The ICAS Lectures


Peace Outlook in the Korean Peninsula:
US-ROK and US-DPRK Relations

Thomas C. Hubbard

ICAS Spring Symposium
The Korean Peninsula Issues
May 22, 2006 9:00 AM -- 7:30 PM
United States Senate Russell Office Building Caucus Room SR 325
Capitol Hill, Washington D.C. 20510
Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422


Biographic Sketch & Links: Thomas C. Hubbard

Peace Outlook in the Korean Peninsula:
US-ROK and US-DPRK Relations

Thomas C. Hubbard

Good morning. Thank you, Dr. Kim, for inviting me here. It's good to be here with this group. I see a lot of familiar faces in the room, and perhaps some others that I haven't met, but I'm delighted to be with you.

I'm going to talk this morning mainly about North Korea and various issues that North Korea poses, but before getting into North Korea, I thought I'd say a few words about South Korea because I think we face in the United States two challenges on the Korean Peninsula, and perhaps Koreans also face two challenges. One is dealing with North Korea and the various problems that it poses, and the other is the bilateral relationship which I believe is under some strain at the moment, and about the need to somehow restore a sense of confidence and common purpose in the alliance and relationship between the U.S. and South Korea.

I'm tempted to say that all is well with the relationship between the U.S. and South Korea, and in fact, I believe that things are not as bad as is often portrayed in the press or in think tanks. We have a lot going for us. I think our sense of common purpose, our sense of common interest in the U.S.-Korea relationship has grown as Korea has matured politically and economically – the fact that we now see in South Korea democracy, a free flow of trade and investment, and a sense of common interest in regional security I think bodes well for the U.S.-South Korean relationship.

Despite some scratchiness from time to time between our two administrations, I think the fact is that President Bush and President Roh Moo-Hyun have built a good personal relationship in a series of meetings that they – the extensive series of meetings that they have had together. It helps that Korea has been very supportive on the global war against terrorism in Afghanistan and later in Iraq. I think most Americans still don't realize that South Korea is the third largest provider of troops to Iraq after the U.S. and the U.K. We're now collaborating on the most significant restructuring of our military ties in decades, and we now see a lot in the newspapers about friction over land use and cost. I think this is natural and inevitable, but I think over the long term, the reduction and consolidation of our forces outside of Seoul to regions south of the Han River will help make the relationship more sustainable over time. And we are indeed still working through the six-party talks to try to resolve the North Korean issues. I think we agree on some basic goals, beginning with a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula. I think we agree on approach, that is that we want to solve this problem peacefully through a multi-lateral dialogue, even though our sense of appropriate tactics and our use of relative priorities don't always mesh. I'll talk more about that later.

I think the sense of – a new sense of common resolve to strengthen the alliance and a will to work together on global interests is reflected in the new strategic dialogue that we launched a few months ago. I think this is a clear effort on the U.S. part as well as Korea's part, to upgrade and expand the scope of the alliance amidst enormous tension in the United States to China and a new emphasis on the U.S.-Japan alliance. And finally, the decision to launch FTA talks with the United States will be the most significant free trade agreement since NAFTA is both an indication of the breadth of our economic ties and a sign of Korea's strategic importance.

Yet, despite these positive factors, I have to admit that there is a sense of unease in both countries about the future of the U.S.-South Korean relationship. I certainly felt that during my time as Ambassador in South Korea. I think this unease in part reflects shifting U.S. priorities since 9/11. The U.S. has changed profoundly while people in the ROK and the ROK government have been sympathetic, but still more focused on issues closer to home like North Korea, the rise of China, the future of our bilateral relationship. I found when I was in Korea that many Koreans, particularly younger Koreans, shared a lot of the qualms that we've seen in Europe and elsewhere in the world about alleged U.S. unilateralism in the world. I think there's some concern in Korea that the greater U.S. focus on the Middle East spells less priority for Korean security.

I think this unease in the relationship partly reflects political change in Korea. We warmly welcome democracy in Korea, but democracy doesn't necessarily mean that people will agree with the United States on all of the issues. We have in power in Korea a new generation that has less experience in dealing with the United States – perhaps, certainly in the past, has been less committed to the U.S.-South Korean relationship. In sum, I think Korea shifted to the left, I think the moderate left, just as the United States shifted to the right, and this has of course produced some stresses and strains.

