The ICAS Lectures


Should Washington Talk to Pyongyang in the New Adminstration?

Michael Green

ICAS Fall Symposium

October 25, 2016, 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
The Heritage Foundation Allison Auditorium
Washington, DC

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

Biographic sketch & Links: Michael Green

Should Washington Talk to Pyongyang in the New Adminstration?

Michael Green
Sr. Vice President Asia, Japan Chair, CSIS

October 25, 2016

Alex Kim: Thank you, Dr. Kim for this uncommon opportunity to introduce a featured speaker to our distinguished audience today. Dr. Michael Green is a Senior Vice President for the Asian Japan Chair at CSIS, and a chair in Modern and Contemporary Japanese Politics and Foreign Policy at the Edmund A. Waslh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He served on the staff of the National Security Council from 2001 through 2005, first as director for Asian affairs, with responsibility for Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Australia, and then a special assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Asia, with responsibility for East Asia and South Asia. Before joining the NSC staff, Dr. Green was a senior fellow for East Asian Security at the Council on Foreign Relations, director of the Edwin O. Reischauer Center and the Foreign Policy Institute, and assistant professor at the Paul H. NItze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He was also a research staff member at the Institute for Defense Analyses and senior adviser on Asia in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Dr. Green is also currently a nonresident fellow at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, and a distinguished scholar at the Rebuild Japan Foundation in Toyko. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Strategy Group, the America Australia Leadership Dialogue, and the advisory board for the Center for a New American Security, as well as the editorial boards of the Washington Quarterly and the Journal of Unification Studies in Korea. Dr. Green is also an associate of the US Intelligence Community. He has authored numerous books and articles on East Asian security. His current research includes a book project on the history of US strategy in Asia; a survey of elite views on norms, power, and regional institutions in Asia, and a monograph on Japanese strategic culture. He received his masterís and doctoral degrees from SAIS and did additional graduate and postgraduate research at Tokyo University and the Massachusetts Institute for Technology. He received his bachelorís degree in history from Kenyon College with highest honors. He holds a black belt in Iaido and has won international prizes on the great highland bagpipe. He has also spoke for the ICAS audience at the ICAS 2002 Fall Symposium and the ICAS 2004 Spring Symposium, respectively. Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Dr. Green.


Michael Green: Well thank you for the introduction. I do play bagpipes. Iíve even played in Korea. In fact, IÖ My topic today is dialogue and whether or not the new administration in the US might pursue dialogue in North Korea. Iím pretty certain that Iím the only person to play bagpipes north of the DMZ since the Battle of the Hook in 1951 when the Black Watch held off several divisions of Chinese. I was with Tong Kim when we went in October 2002 to Pyongyang for the first negotiating session between the Bush administration and then Kim Jong Il regime. And I had a small set of bagpipes I played in my room in the Koryo Hotel that night so I could brag to all my Scottish friends that I was the first piper north of the DMZ since the War. It was interesting because they hadÖ we were fully monitored. The room to my left, the room to my right was all of our rooms, were full of North Korean agents. They searched our room every time we left. And they had cameras and Iím certain they were absolutely perplexed, which is an extra bonus. I didnít get to hear my boss at CSIS John Hamre. I only heard the last few minutes. So if I contradict him, letís just keep that between us. With that as a caveat, let me open up and I look forward to the distinguished panels reactions and comments.

On this question of whether or not the US will or should engage in dialogue after the new administration comes on board. So, my answer to that question, broadly, is sure why not? And I say that because I think dialogue has largely been discredited as a solution to the North Korean nuclear program, but it still has its place. And itís probably been infused with too much significance. The advocates of engagement, there are more now in Seoul than in Washington. There are many more in Beijing than in Washington. The advocates of engagement argue that dialogue is the only way to resolve this. I think thatís just plain wrong right now. The opponents to engagement, including when I was in NSC, I have argued that just talking to the North Koreans will be a victory for Pyongyang. Iím not sure thatís right either. So, my broad answer to the question is, yes we should engage in dialogue at some point in some way, and we should completely lower our expectations and drain the dialogue of any geopolitical importance. Weíve infused in the last twenty years way too much importance in just talking, and Iíll explain what I mean. First thing we have to understand is what weíve gotten out of dialogue so far. Secondly, if we were to engage in dialogue, what would the goal be? Third, based on that, what should the parameters be? And finally, will the new administration actually engage in dialogue? And Iíll speculate a bit about that at the end.

