation with the major Russian energy companies, Gas (inaudible), Storage (inaudible) Gas, L (inaudible). With a little bit of a U.S. push, because our companies are involved in those Far Eastern projects, we could develop, design and propose to the North Koreans that the ultimate solution of the nuclear crisis would result in energy being brought down through North Korea into South Korea for the use of the South Koreans, the Japanese, the Chinese, whoever else would buy it, and the North Koreans would then have a non-nuclear source of energy and they would have financial monies coming in from the transmission of the energy through the pipelines. Again, though, Russia is critical. And so Russia becomes a key player.

Now, at the meetings that I had with Kim Gye Gwan, with Lee Gun, P (inaudible) Sun, Kim Y (inaudible) and we were the only delegation, the only people by the way that have met with the head of state of North Korea with the exception -- from the U.S. -- of Madeline Albright, Bill Perry, and Jim Kelly. We had a 90-minute meeting with the head of state. He had no notes, no prepared script. He sat on one side of the room in his comfortable chair, and we sat on the other side of the room in our comfortable chairs, and we had a frank dialogue, just as I would have with you sitting at a table. He talked about the fact that in the end, North Korea did not want to be an enemy of America, and in the end he wants America to be -- and he used this term -- "a friend" of North Korea. He said that we must resolve this crisis and he said what the foreign minister and what Kim Gye Gwan and everyone else said to us: "we are willing to transparently give up our nuclear capability, but we're only going to do that when we're convinced that you're not going to preemptively attack us, and that you're not going to seek regime change, and we're not convinced of that right now."

Now, on the second trip for the second time they admitted they had nuclear capability. It was interesting because they said to us, "Why is your country so aggressive with us when all we're developing our nuclear weapons for is a deterrent? Why aren't you pushing the Indians, the Pakistanis and the Israelis, because they all have nuclear weapons. Why aren't you making the same case with them -- that they have no right to be nuclear states." The only thing I could say to him was, "Well, first of all, the actions of your nation-state are causing us the problems, and if you have nuclear capability, then you could expect the South Koreans will want that nuclear capability; the Japanese will want that nuclear capability; and so will the Taiwanese. And that then creates a nuclear battlefield in your backyard that we don't think is helpful to anyone." Well, they understand that. They did not hold that up as a pre-condition that we deal with those other countries, but in the end, they repeatedly said, "We're willing to give up our nuclear capability, Congressman. That's not the issue. And we're willing to do it in a transparent way. But we don't just want the words. We want to feel confident that your country is not going to seek regime change, that you're not going to seek to preemptively attack us. And if we give up that deterrent that we have, we have no further protection."

At the end of our third day on our second trip three months ago, I felt very comfortable that they were going to return to the talks. In fact, everyone we met said "We're going to come back. We've made the decision. But before we actually come back we're going to follow closely the appointments that President Bush makes to interact with us officially. We're going to follow the confirmation hearings of your new Secretary of State, and we're going to watch the words and the speeches of your President at his inauguration and State of the Union. If there's rhetoric in there, we will not return. If we feel that you're sincere as a country in wanting to work with us, and not seek regime change, and not preemptively strike us, and respect the fact that we are a different system, then we are prepared to return."

The first conversation I had when I left P'yongyang, when I arrived in Seoul after briefing General M (inaudible) and our Ambassador, Ambassador Hill, was to the White House and I told the Security Council -- "If you want the North Koreans to come back, they're prepared, but the President cannot malign them in the State of the Union speech, or the inaugural speech, or in Condoleezza Rice's confirmation hearings. I was assured the President would not do that.

Now the speeches of Condoleezza Rice during her confirmation I did not think were that provocative, but when she alluded to North Korea being an outpost of tyranny and talked about tyranny, and American's resolve to rid the world of tyranny, the North Koreans came to a conclusion, based upon the way they read all the statements of our officials -- and they follow every word, every paragraph, every sentence -- and their conclusion was that "There they go again! They're saying the right things, but they don't mean it. In the end they consider us an outpost of tyranny, and that means they want to change our system and remove our leadership. Therefore, we're not coming back."