And of course the changes in our relationship unease also reflect profound changes in the international environment. Korea is still sandwiched between large Asian powers but China and Russia are no longer enemies. In fact, China is now Korea's largest trading partner. And Korea is no longer a small fish. Korea is now the world's 10th, 11th or 14th largest economy, but certainly a large player in the world. And Korea is now a very large source of investment in China.

So a lot of the statements that come out of Korea that somehow don't sound right to American ears, like the President's concept of being a balancer in the region I think reflect all of these factors as well as a deep concern about Japan that I think we in the United States need to recognize, and some uncertainty about the future of the U.S. role, although I think the adjustment of our forces has proceeded relatively smoothly – far more smoothly than I thought at the outset. I think our sudden push for military restructuring has caused some questions in Korea.

There's been a growth of nationalism in both countries, I believe. In Korea that nationalism is perhaps manifested as a quest for respect and greater independence. In the United States it seems to have manifested itself in a degree of unilateralism that can be disturbing to our partners. But in the final analysis, the major cause for concern in the U.S.-ROK relationship I believe is North Korea, a perception in both countries that we are not really following the same road map, singing from the same song sheet with regard to North Korea, and I think that is a profound challenge to the alliance.

Quite clearly, the North Korean challenge has worsened over the past several years and concern, I believe in the United States at least, has been heightened by 9/11. We look back a bit – at the end of 2002, we still had the agreed framework in place. We were concerned about North Korean nuclear weapons. Perhaps they had produced one or two – enough material for one or two weapons in the past, but we knew where their spent fuel rods were, we know that the reprocessing facility was shut down, we had International Atomic Energy Agency monitors in those facilities. We had some confidence in the future and I think that's one of the things that enabled Kim Dae-Jung's Sunshine Policy as well as subsequent manifestations of engagement and reconciliation with South Korea. Of course all of that was broken by our discovery of North Korea's uranium enrichment program. That was a clear violation of the agreed framework which, among other things, pledged both sides to support the 1992 North-South Denuclearization Agreement which banned reprocessing and uranium enrichment in both countries. So it was clearly a violation that needed to be called, but as a result of the process that broke down, as the agreed framework broke down, we wind up with a situation where North Korea has proclaimed itself to be a nuclear power. We don't know where the nuclear materials that came out of the 8,000 spent fuel rods are. We believe very strongly that they have re-processed. They could have accumulated enough to assemble material for 10 or 12 nuclear weapons.

Now we find ourselves in the six-party talks, and after some tentative progress, certainly the September 19 agreement pledging all sides to work for a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula is significant progress even though it was tentative. But we're now once again in a situation where the future is in doubt as North Korea continues to insist that it will not come back to talks unless sanctions are lifted – the sanctions imposed over the criminal activities I think you heard more about earlier this morning – are lifted.

Thus, we have – we're once again in an impasse over North Korea at a time of a growing perception gap between the U.S. and South Korea, and differences over tactics. You all know what these differences are. Americans see a huge threat in North Korea's nuclear programs. This threat has been heightened by 9/11 and the thought that somehow nuclear material weapons could get in the hands of terrorists. And many in the United States doubt that the North Koreans will ever be prepared to give up its nuclear weapons, certainly under this regime.

This regime, the Kim Jong Il regime is anathema to most Americans, producing terms like "evil empire" and "tyrant." I know many Koreans are upset that the issue of criminal activities seem to arise almost out of nowhere, just when we seem to be making progress in the six-party talks. I have some sympathy for that concern, but it's really hard to ignore evidence of State support for counterfeiting and laundering of illicit gains, even if the timing of the sanctions was unfortunate. Fortunately, I think the South Korean government has recognized this. I know that South Koreans are worried about North Korea's – concerned about North Korea's nuclear weapons – can't accept nuclear weapons on the peninsula, but it seems that most Koreans take that threat less seriously than Americans. I think this is partly a result of the Sunshine Policy and reconciliation. I think the thousands of South Koreans who have been able to visit North Korea have come away with a feeling that this is a decaying regime, a dying regime, and that in these circumstances a breakdown of order in North Korea is a more plausible threat than any kind of attack. South Koreans here talk of regime change in the United States and fear the U.S. might attack. In fact, polls suggest that at least a substantial number of Koreans see the United States as a greater threat to peace and stability on the peninsula than North Korea. This of course sounds ridiculous to Americans. Many fear that North Korea might collapse in the face of U.S. pressure. This would bring hordes of refugees and a huge economic burden to the south.