As I said, I donít think dialogue with North Korea has much of a prospect of resolving the nuclear issue, if by that we mean in any serious way limiting North Koreaís nuclear and missile programs or reducing the threat to us. I think thereís almost no chance of that right now. We should know that based on the history of the last twenty three-four years. And I say this as someone who in the 90s, when I ran the [unintelligibile] task force on North Korea policy, a bipartisan task force co-chaired by [unintelligible] and Ambassador to the ROK Jim Laney, which came out in a bipartisan way before the election in 2000, saying we should talk to North Korea and it should be an important part of our strategy. In the NSC, I took some scars and wounds trying to get dialogue going against the opposition of parts of the Bush administration that thought it was a big mistake. And having been involved in bilateral and Six-Party talks, and 1.5 track talks since Iíve left, I now have very little expectation that dialogue would get us very much because of what happened. North Korea has basically violated every single commitment it has ever made under any agreement anywhere ever with a foreign government. It has violated the North-South basic agreement. It has violated the 2002 Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration. It has violated the Agreed Framework. It has violated the Leap-year Deal. It has violated the 2005 September Joint-Statement of the Six-Party Talks. It has violated the October 2008 Agreement in the Six-Party Talks. Basically, the history of diplomacy with North Korea has 100% casualties. There is not a successful agreement, and in every case, you can quibble about how much was North Koreaís fault. But in every case, it was North Korea that violated the agreement at the end of the day. So thatís not a very good track record. I used to have on my desk at the NSC the famous picture of the cartoon of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football. And every time, Lucy would have some new excuse why this time it would be okay, and every single time sheíd pull the football up and heíd fly up in the air and fall on his rear end. And that was 10 plus years ago, when we were still learning what we get out of dialogue.

Even worse, for at least the last fourteen years, North Korea has in one way or another made it very clear that their interest in dialogue is acceptance as a nuclear weapon state. And that goes at least back to when Frank Jannuzi and Keith Luse traveled there are Senate staffers in 2002 to communications sent to us and the White House, bypassing the foreign ministry and state department from the National Defense Commission asking for direct dialogue with the White House, but making it very clear to us that the objective was us accepting North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, which was a non-starter. Don Greg and [unintelligible] wrote a Washington Post piece criticizing the administration in around 2004, I think it was. Because they had met with Kim [unintelligible] Gwon, who had wanted a dialogue. And so those two distiniguished gentlemen explained to us that North Korea wanted a dialogue and my boss Steve Hadley at the time basically said, "thank you, weíll take that on an advisory level." And the reality was that we had multiple approaches from the National Defense Commission at the time asking to bypass the Six-party talks, which North Korea didnít want. It wanted a direct tube to the US, and that the terms were that we would recognize them as a nuclear weapons state, including efforts by the [unintelligible] government in the Blue House to try to jumpstart a dialogue between the White House and North Korea based on communications from the North, which was uninterested in talking to the Blue House, but told them theyíd be interested in talking to us about recognition of North Korea as a nuclear weapons state. So we pretty much know that, and if there was any doubt theyíve put it in their constitution. So that should, I think, unless weíre still Charlie Brown, that should tell us what weíll get out of dialogue if our expectation is weíre going to get it negotiated and to North Koreaís nuclear weapons program or any meaningful diminishment of the threat.

So what would the goal be in dialogue? Well I think it therefore has to be much more modest. Could we negotiate a freeze on, for example, the Yongbyon Program, in exchange for sanctions lifting? Maybe. But itís pretty clear right now thatís not what Pyongyang is interested in. And even if they were, it would be a temporary agreement, which would convey to the North Koreans enormous legitimacy. It would be prefaced on lifting sanctions. And we know from history that the North Koreans would then up the ante once they had continued improving their unmonitored and unfrozen programs for missiles and other areas. Could it be a peace treaty? Yeah, the North Koreans are somewhat interested in a peace treaty. Lee [unintelligible], when he was one of the chief negotiators told us during the Three-Party Talks in 2003, the interim stage before we entered the Six-Party Talks, that the North Koreans had studied peace agreement and peace treaties and non-aggression treaties, and the administration did an extensive study on the Nazi, Soviet peace treaty and non-aggression pact, and the Soviet-Japanese non-aggression pact. And it pretty much concluded that every one of these was violated at some point and had no meaning, and they werenít interested. But a peace treaty is useful to them because the cost would be legitimizing their nuclear weapons status and reducing sanctions. But no US administration is going to go for that. Itís just not going to happen.

Could we negotiate some return to the Six-Party talks? Thatís what the State Department for years was trying to do under President Obama. They couldnít go back to the Six-Party Talks as if North Korea hadnít cheated, as if North Korea had been more or less complying with the September 2005 agreement not to develop nuclear weapons and missiles, as if North Korea hadnít defied a series of Security Council Resolutions with ballistic missiles and nuclear tests. We couldnít just go back and pretend that hadnít happened. Itíd be like youíre playing football and during halftime, when your team goes into the locker room, the other team went on the field and then moved the football onto your 1 yard line. And then the North Koreans say "Okay, weíre ready to play again." You canít do that. So any kind temporary freeze, peace treaty, I just donít think either A: North Korea is interested, or B: it would be possible on terms that would be in any way acceptable to a Republican or Democratic administration, or a Republican or Democratic Congress.