I went up and I met with Han right after that. I just met with Han again last week for an hour up in New York, and on both occasions he told me the same thing. "We cannot come back until we're sure that the U.S. sincerely wants to negotiate with us and, in the end, will allow us to exist as a nation-state." Now, I'm convinced that by toning down the rhetoric, getting back to the table, sending a couple of confidential signals to Kim Jong Il, which have to be transmitted through whatever channel the administration wants, that they will return. And I am convinced --

(Those bells are our votes which mean we have 15 minutes on votes, so I have 10 more minutes to talk to you before I had to run!)

Those signals must be sent and must be done quickly because time is not on our side and it's also not on their side either. We're moving toward some more belligerent actions against the North. The White House press proposed a nuclear earth-penetrating device as a new type of nuclear weapon to use against the North Koreans. We're spending more money on missile defense because of the North Koreans. There are those in America who are saying time is running out. We ought to look to taking this issue to the Security Council. As you all know, the North has said if we do that, that's a provocative act of war, and they'll respond accordingly.

So the question becomes -- if we can't get the two sides to sit down, what then is the next thing that happens? I am desperately concerned that Kim Jong Il just might order that underground nuclear test. The appearance is -- and they may be bluffing -- but the appearance is they're getting ready for it. When I was up at the U.N. last week and met with Han privately for an hour, I asked him that question. He said, "Congressman, I have no indication of that. But," he said, "I wouldn't know it anyway." And I said, "Well, you're seeing the same thing I'm seeing." And he said, "Yes." If the North in fact moves forward with a nuclear test, that would be a major problem because that would cause an immediate reaction that would probably have us up at the U.N. Security Council.

What concerns me is that there might be some people in our country, heaven forbid, who might actually think a North Korean nuclear test in the end might be helpful to our position. Heaven forbid that there would be those who would think that. But certainly it would prod the Chinese more than what we're seeing today because it would embarrass the Chinese. It would embarrass where they'd have to do more, and I'm convinced China could end this problem with North Korea like that if they wanted to.

And so heaven forbid that we follow a situation that could lead the North to think that in the end their next move is to conduct an underground nuclear test to prove to us what they have. Therefore I think we've got to continue to push the process of dialogue. When I met with Han last week I proposed five separate initiatives that I would be involved in, including everything from a large delegation traveling into P'yongyang immediately, to me going in alone. And he said, "Well, will you miss votes?" I said, "Absolutely! You tell me it's a go, and I'll be there. This is too important." I also suggested that we convene as I suggested three months ago and inter-parliamentary conference or seminar in Mt. Diamond with parliamentarians from the six nations. At the time, the North Koreans are very excited about that, to have parliamentarians from the Japanese Diet, the Russian Duma, the Chinese People's Assembly, the South Korean Congress, the U.S. Congress, and the Supreme People's Assembly in P'yongyang. I suggested to him we should look into doing that quickly.

I also suggested that perhaps he ought to see whether or not a North Korean official would like to visit America and if so, I would get a group of members of Congress to go petition the State Department to allow that person to come in to speak.

Any one of those four ideas or other ideas that I don't want to get into are what I suggested to Han to move the process forward, but I reinforced the fact that a nuclear test is unacceptable and would cause massive problems and set the relationship and the possibility for peace back decades.

I also told him that we still do not seek war. As the Vice Chairman of the Armed Services Committee last summer I received a classified briefing of the Army on what a war with North Korea would look like. We would win, but it would be very ugly. The North Korean Army is not Saddam Hussein's Revolutionary Guard. It is the third largest army in the world with a million people. They have a very capable weapons systems, thousands of missiles, short range SCUDS, No-Dongs, long range type (inaudible), they have nuclear, chemical and biological capability. Seoul, with its 23 million people in and around the city, including 37,000 American troops and their families is only a five-minute rocket ride from the DMZ. Yes, we'd win the war, but there would be massive casualties in both countries.