So in short I think South Koreans appear wedded to a soft landing, to avoiding a sudden regime change. Most South Koreans I think consider war unthinkable, economic sanctions a last resort, and they're very reluctant to address human rights frontally for some of those reasons.

So what should we do?

I think it's much easier to analyze the mistakes of the past five years than to prescribe where to go from here. And I might preface my later remarks by saying I worked on North Korean issues both under the Clinton Administration and under the Bush Administration, and from that perspective I have no question that North Korea's pursuit of dangerous weapons while repressing its people is the source of the problem. There's no question in my mind that North Korea cheated on its commitment to abandon its nuclear weapons program. However I do fault the current administration in the U.S. for first allowing the productive dialogue begun during the Clinton Administration to lapse as it reviewed its policy, and then, once this administration decided that dialogue was the right course, for failing to make a genuine effort to make dialogue work. Perhaps most importantly in my mind, while it was necessary to call the North Koreans on their covert enriched uranium program, I don't think it was necessary to in effect throw the baby out with the bath water. Skillful diplomacy could, I believe, have found a way to maintain the freeze on the plutonium program while we pursued vigorously North Korea's violation of the overall framework.

Given the circumstances, I do believe six-party talks are the best approach, and I credit the Bush Administration for embracing this initiative. It engages China, in effect challenges China to take the lead in helping to resolve a regional security problem, and it's immensely helpful, I believe, to have South Korea and Japan in the room as we talk to the North Koreans. The six-party talks allow all the parties to submerge their differences and to apply the leverage that they can appropriately provide. I think, moreover, a multilateral agreement, if we can reach one, would be more durable. It could lead to peace on the peninsula and lay the basis for more structure stability in the entire Northeast Asia region.

As I say, North Korea's at fault for the current stalemate, but I think the U.S. could do more. Face is important. I think the second Bush Administration has been right to permit more bilateral dialogue in the six-party context, but I think we should be less fearful of bilateral contact. I think we need to engage much more vigorously.

We need to avoid language that gives North Korea an excuse to skip the talks, and we need a clear sense of priority. To my mind, the first priority is the nuclear questions, and I can't help but, with all respect to the previous speaker, I can't help but think we could have found a better manner and timing for pursuing our long-standing concerns about counterfeiting and money-laundering.

I think we hear rumblings in some quarters that the six-party talks are effectively dead. I think I'm an inveterate optimist. In fact, I don't believe that diplomacy can succeed without a combination of hard-headedness and optimism. My guess is that a way will be found to resume the six-party talks before too long, given the absence of viable alternatives. North Koreans may not be ready for a deal. United States may not be ready for a deal. But I don't think any of us or any of the other participants are looking for a showdown or a confrontation.

The most concrete result thus far is the declaration in the September 19, 2005 declaration that all parties favor a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula. However, it's needless to say that the basic question of whether North Korea is prepared to abandon its nuclear programs remains unanswered. Many are very doubtful. However, I personally am not yet convinced that we cannot, by working together through the six-party talks, create conditions in which North Korea will give up the nuclear threat just as Libya did.

The key to successful – however my guess is that we won't have the answer to this question, whether they have made a political decision to give up the nuclear weapons for some time – the key to successful talks is to convince the North Koreans that they have more to gain by joining the international community than by continuing to brandish the nuclear threat. However, getting that point across is not easy, given what the North Koreans have seen in Iraq and elsewhere and what they hear very frequently in the media. A successful conclusion I think will require letting the North Koreans know both the benefits that would flow from abandoning nuclear programs and the negative consequences of not doing so. I think all the six-party participants need to do a better job in this regard.

A solution will also require a greater degree of confidence on all sides than we have now, and that I think will require sustained engagement. So I'm not at all optimistic that talks will lead to early resolution of the problem in the form of the full and verifiable denuclearization that we seek. Some in the U.S. will no doubt argue that this means talks are futile, that regime change is the only answer. I would argue that the difficulty of finding an early solution is all the more reason to keep talking, while at the same time applying pressure through such measures as the proliferation security initiative. Even in the absence of full resolution, constructive talks can help contain the problem, just as the agreed framework, imperfect though it was, kept a lid for a decade on the most advanced aspect of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

It may well be that we won't see a full resolution of the North Korean nuclear problem short of substantial progress on the broader issues of peace and security on the Peninsula. The Administration seems to be considering a broader approach, and I welcome that. Beginning to talk about a permanent peace in an appropriate forum could help create a more positive framework for resolving the nuclear issue. But a broader approach will not work if it is conditioned upon full North Korean capitulation in advance. Or if – it also won't work if it consists primarily of a renewed focus on human rights and criminal activities.