So what would the goal of talks be for the foreseeable future under Kim Jong Un? Well we donít know much about North Korea. And we learn something from these talks. For example, in October of 2002, we used they had an HU program. We were pretty sure they did. Well we learned in fact they did. So just in terms of understanding more about the regime and whatís happening, thereís value. Thereís value in terms of communicating clear signals. Right now, much of the communication goes through Beijing. The Chinese clearly spin the ball to be as positive as possible, to try to get bi-lateral US-DPRK talks going. That can be very misleading and dangerous in fact. I think a very clear communication of our bottom line is potentially useful. Dialogue could have some role in maintaining contact for the day when there might be a prospect for negotiations, although I donít see that date coming under Kim Jong Un. So very low expectations to be honest. But talking, I donít think, should be completely ruled out.

So what should the parameters of any kind of dialogue be? First of all, I donít think we should be sweating or anxious to do it. Maybe eventually we do it. But it should not be a priority. I think that engagement should be at the working level. I do not think we should have a special envoy for North Korea. Thereís been too much cult of the envoy. The envoyís job is to get, is to demonstrate progress. Nobody takes a job to be an envoy and comes back and says, "nothing new here." So, it should be a career diplomats through the New York channel or Intelligence Officers possibly. But it should be done by people whose career doesnít hang on demonstrating theyíre making progress. There should be absolutely no payment of any kind in any form. Thereís actually a dishonorable history for the US over the years paying for talks, timing aid to the presumption of talks, ending sanctions on [unintelligible] Asia and returning the money to [unintelligible] Asia,, in order, as Chris [unintelligible] said in Singapore, I think it was, in 2007, in order to resume the talks. Paying for heavy fuel oil, returning BDA money, none of that. There should be no payment for talks. There should be absolutely no change in the current thrust of US-ROK-Japan and even Chinese-North Korea policy, which is imposing a cost for their blatant and repeated violation of every agreement weíve ever had and every Security Council resolution on North Korea in the last decade. So that narrows pretty much whatís possible and thatís okay. I donít think we should sweat that. Itíll come when itís possible. And thatís because at this point, dialogue is a tactic, itís a tool in our kit. And itís frankly the least important and least productive tool, but not one we should throw away.

Will the next administration engage in dialogue? I think under Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun- hye, the Bush and Obama administrations have become quite comfortable following Seoulís lead. In December 2017, maybe that attitude will change. Weíll see what happens in South Koreaís election, but that will be the instinctive position, I think, of the US administration. I know the Korean press is very much lighting up and excited about the recent second track in [unintelligible], was it? I think personally that has absolutely no impact at all on what the next US administration is going to do because the North Korean position is clear. I donít see a Clinton or Trump administration being eager to rush off and talk to North Korea. I know Donald Trump said as candidate he would meet personally with Kim Jong Un. I suppose if he wins, anything is possible. But Iíd be very surprised if people like Mike Pence or Bob Corker or others around him thought that was a good idea and set it up.

So thatís sort of where we are. Itís not very satisfying. So someone is going to ask me, "Well great, then how do you solve the North Korean nuclear program?" Well the answer is we donít. And I think thatís the reality we have to face. We donít solve the North Korea nuclear program, not until thereís unification. And so weíre at a second best set of options, one in which we are trying to reduce the damage of the nuclear program, reduce the risks to us, restore deterrence, the credibility of the American extended deterrence, and keep pressure on North Korea, interdict North Korean programs, so that it slows down and makes more difficult their development of ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons. And also it puts in place the beginning of a network so when North Korea does start to collapse, we have some chance of catching outward proliferation and of keeping pressure on China, frankly, to close the loopholes in current sanctions such as the coal exports and other so-called livelihood exemptions for the North Korean people. Thatís not going to involve a lot of dialogue. You could see, however, how some dialogue would be useful because frankly I think China will appreciate it. Some of our allies may appreciate it. We just have to understand the context, as I said. And for some time now, I think the focus is going to be on maintaining pressure, but not with the immediate expectation that North Korea will give up its program, but rather to limit the damage, limit the program, set the stage for, if not a negotiated settlement somewhere down the road, a situation where Kim Jong Un cannot use the international community to sustain his regime.

Now, I give this a very high chance. There is a faint possibility, because Iíve seen this even with conservative Republicans, thereís a faint possibility that keeping this kind of pressure on North Korea will become politically unpleasant and difficult for a US administration or Korean administration that simultaneously is dealing with ISIS, Russia, Iran, and so forth. So thereís always the danger that some dialogue will be a temptation. To be honest, the Six-party Talks and the Bi-lateral dialogue that Ambassador Chris Teal did, were to some extent performance, keeping a placeholder until the conditions were better. And thatís tempting to administration that are simultaneously dealing with major crises in Iraq or Iran or Russia, with the war on terror. So it would be for reasons that are not strategic, that are mostly political. And it would be a way to kind of park this problem and demonstrate that itís being taken care of. But I think that dialogue and special envoys to North Korea as a performance art, have been so discredited that I give even that a fairly low chance. So itís hard to talk about North Korea and get excited about anything other than unification. So Iím with John Hamre, and I guess you had the point about that. Thatís the one thing to get excited about these days is eventual unification.

