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North Korea Task Force Press Conference

Speaker: The Honorable Morton I. Abramowitz, ambassador
Moderator: Michael J. Green, senior fellow, Council on Foreign Relations Washington
Speaker: James T. Laney, ambassador
July 27, 1999
Council on Foreign Relations

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Dr. MICHAEL GREEN: Good morning. Thank you for coming. I’m Michael Green, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations here in Washington, and the director of this independent task force on Korea policy, which is sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. We are here today to release and explain our recent study on policy towards North Korea. This is, in many ways, the culmination of a two-year effort by the Council.

In the fall of ’97, the Council sponsored this task force and brought together over 30 of the leading experts on Northeast Asian security, economics, nuclear issues, including most former ambassadors to the Republic of Korea, former national security advisers and senior businesspersons with extensive experience in the region. And we came together to decide how the U.S. should approach the problems on the Korean Peninsula over the long term. We met monthly, traveled—many of us—to the region, and initially put out a report in June of 1997, right about the time Kim Dae-jung visited Washington, D.C.

In the report, we recommended that the United States and South Korea maintain a strong deterrence, a strong defense posture, but that we support Kim Dae-jung’s policy of engaging North Korea and test the North Korean intentions to reduce problems on the peninsula, to perhaps embark on a longer-term relationship with the outside world where they would be able to reform their system in exchange for reducing the military threat. This was our recommendation in the spring of 1997. In August, 1998, of course, the revelations about an underground facility at Kumchang-ri and the August 31st Taepodong missile launch threw Korea policy into great turmoil in this city.

Support in the Congress for the agreed framework and for the overall approach to the Korean Peninsula was in great jeopardy. Our group met over that summer and fall, and put out a second document—this was in October of 1998—a letter to President Clinton in which we recommended, among other things, that the administration consider an outside review of Korea policy in order to explain to the Congress a long-term strategy for dealing with the peninsula. Eventually, this same condition was attached to congressional legislation and from that was born the review by former Secretary of Defense William Perry.

We, as a group, decided early on that we would revisit this problem, take a second look, see where things stood, and we did that. And this report is the result. We traveled to Japan, South Korea and China—nine of us—in June, held several meetings upon our return, and have issued this report. It will be explained to you by the co-chairs of the task force, Ambassador James Laney, who was ambassador to the Republic of Korea from 1993 to 1997 and is president emeritus of Emory University, in Atlanta; and Ambassador Morton Abramowitz, who is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was ambassador to Turkey and served as Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research.

This is a pre-publication release of the report. We have about 26 members who have signed on to it. We’re still collecting signatures from those people who are on vacation, for example, and we’ll put out a final report with all of those persons and their additions and footnotes in several weeks. But the substance of the report we’re ready to explain to you. And to do that is Ambassador Jim Laney.

Ambassador JAMES LANEY: Good morning. Thank you very much, Dr. Green. You have already heard the background and context of our task force and where we’ve come in the last two years. I will give you a brief summary of the report and also list some of the recommendations that the task force is making.

In May, former Secretary of Defense William Perry traveled to North Korea, in what many felt was an unprecedented move, with a comprehensive proposal, representing Tokyo, Seoul, as well as Washington. The idea, of course, was to present in this package a proposal to the North Koreans that might make it attractive for them to see the advantage in their national interest to reduce tensions on the peninsula and to begin more trade and to receive some economic assistance.

The purpose of the trip was to test North Korean intentions; to see, first of all, whether they intended to abide by the 1994 agreed framework, and also to see if they would stop further missile tests and military provocations. It has now been two months since Mr. Perry went to North Korea, and I think as each day passes, it becomes more unlikely that North Korea will respond positively. After all, the regime has maintained its integrity and its existence by a continuing, belligerent stance toward the world, and particularly toward the South. Now this, despite unprecedented efforts on the part of President Kim Dae-jung of South Korea to engage North Korea in a series of tension reductions.

Having said that, however, we feel that it is too soon to give up on a comprehensive package to reduce tensions with North Korea. After all, North Korea is increasingly dependent on outside help to sustain itself and to feed its people. And we continue to feel that it is possible that over time Chun Hwan will find no other alternative to greater interaction with the outside world.