As we go forward, we Americans need to be mindful of the new realities on the Korean Peninsula. Increasing inter-Korean engagement is already a fact of life, embraced by almost all elements of the South Korean society and the body politic. And that I think over time is how fundamental change will occur in the north. And as the two Koreas begin to break down the walls between them, continued engagement of other regional powers through the six-party talks can be a stabilizing factor, even as it helps us address other issues of concern such as human rights and criminal behavior. And perhaps most importantly, continued engagement through multilateral dialogue can perhaps help us deal with that nexus between nuclear weapons and terrorism that is our most serious source of concern.

In conclusion, let me return to what I see as the most pressing issue, other than North Korea, in U.S. bilateral agenda, and that is the proposed Free Trade Agreement. I think this FTA is extremely important to both countries. As we deal together with North Korea, the U.S. and the ROK will need to marshal all the strength and solidarity that we can derive from the common interests and values that we have developed over the past 50 years. Successful conclusion of an FTA will, I believe, put our relationship on a new plane. It offers an opportunity to strengthen our overall ties at a time of some stress and strain while expanding trade to our mutual benefit. With highly sensitive issues on both sides, the negotiations will of course not be easy, but this FTA is clearly a win-win proposition for both of us, and we must succeed.

Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Now the floor is open. Will those questioners, discussants please stand behind the microphone. Mark.

MARK MOHR: Thank you, Tom. Thank you for a very well balanced and nuanced discussion. I think you yourself said toward the end of your remarks that we need to create conditions at the six-party talks to get North Korea back and engaged in forward momentum. It seems to me, as we know, as both of us know from practicing diplomacy, one of the arts is to try to understand the mind of the person you're trying to talk to and his perspective. And if many sort of informed Americans on the Korea issue, or many South Koreans feel that the U.S. is approaching it wrong, and let's look – you criticized the Bush Administration for letting the momentum from the Clinton Administration move on – I know from my involvement that at the beginning the administration came in and were searching for ways to destroy the six-party talks, so it seems given this background and the unfortunate timing, as you alluded to, of the counterfeiting – I mean, I knew in 1998 that North Koreans were counterfeiting – so why now? It seems to me that there really needs to be something bold to shake up the present stalemate, so this is what I propose and I'd like your reaction to it. As we all know, President Carter did good work in – what was it? 1993 or '94? It was '94, wasn't it? Right. So I'm trying to think of a former president who's related to this administration, who might be able to go to North Korea. Now, I don't know what present father-son relationships are doing over the Middle East, but it seems like it would be a good idea to have (END OF SIDE A – SIDE B CONTINUES) . . . . go to North Korea, and carry in his pocket a bilateral aid proposal – whether it's the Bob Manning thing of dropping a pipeline from here Vladivostok and building gas-fired power reactors in North Korea, or rebuilding the electric grid. You can tell North Korea that if the U.S. spends a billion dollars rebuilding their electric grid, probably we won't bomb them the next month after the grid. And this is a concrete sign of a peace treaty, rather than just a piece of paper. Anyway, your comments, please.

QUESTION: You are taking the question, sir? My question is related to your closing comment on the FTA. The negotiations are in a race against the clock because the U.S. presidential powers are going to terminate within 12 months, and could you give us your views about what might be the obstacles on the South Korean side and – the pluses and minuses both on the South Korean side and on the U.S. side?