Moderator: Thank you, Mike. Now before we open to the floor, Joseph?

Joseph Bosco: Mike, that was an incredible eminently sensible presentation. I couldnít disagree with a word you said, until you get to the end regarding Chinaís role. It seems to me that the prescription youíre presenting, that is we basically keep on punting and keep on hoping that things donít get worse. Itís not within our control because North Korea keeps making it worse. And so you said we should try to limit the damage. How do we do it if China continues to enable, look away, tolerate North Koreaís depredations. Are there ways we can increase pressure on China without going to war with China?

Michael Green: I actually agree with that. So I think itís a useful caveat that I completely agree with. Iím concerned whether the next administration can sustain that strategy, but I think thatís the right strategy. So let me explain first why I think itís the right strategy. John Hamre said rightly that Xi Jinping values the Republic of Korea more than the DPRK. The problem is that Beijing thinks, I believe, and I believe this based on a lot of 1.5 Track and 2nd Track dialogue Iíve been involved in with Chinese counterparts on the future of the Korean peninsula, a sort of honest discussion not about the tactics of diplomacy or sanctions but sort of where does this all go, strategic planning, big picture. And fairly consistently, the Chinese in these forums posit that when Korea is unified, if itís in the future, it will be an independent unification, meaning that Korea decides. But what that really means is that US influence will be very limited. I think from that, Beijingís assumption which underlies a lot of Chinese strategy towards the Korean peninsula, is that eventually China will have sufficient influence over Pyongyang to control the outcome in a way where unification is not destabilizing for them in terms of refugee flows, does not result in a strong US-ROK alliance, and separates the peninsula from Japan. I think thatís the Chinese operating assumption. Both Seoul and Washington are guilty of fueling that at various points. I think Washington has been guilty when we, this administration has agreed to things like the New Model of Great Power Relations, or the Core Interests Concept. When Washington agrees to a Chinese proposal, that management of US-China relations, avoidance of the [unintelligible] trap and conflict, requires the US and China to have a biopolitical condominium and dialogue to produce areas of disagreement. And it requires in effect the US to earn Chinaís help on issues like North Korea by being more accommodating on Taiwan or the South China Sea. And Iím not sure thatís what the Obama administration officials thought when they agreed to the New Model of Great Power Relations, but thatís sure how it was received in Beijing and I think in other parts of Asia. So weíve contributed to this conceit at points. And frankly, so has Seoul. The [unintelligible] administration, not in the administration but in President [unintelligible] criticism of Washington fueled this. To some extent, Park Geun-hyeís government has fueled this until recently by clearly prioritizing China over Japan and going pretty far to try to accommodate China to get help on North Korea. So our mission should be to break China of that assumption, to ruin that assumption. And boy, Park Geun-hye has sure done it with the closing of [unintelligible] and with THAAD. This will mean a certain amount of tension in Korea-China relations. There is a certain amount of tension in US-China relations. And the reason, I mean itís the right way to go. Because it will force China to appreciate that the Marxist Dialectic they see, inevitably leading to more control of the Korean Peninsula, is wrong. And in fact, US alliances are not on the wrong side of history. US alliances are going to strengthen in Asia, and not only strengthen but move from bilateral to more collective or trilateral types of arrangements, which is very contrary to Chinaís long term strategic interests and therefore it will motivate them more to deal with the North Korea problem and not be complacent. I think thatís absolutely the right strategy. My concern is that the government in Seoul may not see it that way and that although people in the new government in the US will probably see it that way, there will be people who say, "look climate change is more important than in." Or something else is more important than this, because it takes discipline at the top that weíre not always very good at. But I agree with you. I think thatís the way we have toÖ everyone that has a voice in this should keep pushing.

Moderator: Larry?

Larry Niksch: I think Mikeís last point was well taken. US priorities with China, I think right North Korea, probably somewhere in the middle. Not at the top of even near the top. I think thatís been a big part of the problem. Iíve written two papers this year proposing that after ten years of futility in the UN Security Council, itís time for the United States to lay a resolution on the table there calling for all UN member states to cut off oil shipments to North Korea, confront China and to some degree Russia, at this point, after ten years with having to make a fundamental decision with regard to their North Korea policies, publicizing our proposals highly to the informed Chinese public, but also offering the Chinese as well as the Russians some incentives to make it more difficult for them to say no to this kind of proposal, or at least create in China a real debate about their North Korea policy. One incentive being an offer to return to Six-Party talks with China, calling a meeting in Beijing, if they will agree to cutting off North Korean oil shipments. This sanction, I would argue, is the only sanction that has any potential to bring about North Korean real concessions on the nuclear missile issue. I want to ask you, Mike, about the Bush administrationís deliberations about this. I saw reports when I was at CRS that you all had discussions with the Chinese about the oil issue during those years. I would like to ask you if you could tell us anything about those discussions and what the Chinese said about the issues of a potential oil cutoff, and also if you could tell us anything about the estimates that you, I think received, probably from the intelligence community about the impact on North Korea, if their oil imports were completely cut off.