In my opinion, any movement that would result in conflict now is unthinkable. And we have to understand that an action that we take that could be mis-read by the North Koreans could result in a conflict that could lead to war. As we traveled back and forth across the river in P'yongyang repeatedly during both trips, without being pointed out to us by our host but rather my staff noticing it on their own because they're all ex-military, we saw over the side of the bridge and took photographs of the U.S.S. Pueblo -- a monument in the minds of the North Koreans to their successful defeat of America. Now we have to understand, North Korea is a totally closed society, unlike any other society in modern history. When I used to travel to the Soviet Union, I would see evidence that they were aware of the West through TV, movies, through other means of communication. In North Korea, there are no such outlets for the North Koreans to understand what's out there in the Western world. Kim Jong Il has only traveled to Beijing and Moscow. He's never been to the West. The leaders have never been to the West. And yet they are convinced that they can win any war with us or South Korea because of their million-man army and because of their policy of Army first. And their philosophy of Juche which I would tell you probably less than 1% of the members of Congress -- if you ask them -- have any idea what the word means -- is a problem for us because we really don't understand their system. The people are convinced that they are self-sufficient. They don't need China or Russia or the U.S. or anyone else. They can live on their own and they'll suffer if they must to take care of their military's needs.

And so in the end, we have to be extremely careful that we don't create an action that would result in a reaction that would cause a conflict that could lead to a war. The longer that we continue this current stalemate, the more possibilities there are of that occurring.

So my goal right now is to continue the pressure and hope to lead a delegation back into P'yongyang within the next 30 days. I'll continue to push the Chinese and my Russian friends to assist in that process.

Let me give you an interesting observation which is perhaps hard for people to understand. But after having been there twice, after having met with all their leaders including General Lee, the three-star in charge of the North Korean military that oversees the P'anmunjom district, after having interacted with the people on the streets, in the marketplace, the artists in the art center, the students in the schools, the computer center, the P'yongyang computer center which is the prize activity of Kim Jong Il to move them into the computer age -- I saw it, I experienced it, I saw the use of computers by both North Korean adults as well as their children -- I came to an interesting observation in conclusion. First of all, I detected that the North Korean leadership hates the Japanese. In fact, during the trip, they would not refer to them as the "Japanese" but "those nasty Japs." And that was the term they used repeatedly. And the situation that I raised over the abductees, they didn't even want to hear about it, and they didn't want to talk about it, and I said "I'm raising the issue" -- they said, "No, we're not discussing it." I said, "Well I need to know when I get to Tokyo what to tell them that you said to me!" They said, "No comment." They don't trust the Chinese, and they don't trust the Russians.

Interestingly enough, I'm convinced in the end that what the President told us is in fact what they ultimately want, and that is to have a relationship with America and the West, and with their brothers and sisters in South Korea. In the end, they feel that a relationship with the United States is, in fact, in their best interest. The problem and the dilemma they have is they don't know how to get there. They know that we won't accept their regime, and they will not allow this to happen without Kim Jong Il being in power, so there's a sense of frustration.

So in my ultimate determination, I'm convinced that they actually want to be in a relationship with America - that's positive. They want to find ways to get back into our good graces, but they want to be sure that if that happens, it doesn't require the regime in power today to topple. Now, I'm convinced if we tone down the rhetoric and get down to substance, and if we truly want to end this stalemate, we find a way which I know is doable to bring both sides back with the other four nations at the table. We use the incentive packages economically that I discussed with them on my first trip. A package of ideas that I put together, not to negotiate, but to just see what their response was. It was rather simple in nature. I said to Kim Gye Gwan, "What if, on the same day, the United States said we'd recognize your government for at least one year, and we put an office in P'yongyang, and on that same day we announce that the five nations were joining with you in negotiating a comprehensive economic package that would only include support for your people in terms of food, healthcare, education, housing, but not support your military. And on that same day you renounce your nuclear program publicly and decide to rejoin the NPT, and we, through our President, gave you a written assurance that we would not preemptively strike you nor seek regime change. What if we did those five things? And at the end of that one -- and at the same time, on that day, you would allow us to conduct a comprehensive inventory of your entire nuclear program, both above ground and below ground. Assess your sites, your nuclear capability, your research and your weapons to our satisfaction. And at the end of that time period for that investigation, or one year, which would be the approximate time it would take -- maybe longer -- if you, in fact, did allow us to complete that inventory and it was to our satisfaction, a second set of initiatives would occur immediately. And they would include a permanent commitment not to preemptively attack or strike your country, unless, of course, you attacked one of your neighbors. A permanent representation in your government, and a permanent representation of your government in our government. The beginning of the implementation of that multi-year economic package, a cooperative threat-reduction program like we've done with Russia, where the Americans paid for the dismantling of your nuclear program, and take down that capability that you have, and you would then announce that you would also join at the Vienna discussions of the Organization of Security Cooperation that monitors the Helsinki Final Act -- you would become an observer on human rights issues for your people, and you would join the Non-Proliferation Treaty."