HUBBARD: These are quite disparate, but I don't think I remember any more than two questions with notes. Bless you, my former colleague, Mark Mohr, for coming up with a wonderful idea. I do think former President Carter played a fortuitous role in helping get us back to talks with North Korea in 1994. You may recall that there was also some scratchiness with the Clinton Administration over that. I try to avoid delicate local questions, and even more so I stay out of delicate family questions! And nothing I have seen suggests that a Bush 41 visit to North Korea is in the cards. I was in government when President Clinton was in his final days trying to decide whether to go to North Korea. At the time having had considerable experience, I was with Secretary Albright, had helped prepare Secretary Albright's visit, and went to Pyongyang with her. At the time I thought it would be a mistake for President Clinton to go because we had not come to a full agreement on the missile issues that were at question. Having seen what's happened in the last five years, I wish Clinton had gone. I think we would see a very different situation right now. But whether a special envoy is the way to go or not – let me put it on the record that I support that idea of a gas pipeline down the Korean Peninsula. It seems to make a lot of economic sense. It would seem to hold some prospect of helping us get over some of the problems we're in, but of course it would have to have the support certainly of the U.S. government and the South Korean government, and would need economic backing to make it a reality. I guess that's enough said on that subject.

I meant to mention in my talk that I understand that Senator Luger has made a new proposal, put together some new legislation. I'm sorry I was not able to find a copy on it. It's not – I read about it in the Korean newspapers, but was not able to find anything about it on his website. But I welcome – when you're – to my mind – it's often said that when you're in a hole, stop digging. I think when you're at an impasse, look for ways to get out of it. Find ways to re-energize these talks, and if we really want them to succeed, I think we need to be thinking much more broadly as I suggested in my speech.

You ask about the FTA and what are the benefits. I think there are estimates that it would have a substantial benefit to both countries in terms of increased exports and increased GDP. I wouldn't want to try to remember the figures exactly. Probably a greater impact in terms of GDP on Korea's economy which is smaller than it would be on the U.S., but nonetheless, substantial for both countries. I think in Korea, President Roh Moo-Hyun has presented this agreement principally as a way of bringing about structural change within Korea to help build Korea's competitiveness vis-a-vis China, perhaps Japan, by opening up, and that is only to be welcomed by all of us. So I think it has very substantial benefits for both sides. Issues – sensitive issues include agriculture on the Korean side. There may be some reluctance on the part of some services to see the opening in the service industries that the U.S. side would like to have. I think the U.S. has a lot of issues relating to access to the Korean economy, the transparency of the regulatory process. Some industries like our pharmaceutical industry and our automobile industry – I feel they have a great stake in greater standardization and transparency of regulations, and those will be very fundamental objectives of the United States, as well as the opening of the services market in a lot of fields.

WARD: My name is Stafford Ward. I'm President of the New ……. Society. I have a question regarding the future of the U.S.-ROK alliance in regards to the – in terms of defense and security. When Secretary Rice and Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon signed the Strategic Flexibility Agreement, some officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs weren't particularly happy about it because they felt they wanted more independent – South Korea to be more independent of security, as evidence of turning over wartime control over to South Korea in the future. In your estimation, if the GOP were to win the election in 2007, do you see a closer South Korean alliance to the United States or if the current ruling party were to win, will we still see more continued independent South Korean defense?

HUBBARD: Could I answer that now? That's one of those political questions that I enter into only with great reluctance. I think what we've seen kind of missed in some of the hang-wringing that accompanied Roh Moo-Hyun and his ……. Dong – his Uri party's accession to power is – it's ironically, I think, had the effect of bringing the two major Korean parties closer together on fundamental issues relating to our alliance. It is Roh Moo-Hyun that made the decision to send 3,000 troops to Iraq. It's Roh Moo-Hyun and his government that made the decision formally to reconcile this concept of strategic flexibility. And he supported the whole process of realigning, and there are many in his own party who have been laggard on that and we're seeing these demonstrations now over some of the practicalities of land acquisition and who pays, which are issues everywhere in the world. But I think the differences have diminished and to be perfectly honest, I don't think a shift in political parties in Korea will have a great impact either on South Korea's approach to North Korea – I think the body politic has come around fundamentally supporting this process of engagement – nor do I think it will make a great deal of difference in terms of the U.S.-Korean military relationship.