Michael Green: Well I like your proposal on sanctions. If we were serious about it, I think we should make it very clear that the US is prepared with the ROK and Japan, probably the EU, Canada and others, to go ahead and implement the sanctions with or without the Security Council. The problem with the Security Council is the Chinese know, the Russians know, that on Tuesday afternoon, we need help on North Korea. But on Wednesday and Thursday, weíre going to need help on Syria or climate change or something else. And even John Bolton, when he was Ambassador of the UN was trapped by this reality that consensus among the P5 is considered by many to be essential to post-war order. And even John Bolton was hesitant to break with the Russians and the Chinese on North Korea if it was going to cost later on other issues. So, I would say your proposal is the right proposal but we should be prepared to make it very clear weíre prepared to do this without the Security Council. The Security Council, I think, has been in a trap and weíve accepted watered down, limited sanctions, in order to demonstrate that North Korea is isolated and that China is turning against North Korea. And I think weíve gotten diminishing returns from that approach. And if weíre going to keep the pressure on China, we have to make it clear that theyíre not going to be able to have a casting vote on our policies in the Security Council. Theyíll try, and then weíll take the niche proposal and then weíll make it [unintelligible]. It will be less effective in terms of stopping oil. About 80% of North Koreaís oil is from China. But I think demonstrating this and that it creates a coalition that China is not in, would have more effect than trying to work it through the Security Council.

Larry Niksch: But we could at least force a much more intense debate within China about Chinaís North Korean policy. I think there is a, as Dr. Hamre talked about, a wide body of critics of North Korea in China in informed Chinese opinion. I think by making this proposal and highly publicizing it, I think this would China, with the incentives to China, I think there could be several we could offer. I think we could bring about a much more intense debate in China about its North Korea policy, and that in and of itself would be good.

Michael Green: I think youíre right. Itís an area that weíve not taken advantage of. And its social media too. On social media, the Chinese are overwhelmingly anti-North Korea and anti-Kim Jong Un. So thereís a split between establishment and the people on North Korea. And in [unintelligible] and in areas near the North Korean border, they could feel the seismic effect of the nuclear tests. There are active volcanos that have been written about in social media and local media. Itís also well known in that region that the North Korean chemical and biological arsenals are largely near the Chinese border, and the consequences for their misuse or mistakes would be felt directly into China. So I think thereís something there. In terms of offering the Chinese something, I amÖ I think itís a very bad idea. Youíre not saying this, but I would just border it by saying itís a bad idea to think we can get more behavior out of China on North Korea by offering things on Taiwan or not talking about human rights. It would have to be in the North Korea lane. And that may be an area where frankly dialogue may be somewhat useful to us as a sweetener for China. On the second question, Iím not really in a position to declassify the briefing I got when I was in the NSC. Iím not sure what youíre referring to with the oil. You know in 2002-3, when the North Koreans agreed to come to the Three-party talks in Beijing in March 2003, and then the Six-Party talks. But before the March 2003 talks, itís pretty well established in public record I think that the oil transmission stopped for a certain period of time. And we certainly talked to the Chinese about what leverage they could bring. My sense of it is that the Chinese were then and are still only willing to use pressure to get North Korea to the table to reduce the level of tension, not to actually change the program. Thatís the threshold we have to get them over. And the way, what you and I have been talking about has a better chance of getting there than what we are doing right now.

Moderator: Thank you. Tong?

Tong Kim: Good to see you, Michael. I wanted to just ask you two or three at the most short questions. Are you comfortable or content with the [unintelligible] administration policy called, according to Daniel Russel, a three-pronged policy sanction: that is pressure, deterrent, and conditional dialogue, which Chairman of the Senate for Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Corker, called an abject failure of US policy on North Korea in the sense that it has not stopped or slowed the progress of North Koreaís nuclear program? I was rather amazed that the Obama administration, which is a Democratic, coming after the Bush administration, had pretty much the same policy direction that you set in before you left. And they pretty much followed the same line. Thatís the question. Secondly, the latest track, or 1.5 track meeting in [unintelligible], involving Joe DeTrani, Bob Gallucci, Joel Wit, [unintelligible], these people, with North Korean vice minister Han Song-ryol and others. Because the State Department emphatically denied any condonement or any US involvement in the talks, which is understandable. And [unintelligible] was asked if they were going to write a report. And apparently there was speculation that this meeting was held in the anticipation that this new group, all private citizens now, were going to write a report to the next administration. Now the two-part question: whether this would have any impact in your view on whatís been discussed so far. And other than the areas of your discussion, admitting that thereís some utility talks with North Korea in the sense that you can have communication and learn more about them, rather than from the Chinese, and keeping the dialogue on the working level channel. Other than these areas, do you have any specific recommendation for the next administration. It is interesting though. Donald Trump, if heís elected, nobody knows what heís going to do and people are saying all thatís [unintelligible] and he contradicted himself several times on what he might do on North Korea. He said he would invite Kim Jong Un to Washington. And then next, he called him crazy and all that. For that matter, Obama, even during the campaign, said he would meet with Kim Jong Il and the Iranian leader. He fulfilled his promise 50% by striking deal with Iran with nuclear deal at the end, but no progress whatsoever on North Korea. Having said all that, Iíd like to hear your responses.