When I finished my comments, Kim Gye Gwan looked up at me and he had taken notes -- every word he was writing down because it was only he, myself, and our interpreters, and he said, "Congressman, that's exactly what we're looking for." He said, "I may not agree with all the things you're putting in there, but you are on the right track."

Interestingly enough, on this trip, every leader we met with said the same thing. "You know, Congressman, if your country had just moved in the direction of a package deal like you first talked about 18 months ago, we wouldn't be here today. We would be on the road to resolving this crisis."

Now maybe in the end the North Koreans are just bluffing. Maybe in the end they don't want to give up their weapons. Maybe in the end they're just stalling for more time or bartering for more support or resources. Maybe that'll be the case. But we have a responsibility to push this process in every way we can until we're convinced that we're at that point. And we're not at that point right now. And so my advice to our administration, my efforts in the Congress are going to continue to be to reach out to the North Koreans without being belligerent toward their government or their leader, in finding a way to have them re-join the six-party talks and subsequently negotiate an end to the crisis. I think it's doable if both sides are committed, and if both sides stop the rhetoric.

So those are my thoughts on where we are, and my efforts will continue in this regard as the Vice Chairman of the Armed Services Committee and the Vice Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. The thought of a war on the Korean Peninsula is unthinkable, and we all need to understand that America needs to move in an aggressive manner, whatever it takes, to convince the North Koreans to return to the table.

I would hope that we also are not seeing a falling in the relations between the U.S. and South Korea, or even the U.S. and China as has been indicated by some of the public comments over the past several weeks. South Korea is our long-term ally, strategic ally. We don't want to lose that relationship. And China -- an emerging threat in the 21st Century that we continue to have an open honest dialogue with, not just because of North Korean and Taiwan, but because of China's growth and size and eventual capability as a world economic super-power which China will become within the next 25 years.

Any questions? I'll be happy to answer them.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Larry?

QUESTIONER 1: (inaudible) ... very impressive I'm glad to know that, No. 1, that at least on the Congressional level (inaudible) Executive Branch, that we have this kind of dialogue going on. And, as I've mentioned before, I studied international politics at Columbia University (inaudible) during the 70s, and the (inaudible) What we're saying here is that while we also feared that the Soviet system could create another Stalin -- I think that was a real fear -- at the same time we felt that the (inaudible) that the leadership while basically radical, does not want to have a nuclear war. And that we would deal with them in terms of (inaudible) I haven't been convinced by everything I'm reading. You're convincing me otherwise, but I haven't been convinced previously that we're dealing with a North Korean leadership that's radical (inaudible) and you said at the end of your presentation -- they're a closed society. They don't have the kind of open dialogue that we have, even among themselves, let alone -- Kim Jong Il hasn't traveled, the leadership hasn't traveled. How are we to have a comfort level that we're dealing with a (inaudible) group? I think Madeline Albright might have an open mind, but after the scenario she had with the masses of (inaudible) I think she was truly frightened. And I guess the last point is -- didn't we try it in 1993 with Jimmy Carter with his peace mission -- something to the effect of what you said -- give them economic incentives for --