RICHARD SHIN: L….. My question is regarding reunification. Obviously when Kim Il Sung died and North Korea had famine and all kinds of problems, a lot of people predicted that North Korea would collapse within 10 years, and it never came about because we didn't really realize the North Korean government's disregard for its general population and their will to survive. Now, it seems like the reunification or collapse of North Korea seems to be a bad word – that it's got to be a regime change before something like that happens. But on the other hand, if Korea wants to have a systematic, orderly and least costly reunification with North Korea, it might be better to do it while Kim Jong Il is still in power rather than during the confusion that will likely occur after his death. And obviously, Kim Jong Il is already over 70. His ability to control the government and his regime is going to diminish over time, and the second point is that China, after the Olympics – obviously, China is keeping its population unified – but there's going to be a lot of domestic problems that are going to occur over time, especially after the free market takes an even stronger hold. And their ability to prop up North Korea or to address the issue of South Korea and North Korea relations might be diminished. And finally the economic conditions – like you said, the gas pipeline through North Korea. Now it's becoming very attractive for both South Korea, Japan, and obviously Russia. So the question is – all these three factors, the political issues, economic issues, and China's ability to kind of meddle into this affair, may precipitate that the South Korean government may want to try to start the reunification process – or some kind of an agreement before Kim Jong Il dies, and I don't whether you have views on that or not. And this is not my idea. This is actually from one of the South Korean political – a member of Uri Dang was suggesting this idea, so I just wanted to throw it out for your consideration.

HUBBARD: Thank you. I think you've asked me questions in other settings. This is a different one. I mean, I think you have put your finger on one of the issues that probably exists between basic South Korean thinking and basic U.S. thinking. I think for all of the reasons that you cite, most South Koreans would sort of like Kim Jong Il to stay around for a while. And I think Americans – I don't think anyone is seriously contemplating any kind of forceful regime change, but the fact is, to Americans – to many Americans, this is an abhorrent regime that represses its people greatly while threatening the world with dangerous weapons, so it's hard to find Americans who hope that Kim Jong Il will have a long – let me stop that here. He's not in his 70s, incidentally. I think he's 65, isn't he? So you know – he could have a long life. And certainly North Koreans have proven themselves to be a lot tougher in the decade or so – more than a decade that I've been involved with Koreans – than many of us thought. So I don't think we can count on it.

The problem with the whole idea of engagement through such things – such activities as the Kaesong Zone – I think have the potential over time to bring about change in North Korea. But it may take a very long time, and as is often pointed out, that North Korea's leader may see that opening and that change that is implied as being personally threatening to himself.

QUESTION: Tom, thank you very much for that presentation. It was a wonderful overview. I have two questions for you. First, you rightly, I think, emphasized the importance of the FTA negotiations for both countries, especially I suppose in terms of GNP for South Korea. And yet I've heard many people speak about the possible inclusion of products from the Kaesong Industrial Complex as being a show-stopper for those negotiations. That is to say, we in the United States would reject that possibility, whereas South Korea might in fact insist on it. I'd like to hear what your views are on that – whether it's a serious problem or a trivial one. And the second slightly more theoretical, I think, is – you've mentioned the possible broadening of the discussions with North Korea, I think alluding to the idea of a peace treaty that David Sanger wrote about a few days iago n the New York Times. I've been advocating that for a long time myself, as you know. But at this point in time, what would you think should be included in that discussion, if it takes place? What should the United States put on the table in terms of a discussion about a peace regime with North Korea? Thank you.

HUBBARD: First on the question of the FTA – getting products manufactured and Kaesong to be recognized as South Korean in origin for purposes of the FTA seems to be an important position of the Korean side in the negotiations even though we have not yet met formally. The negotiations have yet to begin. To be very honest, I've been almost afraid to ask what the U.S. position is, even if someone might tell me. I don't know what the U.S. position is now, or will be in the negotiations. What I have said to my South Korean friends is that it's going to be hard enough in the time frame available to negotiate an FTA that addresses the complex economic issues, trade and investment issues that affect what is our 7th largest trading relationship in the world, and one of Korea's most important. So a lot of hard issues. And by – I do believe that the status of products produced in Kaesong is a valid subject for bilateral discussion, but it does add to already complex negotiations two new elements that are sensitive in the United States. One is North Korea itself and how to deal with North Korea, and the other is labor issues and related workers' rights issues. These have been big stumbling blocks to the negotiation of, for example, the Central American Free Trade Agreement. The issues don't generally have nearly as much impact in Korea which is now a high wage country, but by bringing in this issue of Kaesong, you do bring in a labor rights, an issue that could be a very complicating factor.

I have not given nearly as much thought, Jim, as you have to what might go into peace treaty negotiations. You know, we've had some experience with that in the four-party talks that I guess we conducted between, what? 1996 and 1998. We sort of broke down into kind of talking on the one hand about procedural issues, and on the other hand about CBMs and the like. There are lots of things to consider in that. To my mind, we've had enough experience now in attacking the nuclear issue in isolation and have broken down so often over sequencing and difficult issues of verification and all of that. It does seem to me that some form of broadening – putting it into a broader context of peace, reconciliation, and eventually unification on the peninsula, might help us energize the talks, but then you've got to give a lot of thought to what's on the table and what you talk about in those terms.