Michael Green: I think the administrationÖ Well, during the 2008 campaign, I was doing Asia for John McCain. And we kept track. And Barack Obama at least 12 times said on the record he would have unconditional meetings with Kim Jong Il. They came into office. They looked at the negotiating record that had been left from October 2008, which was supposed to end up with the North Koreans providing a protocol for verifying theirÖ not the HU, that wasnít in it, but their plutonium programs and North Koreans got sanctions lifted on tourism and provided nothing. They did a complete bait and switch. And I think they were [unintelligible]. People like Jim Steinberg and Kurt Campbell and the New Director for National Intelligence got briefings from the Intel community from other parts of the administrations, from outgoing people, and realized that there was no deal to be had. So they very quicklyÖ They experimented a little bit. But I think the White House concluded this unconditional engagement with dictatorsí policy could not be universal. That if they were going to make progress, they had to decide which one had some prospect. And they decided pretty quickly that North Korea was not going to be the case where they were going to prove that dialogue can solve these problems. So they focused on Myanmar, on Burma, and Iran. And the Iran Deal is sufficiently flawed and controversial that I think it will make the next administration even more careful about North Korea. I actually think the Iran Deal is making dialogue even less likely. Because itís going to be nothing but bad news that comes out from that in the next few years. So Iím not satisfied with the policy. I think the phrase strategic patience and so forth sounded great. People were really impressed for a while. It doesnít look so good now that North Korea moving to the point where they will probably demonstrate on the next administrationís watch that they can mount a nuclear warhead on the Musudan or other ballistic missile, maybe Nodong. That, by the way, will demonstrate why the current kind of strategic patience and self-confident approach, is not going to work. Thereís going to be a major crisis of confidence in the US extended deterrent. And itís going to require the next administration to do very new things. I heard John Hamre talked a little about South Korea, but Japan too. The kinds of things we do at NATO plus some in terms strategic nuclear coordination and thinking about how to restore deterrence. And that, by the way, is going to put more pressure on China. I donít think the current policy is going to satisfactory at all for the next administration.

You asked about 2nd track. Joe [unintelligible] is probably collecting some excellent analysis right now from his trip. And if I were in government, I would want to know what Joe thought. I think some people in the delegation are more interested in sewing dialogue. But certainly what people hear from this meeting in KL from Han Song-ryol, and heís a smooth operator, will be interesting. I think itís appropriate that the White House and the State Department are saying they have nothing to do with it because, although I said there may be a time and place for some low-level dialogue, maybe as a sweetener for China as Larry says, right now I would completely have nothing to do with it because we need to be in locked-step with Seoul. And the Korean position no dialogue right now. And theyíre right. So I wouldnít do anything to in any way complicate that. Even this trip alone has created so much buzz in Seoul that the progressive camp now thinks "we were on the right set of history. The Americans are in chains. Theyíre going to have dialogue with North Korea." I really donít think so. I think thatís completely wrong. The new administration is going to have be to extremely careful not to even suggest theyíre moving ahead of Seoul on dialogue, because the Korean position right now, I think is right.

Moderator: Thank you. General Chun?

In Bum Chun: First off, thank you for your insightful analysis. Letís just say that the Republic of Korea were to lean towards dialogue towards all of its downsides, tomorrow maybe. What if they did that? What if they opened the case [unintelligible] complex and/or conducted a new series of sunshine policies. How would the United States, do you think, would react to that, both on the Republic and on the Democratic side?