However, a second North Korean missile test, while it would not violate existing North Korean commitments, such as the 1994 agreed framework, it certainly would significantly change the dynamics in Northeast Asia. Therefore, we feel that every effort should be made to deter such a launch. But if one takes place, we should not view it as an apocalyptic event, although we should very seriously review how we will interact with North Korea. We would recommend, for example, that South Korea suspend new investment in the North; that Japan possibly impose new sanctions and consider restrictions on the financial transfers that go from Japan to the North; and that the United States should lower its diplomatic profile toward Pyongyang.

While a North Korean missile launch would do great damage to the public support and congressional support for KEDO in the United States, as well as Japan and possibly in South Korea, we do not feel that that, in itself, is a reason to abandon our commitment to the agreed framework, for that stands as the major bulwark against a return to the kind of possible military confrontation that we were heading toward in 1994. For example, as Dr. Green pointed out, the inspections recently of the Pun Jong Yi underground facility did not reveal any evidence of a nuclear program going on in that site. Now we would not draw a conclusion from this that the North is not engaging in an attempt to develop nuclear technology, but we do know that the implementation of the agreed framework remains the best approach to protecting us from nuclear weapons in the northeast.

Well, having said all of that, we know that there is no easy answer to the intractable North Korean problem, so the task force has set forth two sets of recommendations. Should the status quo continue—that is, without a positive response to the Perry initiative, but also without further missile testing or military provocation—that would be one set. The other, should North Korea persist in missile testing and other provocations—and that’s the second set of recommendations. I would like to outline those recommendations. They are found on page 12 and 13 of the task force report.

We suggest selective engagement as the most prudent policy course should the status quo continue, and these are the following elements: To keep the Perry package on the table; to lift sanctions under the Trading with the Enemy Act with the clear stipulation that they will be reinstated in the event of a second missile launch or other very serious or egregious provocations; maintain our commitments under the agreed framework, including the delivery of heavy fuel as long as Pyongyang also meets its obligations under the agreed framework; sustain food aid based on humanitarian requirements, but recognize that the scope of legitimate humanitarian aid has not been adequately defined or monitored and that this ambiguity has allowed the political use of food aid as a condition to meeting with the North Koreans.

We recommend that we continue to meet on the four-party talks and to sustain high levels of commitment to trilateral coordination among Japan and South Korea, as well as Washington. We, under these set of circumstances, believe that we should proceed with non-provocative steps to enhance the terms. And finally, to encourage China, as much as possible, to constrain North Korean development of advanced weapons. China has stated repeatedly that it is not in the interests of anyone in Northeast Asia for a country to develop weapons of mass destruction beyond the need for their own defense. And this certainly was aimed at North Korea.

Now if North Korea spurns engagement, tests missiles, and engages in other provocative acts, we make these recommendations: That we still maintain adherence to the agreed framework and continue implementing KEDO as long as Pyongyang does—that’s in our interests; to keep open the four-party channel that keeps the Perry proposal on the table, but significantly downgrade the level of U.S. diplomatic activity, letting them take the initiative for talks; to convene a U.S./Japan/ROK trilateral defense summit to consider options for enhanced deterrence; to encourage South Korea to develop its 300-kilometer surface-to-surface missiles and review U.S. policy on development of longer-range missiles by allies under threat, particularly if North Korean persists in further testing and deployment of the Taepodong missile; to encourage South Korea to suspend new permits for investment in North Korea; to encourage Japan to impose new sanctions on North Korea, including export controls and to consider controls of remittances on the North; to continue to provide humanitarian food assistance, but with the certitude that Chung Hwan recognizes that domestic pressures—that is, here, Japan and Seoul—may well force cutbacks; and finally, agree to lift new sanctions and return to the original Perry proposal only in exchange for North Korean suspension of missile testing and further provocations.

But that, in summary, is the outline of our task force report, and we would be pleased to having questions. But first, I’d like to ask my co-chair, Ambassador Abramowitz, for any comments.

Ambassador MORTON ABRAMOWITZ: I don’t have anything, really, to add to what the ambassador and Dr. Green have said, and I would just point out that, really, one thing that they both stated: Everybody on the task force has had long experience in dealing with the Korean Peninsula, and particularly with the North Korean ...(unintelligible). And every time you deal with it, you find out how unsatisfactory it is, and how difficult it is to come up with good, concrete proposals for dealing with an entity which simply refuses to deal basically with its southern neighbor and, in the past year, has spurned probably the most-flexible South Korean administration we have seen. So you end up always feeling it’s simply difficult to deal with this incredible problem, and we just have to keep working on it, knowing how hard and how unsatisfactory it is to engage them like this. Thank you.