QUESTION: Thanks for your talk. I guess you've probably been asked many times about – on this issue. I guess my question is – what went wrong? I mean, if you look at the current situation, it's probably not even back to Square 1. It's even worse, in the sense that – comparing to the situation with the pre-1994 agreement. So what went wrong? And what are the lessons from that failure that U.S. should incorporate into the policy in dealing with – in resolving North Korea's situation? And do you think that Kim Jong Il will ever abandon his nuclear program which is – I think it's his security blanket as well as a bargaining chip. So I'd like to hear your views on this. Thank you.

HUBBARD: Well, as one of the – you're hearing, the group is hearing from Ambassador Gallucci this afternoon. I was his deputy during the '94 talks, so I could talk forever, as I'm sure he can too about what went wrong after '94. I think fundamentally we came up with an agreement that was very beneficial to my mind to both sides as far as it went. But it lacks the sense of full and mutual confidence that you need to make any agreement sustainable over time. And it was a broader agreement. People forget that we did have some clauses in about working toward normalization of our relations and other positive steps as we resolve various issues ahead. We did lift some sanctions in that process. We did talk about liaison offices. I think one of the things that happened in the United States is that just after we concluded the agreed framework in 1994, we had that dramatic mid-term election in which the Republicans captured the Congress, and that had a very important impact on our ability under the Clinton Administration to move forward. I think the agreement wasn't comprehensive enough. It was focused only on Yong Byun and what we knew was there. And there was nothing in it that inherently allowed us to prevent this – or monitor this enriched uranium thing. It was based on nuclear which turned out to be a real weakness in the United States when we were unable to fully support that – the light water reactors – after the Republicans took the Congress. One thing about nuclear is – it took too long. Even in the best of circumstances, it was going to be a long time before North Korea got the benefits of the agreed framework. It was going to be a long time before we got what we wanted, which was full dismantlement of their existing program, etc. And finally, it was bilateral and supported to varying degrees by other countries, but I think if we can get a six-party agreement, we're much better off. I guess that's kind of the lessons learned.

I think the lessons forgotten perhaps of that process were that dialogue is necessary. I think the main arena has to be the six-party talks, but I don't think the six-party talks are ever going to work unless we're more prepared to engage bilaterally with North Korea just as other parties are. I think we've got to find something that gets benefits to them more rapidly. We've got to have better—obviously, better monitoring or at least broader monitoring and verification capabilities. And I do think we need to wrap this in a more clearly and agreed long-term process of reconciliation on the peninsula, leading to unification which of course we support.

LI ….JONG: Thank you, Ambassador. Thank you for your wonderful presentation. I have two questions for you. The first one is – how about the differences of the approach …. DPRK's influence on the Korea-U.S. relationship? The second question is: do you think it is possible for the six-party talks to …… into a regional security …… such as Northeastern Asian security's regime, because many scholars in academia are talking about – to be a regional security is …… to solve the problems in the future.

HUBBARD: I'm sorry. I didn't understand your first question.

LI …. JONG: My first question is because we know there are different approaches dealing with DPRK between the United States and Korea, so my question is how do the differences influences the Korea-United States relationship?

HUBBARD: Well, I think, as I said in my talk, I think it is the major source of concern about a very important bilateral relationship. We are treaty allies, we are strategic partners, we are major trading partners, our people-to-people exchange is enormous. This is a relationship that matters a lot to both countries, and I fear that that relationship will begin to weaken if we're not able to come up with a common policy towards North Korea. I think we are trying. I think our dialogue is full. I think coming up with a common position means Americans need to listen more to Koreans. After all, Koreans are going to solve the problems on the Korean Peninsula. I think there are some areas where Korea needs to be understanding of the United States as well.