Michael Green: So Iím kind of breaking out with a cold sweat right now, because itís bringing back memories of the [unintelligible] era, where we suffered enormously from President [unintelligible] statements. In fact, the Korean government under President [unintelligible] generally in terms of policies didnít deviate much at all from us. We negotiated [unintelligible]. Korea sent the largest contingent to Iraq after the US and Britain. Korea renegotiated bases and implemented Pyeongtaek, whereas with Japan, we were still where we on Okinawa. Japan sent 600 troops to Iraq, and it was hugely celebrated. I asked [unintelligible], Secretary General of the NSC, who I liked personally a lot, we worked well together. I asked him why donít we do something to celebrate that Korea has sent the third largest contigent, the [unintelligible] battalion and brigade to Iraq. He said that no we canít do that. I said why? And he said because President [unintelligible] has told his base that we had to do this so the US wouldnít attack North Korea with nuclear weapons. And so the narrative, the actual policyÖ I used to joke that US policy was like what Mark Twain said about the music of Richard Wagner: itís not as bad as it sounds. And Ambassador [unintelligible] and everyone started stealing that line from me. Substantive policy issues, we were actually pretty well aligned. But the narrative being spun out of the Blue House was really pretty disastrous for us, because frankly it emboldened Beijing to think that if the US and Korea are divided, or when Japan and Korea are divided, China has the homefield advantage in Asia. And so, Iím breaking out in a cold sweat, because if we have a progressive government, or even I can imagine scenarios where even a [unintelligible] government might go in that direction. Itíd be pretty tough to manage. The most important thing will be to try to, as the poor administration is now with Duterte in the Philippines, try to everything you can to minimize the sense that weíre diverging strategically. If itís something like [unintelligible] and the progressives come in, it will be different, but I think someone like [unintelligible] who is Chief of Staff and saw what happened [unintelligible] when he turned against the alliance initially, I think heíd be very careful about this. You know what happened? The [unintelligible] downgraded South Koreaís sovereign bond rating. Why? Not because of the North Korean threat, but because of the US-Korean alliance, which is an assumption that investors have about the Korean peninsula. So a variety of things happened that [unintelligible] saw and I think he would or someone like him would tack in a different direction, but very careful about the US-Korea alliance part, which is by the way quite strongly supported in polls in Korea now. And Donald Trump, notwithstanding, at least as far as the polls go, is very well supported by the American public. So cold sweat, but weíd have to adjust and try to keep as much solidarity as possible.

Moderator: Dennis?

Dennis Halpin: Thank you for your presentation. I had one question. I agree with what you said that dialogue is better than no dialogue. But you did point when you advocated that North Korea has never engaged in negotiations without having a [unintelligible], whether itís [unintelligible] money, or [unintelligible] reactors, etc. So my question is [unintelligible] a non-starter in that you say there should be no offer of any gift, bribe, whatever you want to call it, for talks. But do you think North Korea would ever engage in talks without some sort of economic incentive?

Michael Green: Two answers to that. One is, alright fine no dialogue. Weíre prepared under the right terms. I think itíd be a mistake to say weíll never do dialogue basically. That weíd be open to it in the right terms. Those arenít the right terms? Fine. We now know where North Koreaís intentions are. The second thing I would say is that I think Iíd channel what Donald Trump would say and say "Wrong." Because Iím pretty sure, and others here maybe have a better memory than I do, but Iím pretty sure when we met in Beijing at the [unintelligible] guest house in March 2003 that North Korea showed up under duress. The oil was cut off. The Chinese, we were in that guest house while marines were pulling down statues of Hussein in Baghdad, and the television was on in the lobby. And so the coercive power at that point of the US was really intimidating. We lost it in Mosul and Fallujah and other places later. But at that point, the coercive power of the US was quite terrifying, to the Chinese too. And thatís when the Chinese temporarily cut off oil and the head of the Chinese delegation in those Three-way talks turned to the North Koreans and said if you continue on your current path, it would lead to the destruction of your country. It was very tough, the toughest Iíve seen them. It may be there are one or two exceptions. Maybe the other one maybe is when in April 1994, when there was a sense of whoíd use force. There may be some exemptions when force seems to be on the table. But youíre basically right and if the North Korean position is, or if the Chinese tell us we have to provide some sort of sweetener, fine. We donít have to have the talks.

Moderator: Next question?

Woman 1: [mostly unintelligible]

Michael Green: It didnít as much as I think most experts expected. Thatís a threshold that should be absolutely jarring to us and to the region. I only hesitate because itís not a 100% guarantee. Thereís this boiling frog thing with North Korea with every new provocation, even when the heat comes up, we donít notice. Frogs when they get boiled, Iím told, just slowly boil to death because they canít feel the heat increasing. So there is that dimension that North Korea has quite skillfully introduced into this. But I think that will not be the case. I think more likely, this will be a threshold that will be profoundly different in terms of our alliance relationships and the American public. The Musudan can range to Guam probably. They havenít had a successful test. But if they go for what they want, it will range Guam. So that means for the first time, North Korea will in your scenario, be able to put a nuclear warhead on American territory. And with the Taepodong 2 Program and so forth, on track to hit the American homeland within a decade or maybe less. I think the American public would not be complacent about that at all. I think that Japan, which of course would be well within range of the Musudan or Nodong, would have a fundamentally different view and that the ROK would too. In that scenario, I would look for Japan to request capabilities for surface to surface missiles from us, to start talking about changing in the three non-nuclear principles, which is no possession, no bases, and no transit. I would look for Japan to say that we want to say that. We want you to deliberately transit nuclear weapons on your submarines through Japan. I think the ROK, on a good discussion with John Hamre, they would be, I think we would be in an area where we would have to take steps to tighten ourÖ We donít use tactical nuclear weapons the way we did in the 80s or when [unintelligible] used them in the 80s when the deployment of Pershing and so forth in Europe was necessary to restore confidence after Soviet SS-20s were deployed. The US doesnít use nuclear weapons in those ways. But I think there would be pressures to start thinking not like [unintelligible], my senpai for CSIS. But to think about demonstrations of tactical nuclear warfighting and dialogue and even coordination and operational cooperation to some extent with our allies. So, thatís the kind of thing weíd have to be prepared for.