WELDON: The difference is -- and if we compare it to '93 on the Agreed Framework -- you have to have transparency and you have to have verification. If you don't have those two things, then you can't trust them. I mean, that was true with the Soviet Union, it was true with Communist China, and it's true with Kim Jong Il. I've never met the man. I was told on my next trip we'll have a face-to-face meeting with him and that may or may not happen. I've also been told I'll be asked to speak at Kim Il Sung University which I did visit, which I'm looking forward to speaking at. But I understand your concern about the closed-ness of their society and not really appreciating the west, but I can tell you -- I have respect for Kim Gye Gwan. I think he's an extremely intelligent man. I think he's a rational man. After having spent five hours with him on the first trip and 10 hours on the second trip, I have confidence that he understands where they need to go. And he's the guy in control right now in terms of negotiation. Now, I might not be able to say that same thing about other people I met there who I won't name, who I do not have that same level of feeling about, some of whom have served in the West as ambassadors at the U.N. and in the diplomatic mission of the DPRK. But I think Kim Gye Gwan is a person you could cut a deal with, and he's a person that has the ear of their dear leader, to be able to have -- not just a deal but the verification and transparency that you need to make that deal work. Just signing a piece of paper is not going to be the solution to this crisis. And I told him that. I said, "The one thing different about this solution and the one in '94 is -- you've got to allow people to come into your country to do it. You've got to allow inspections, above ground and below ground. If you're going to have transparency, and get the support that we're promising or would promise through economic aid and cooperation, in return for that you've got to allow an openness for the West to come in and make sure that you're not cheating." So I think the difference is -- that's got to be a requirement. And if we don't get that, then you can't have any confidence that it'll be a success, and that they won't cheat. So I think it's different from '93 and I think we learned our lesson, and we learned our lesson with Agreed Framework, and I think we can't go back to that same process again without full and complete verification and transparency.

QUESTIONER 2: (inaudible for transcription)

WELDON: Let me take your second point first. On the last trip, I made it a point that our delegation did not just go into P'yongyang. We went to all four countries. We went to Russia, China, Japan and South Korea. At each stop we met with the foreign minister and their parliament. At each stop I raised the issue -- all four parliaments -- five parliaments are ready to go. They're all excited. In fact, two days ago we had South Korean parliamentarians in town. I spoke to them again. They are prepared to be involved. We would have it at Mt. Diamond, and it would be not a negotiation. It would be a seminar. We would talk about common interests. We would talk about ocean issues. We would talk about issues involving national security concerns, environment, energy, issues that we could talk about as leaders, so we'd get to know each other. The key thing is -- we want to get to know each other. You can't expect to solve a problem if you don't appreciate the other person's position, and you can't do that unless you interact and you can get to know them. So that project -- we have the financing in place. The major publisher of D (inaudible) I think it is -- the South Koreans agreed to finance the project. So has K (inaudible) and so has H (inaudible) - So they would fund the initiative which would bring over the parliamentarians to Mt. Diamond and have a two or three day seminar. In terms of the response -- no, I haven't received a response from Han yet, but I just met with him last week and he has to convey that back to P'yongyang, and I can tell you that when I returned from the last trip, he was very enthused. He said, "Congressman, I've never had such positive feelings from a trip as your trip." In fact, I knew it was a success for two reasons. The first reason was that our translator on both trips was Ton Kim. Ton Kim is the senior interpreter for the State Department who interprets for President Bush. He was the interpreter for Madeline Albright. He was the interpreter for Bill Perry. And, the interpreter for Jim Kelly. On my trip, two months ago or three months ago -- he was my interpreter and that was his 17th trip with the same interlocutors, and Ton Kim said to me and he said publicly in Seoul, "I have never seen the North Koreans so open, so candid, and so frank." There was no rhetoric back and forth. It was a common discussion among human beings. And that's what our goal was. So we achieved a level of openness and candor that's absolutely essential. Second -- when we were leaving North Korea on the third day, leaving the next morning, I said to Lee Gun, I said, "You're going to have the KCNA put out a press release about my trip. You do it all the time." He said, "Yes, they'll put out a press release." I said, "I want to know what's going to be in the press release." That's pretty bold for me to demand that when I'm in their country. I said, "I want to see what's going to be in the document." He said, "I'll be glad to show it to you." So the next morning he brings the document to the lobby of the P (inaudible) Hotel, and he starts to read it to me. He says, "Is this okay?" I said, "No. Because you told me and your leaders told me that you're prepared to come back to the table. I want that in the statement. I want you to say that. That's what they said. You were there." "Yes, Congressman, I'll put that in." I said, "Your President referred to us as potentially your friends. I want that in the document." So we actually sat in the lobby and negotiated the KCNA press release that was put out about our trip. Now, if that's not progress, I don't know what is. When the KCNA press release came out the next day, we were already in Seoul, it was exactly what they said it would be. And you know, they put out a lot of nasty rhetoric. It was very positive. It was very upbeat. They were prepared to come back to the table. They were prepared to let me bring a delegation back in to do the speech. I met with Han when I got back and I said, "Han, I'd like to speak at Kim Il Sung University." He said, "I will support you, Congressman, but you have to make a promise to me." I said, "What is it?" "That you'll mention me as a graduate of that University when you speak there." I said, "Sure, I'll tell them you're the star in America." And he smiled and he laughed, and I said, "Also, Han, remember, your leadership promised me on the next trip, we'd meet with your dear leader." He said, "Yes, I understand that." That was all in the works, and I'm convinced they were serious. I think we blew the opportunity and now we've got to try to recapture that opportunity again. America sometimes, as a nation, both now and in the 19 years I've been here -- I've been here 19 years total -- we sometimes -- and we might not mean to be this way -- but we present an arrogance to the world like we have all the answer, we have all the solutions, and you must do everything on our terms. I wish that we could understand that in the end, the No. 1 thing we could do is to show some humility and to show the world that we don't have all the answers, that we are not a perfect society. But we certainly have a great government because we acknowledge our shortfalls and our problems, and we do it publicly and we work to correct them. We've also got to understand and appreciate the other person. And I've learned one thing about the Far East -- when you embarrass someone personally, you've caused a major problem in your relationship. Face is extremely important, and sometimes I think we have forgotten that and maybe haven't learned that lesson. I think that's part of our problem in dealing with North Korea, and I'm not saying we should bow down to them. I'm not saying we should say positive things about them, that we should praise Kim Jong Il -- none of that's necessary. But we certainly shouldn't call names and make other derogatory statements. That is not helping the process one bit.