Can or will the six-party talks lead to a broader northeast Asia dialogue? I have considerable expectation that it will. The question is – can we develop a regional structure before solving the North Korean nuclear problem? After all, there are a lot of other reasons to have a Northeast Asia dialogue, including the strange relationships between Japan and China, and Japan and South Korea. There are a lot of things to talk about. There are concerns about China's military capability that could be addressed in a regional dialogue. So I think there's a lot of merit to a regional dialogue. Will the likelihood that we will not soon solve the North Korea nuclear problem become an impediment to broader cooperation? I hope not, and I do hope we'll be able to get the six-party talks moving in a positive direction again so that we can begin to lay the basis for that future.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador, for your very insightful remarks. I've got two questions – on the six-party talks and breaking out of the impasse, someone mentioned the interesting idea of – back in 1994 Jimmy Carter got involved with negotiations. But just before that, my understanding was that there was a serious possibility of a Security Council Resolution being brought to the vote against North Korea, and that what happened was that China, just before that vote, told North Korea that maybe they wouldn't be able to count on its veto, and therefore, because of that Chinese pressure, North Korea was willing to negotiate with Jimmy Carter. So my question today is – how long do we wait for the six-party talks to become effective before we seek the Security Council as a possible forum for action, given that the threat of a Security Council resolution seemed to produce results in 1994? And my second question has to do with the human rights problems of North Korea. Given the fact that we haven't seen much progress with the current agenda, and given the fact that the human rights violations in North Korea are truly severe – I mean, it's been estimated that one million people have been killed in the Gulags. So it's of the same magnitude of other places where there have been massive human right s violations such as Darfur, which actually is estimated to have had 200,000 people killed. So my question is – and also it's been expressed by Congress unanimously in the North Korean Human Rights Act, that human rights need to be considered seriously in negotiating with North Korea. So what is your opinion of that aspect?

HUBBARD: These are very big questions at the end of our time period. But I think you're correct that we were all moving actively toward a Security Council Resolution – moving actively toward a Security Council Resolution in '94 when Carter went to North Korea. That had been a fairly lengthy process beginning with a good deal of activity in the IAEA and the Board of Governors of the IAEA, various different kinds of chairman statements and the like. You know, the process kind of arose from the international community in '94 and they arose in the absence of an effective multilateral dialogue. We only had the bilateral U.S.-North Korea dialogue. So somehow I don't see this one moving nearly as long in that process and I see no sign that China would support a meaningful Security Council Resolution absent a genuine effort to make this alternative process, the six-party talks, work.

Human rights – terrible problem. Whatever the numbers – obviously the human rights situation in North Korea is atrocious and it's something we need to be very concerned about. The question is – what to do? And I think in dealing with an issue like human rights, on the one hand you need to take a stand. You need to decry human rights violations where they exist, and I think maybe Seoul has been a little reluctant to do that. But you also need to have effective policies that will actually bring about a change in the situation. And frankly, I don't think we have a real handle on that second part yet, and whatever we can do, I think it will be effective only on the margins as we go forward. So I very much support doing what we can practically, and certainly we have to take a stand, but to my mind, we need to deal first and foremost with this nuclear threat.

QUESTION: A simple question. Thank you very much, Ambassador. I'm Andrew ____ with Stanford University. I have a simple question. So far I've heard you talk and argue that we need to be, first less fearful of bilateral, but yet that the six-party talks is the right framework. So I'm wondering if you could clarify exactly what you're advocating for the role – the proper role of bilateral talks, and how you would reconcile this with the arguments I've been hearing from the State Department which basically assert that bilateral talks would legitimize the North Korean regime and thus they should be avoided at all costs. So, a little clarification.

HUBBARD: This is obviously also a very sensitive diplomatic issue for the Bush Administration and others, and we often hear people in this administration sort of talk about the benefits of isolation – that somehow we are gaining when we isolate the North Koreans. I don't believe isolation will work with North Koreans. It certainly will not work if our friends in South Korea and the Chinese don't join in that isolation. I think engagement has far more promise for a successful resolution of this problem, and I think that engagement should be focused principally on the six-party talks, but that we need to supplement those talks and energize those talks with the kind of bilateral discussions that we have with all the other parties. We go and talk to the South Koreans, the Japanese, the Chinese bilaterally about what positions we're going to take in the six-party talks – what we need from the North Koreans in the six-party talks, what we're prepared to provide, etc., etc. And I don't see why we should be so afraid of – so concerned that our diplomacy is inadequate to somehow maintaining the integrity of the six-party talks while supporting and energizing them through bilateral contact. I'm not afraid of that.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

This page last updated 8/12/2006 jdb

ICAS Fellow
ICAS Speakers
& Discussants