The other aspect of it is, if itís a Clinton Adminstration, what happens to sequestration and defense spending? This is partisan, so I guess Iím in the right place to say this. But I sure hope the Republicans hold the Senate because if you have a Democratic Senate, itís going to be a heck of a lot harder, even with a North Korean nuclear test, to keep defense spending up to modernize our nuclear, the whole triad. But that wouldÖ There would be some pretty consequential things. China would not like it. But as we were discussing earlier, that probably, if we were prepared for some tension in the relationship, would probably be a healthy thing if weíre going to get Chinaís attention on the North Korea problem.

Moderator: Thank you. Next person. Please questions only. We are running out of time.

Man 1: [mostly unintelligible]

Moderator: Thank you. Next question?

Woman 1: [mostly unintelligible]

Moderator: Thank you. Next question?

Man 2: [mostly unintelligible]

Michael Green: Iíll try to be brief. You had me except for the Ping-Pong diplomacy piece. Because Ping-Pong diplomacy was obviously aimed at brokering [unintelligible] between the US and China. And thatís not where weíre going. But I agree with the part of your premise which is I think, and Iíve always thought that we should be prepared, we the US or Japan or ROK, the West, we should be prepared to provide humanitarian assistance to the North Korean people regardless of what the regime is doing as long as we can monitor it and be confident up to a certain percentage that its getting to the people. And we should consistently say that. President Bush was pretty adamant about this. Weíve lost that, in the Clinton administration as well, aid was tied with diplomacy. If there was a way to de-couple humanitarian aid, which can include vaccines, things like that for the North Korean people, or cultural exchanges, things like that, to de-couple that from the diplomacy completely and just provide it for the North Korean people, thatíd be good. Iíd be cautious about cultural exchanges, because as we found with the New York Philharmonic [unintelligible], these are all used as propaganda tools to demonstrate the US is paying homage or tribute to the Great WorldÖ I wouldnít do that. But I certainly would encourage, if thereís a way to get North Korean students to China, to talk to students around the world, that kind of thing, absolutely. Humanitarian relief, primarily through the World Food Program, but with strict monitoring, we should do that. We shouldnít punish the North Korean people and make that clear. Especially, my Segway, if we go to Graceís really interesting idea about One Korea. Iím very sympathetic to that idea, I like it. If I were in government, how would you do that? I donít think the next administration can just leap to a unification or One KoreaÖ Well, we kind of have a One Korea policy actually. But we couldnít leap to unification policy in the sense that weíre giving up on the nuclear diplomacy completely, weíre giving up on North Korea. Now our policy is unification. I donít think youíd be credible. It would look petulant and kind of frustrated. So I was thinking how would you do that in declaratory policy. For too long, our declaratory policy has been "North Korea has two paths. They can visibly give up, completely, verifiably, irreversibly dismantle its nuclear programs and move in that direction. Or it will be further isolated." And all too often if North Korea does a test, our response in both administration has been to say "North Korea is just isolating itself." Yeah. I donít think that bothers Kim Jong Un in the least. So I would look in some declaratory policy that would anticipate what you are saying. An ideal combination would be some global NGO effort to do what you are saying and the US declaratory policy adopted by our friends and allies that says there are two paths: one path would be verifiable dismantling of your nuclear weapons; the other path is not isolation, itís a global commitment to unification under the South. Start making that the declaratory policy for a while. I donít think itíd be credible to say well nuclear diplomacy didnít work so now our policy is unification. Because youíre be ask how youíre going to do that. So thatís how I sort of get in that direction.

Fracking in China and Manchuria. My understanding is fracking takes a lot of water, and over the coming decades, Chinaís going to have a serious water crisis. Iíd be interested in learning more about it. Bottom line is, I donít think we should be helping North Korea with its power grid or anything else that the regime can use to sustain its legitimacy. So Iím not sure I understood the proposal exactly but Iíd be very cautious about that. Unless it can be done in a humanitarian way, maybe even local way, maybe also under UN World Food Program somehow, where youíre doing something for cultivation of crops or something like that. But anything that goes through the regime now, Iíd be very cautious about.

Moderator: Well thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Letís give Michael a big round of applause.

( Transcribed by David Lee, ICAS Intern )

This page last updated January 15, 2017 jdb