QUESTIONER 3: (inaudible for transcription)

WELDON: I support the position of the President 1000%. A 6-Party Process, complete and total verifiable removal of all nuclear capability, and in the 6-Party Process, we have bilateral discussion between North Korea and the U.S. because that's what they feel they need to get -- to get the assurances that they desire. So it's a good 6-Party Process. I think we can accomplish this within that process with bilateral discussion between the DPRK and the U.S. together. So yes, I support -- and that is the official policy of the administration and I think the North Koreans are prepared to accept that. Those told me they were. The thing they need to be assured of is that when we say we're not going to attack them or seek regime change, they want to be confident that we mean it. They don't think we mean that right now.

QUESTIONER 4: (inaudible for transcription)

WELDON: Well, I don't think we should be dictating to South Korea what the policy should be. We have enough problems running our own government, so I don't want to try to sell the South Koreans how to deal with their neighbor to the North. I think that's up to the South Koreans, our allies, to determine the best way to deal with the North -- as it is with the Japanese, the Russians, and the Chinese. But I do support our relationship with South Korea. I want to make it stronger, and in the end the only way to resolve this crisis is as a partner with South Korea because South Korea, in the end, is the country that the people will have to deal the most with North Korean people.

QUESTIONER 5: (inaudible)

WELDON: Well again, I can't speak on behalf of the U.S. because I'm not the President or the Secretary of State. I mean, that's my own opinion -- so I can speak on my behalf and what I think is the mood of the Congress. I think if North Korea would detonate a weapon, there'd be a major problem. It would be a catastrophe. I think you'd immediately see the pressure in the Congress to go to the U.N. Security Council, and you know if that happens, the North Korean would consider that an act of war. And I think you then would see a response from the North Koreans. It would probably be some type of provocative action, either against South Korea or some place -- launching some other missile or doing something else that could be very provocative. It would make it extremely difficult for the U.S. to in any way recognize North Korea if in fact they test a nuclear weapon. So I think you'd probably see a very strong push for a complete embargo, complete economic and total embargo of North Korea. And I think you'd see the Chinese probably be embarrassed, and probably be willing to do things they're not willing to do now, which might even be sanctions and going to the U.N. So I think North Korea has to understand that if they take that attitude, they could be hurting themselves in a very, very severe way -- not just with us, but with China and Russia as well. I've got to run and vote.


This page last updated 6/13/2005 jdb

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