Dr. GREEN: Thank you. We’d be happy to take your questions, now. For those of you who are from the Council, this obviously is not a typical Council event, in that we are completely on the record and on camera. If you wouldn’t mind stating your name and your organization, and direct your question to us, we’ll ask Ambassador Laney and Abramowitz to respond. So, please.

Mr. ROBERT DUJARRIC (Hudson Institute): Robert Dujarric of Hudson Institute. I have a question. You mentioned that if North Korea spurns engagement, it would be a good idea to convince South Korea to develop its 300-kilometer-range missile. How do you think this would be perceived in Japan?

Ambassador ABRAMOWITZ: The Japanese are, of course, concerned about any development in the Korean Peninsula which would raise the questions of nuclear capability and the capability to marry that to missiles. That would be a concern to everybody, I think, and particularly a concern to Japan. On the other hand, I think the task force believes—and I think this would be accepted by the trilateral group—that it is perfectly appropriate, given what the North Koreans are doing, given their efforts to develop missiles, it is perfectly appropriate for South Korea to get help in developing a missile capability consistent with missile control, too. That is, develop a capability of 300 kilometers, and that’s what we recommended. If the North Koreans persist in not only testing, but developing a missile capability, we’ll have to redo the issue. At the present time, I think the United States has capabilities to deal with what the North Koreans are doing.

Ms. GEORGIE ANNE GEYER (Universal Press Syndicate): Georgie Anne Geyer, Universal Press Syndicate. I’m wondering just on your personal responses to the situation in Pyongyang. Did you see anything different, institutionally, or did you see any changes internally when you were there?

Dr. GREEN: We weren’t actually in Pyongyang, I should add.

Ms. GEYER: Oh, you weren’t there? I’m sorry.

Dr. GREEN: Although several members of the group have traveled to Pyongyang, our delegation was in Seoul, Tokyo, and Beijing. But we have, you know, discussed, in some detail, changes within North Korea.

Ambassador LANEY: Well, I think all of us are familiar with the economic situation in North Korea and North Korea’s attempt to feed its people in part by requesting assistance from the World Food Program, and the United States, and others. There have been constitutional changes as of last year in North Korea that would allow more, smaller activity—what we might call small-market activity—more freedom of movement. There are certain signs of evolution or erosion of the discipline that the North has always had upon its people as they forage for food and try to survive.

As far as the government itself goes, it blows hot and cold, as we know. There are attempts to talk. There have been investments by the South in the North that look promising. We’ve had the tourism activity by Hyundai that was permitted by the North; of course, with proper payment of a considerable amount. And other investments by major ...(unintelligible) in the South in building factories in the North. But all of that seems to be under the cloud of the provocations that occurred in the Yellow Sea—the missile launch—and the belligerent, truculent rhetoric that the North continues to spew out.

It’s very difficult to decipher what, really, they’re about. I mean, many people, of course—many of you, I’m sure—feel like—that they’ve had enough chance and we ought to just leave them alone, walk off or to arm ourselves against this. Our feeling was that we would take a course that would lead to the possibility of engagement, leave the Perry proposal on the table, maintain the agreed framework with the prospect that over time that still may happen. And yet if they persist in provocations and missile launching, that we would take selective steps that would show that we mean business and that would be painful to the North. There has to be some calibration of this reciprocity. But beyond that, I think it’s hard to say what the mind of Chung Yong really is.

Ambassador ABRAMOWITZ: It’s clear that we’re dealing with a—variable tensions in North Korea and we perceive it very dimly. The major point I think I would make is based on what we have seen today, that North Korea still has not come to grips with how it’s going to relate to the outside world and how it’s going to continue to survive without relating to the outside world. And they have not solved that dilemma which is: The more they deal with the outside world, the more they fear they will lose control. And so they have tried to devise ways in which they could earn large sums of money quickly, vis-a-vis some South Korean activity by above—the Dow essentially opening up—and still confining all activity to a very limited area or a tightly controlled effort. And that still remains the basic North Korean trouble.

Dr. GREEN: I would add only that, as you’ll see in the report, if you have a chance to read it, we take a look at the engagement policy of the Republic of Korea, and at the situation in North Korea, and come to the general conclusion that the process of trying to open the North will, at best, be a long and difficult one, but one, in the current circumstances, worth trying. The North is already dependent on the outside world for a significant portion of its food and fuel assistance despite a philosophy of ju-chai, or autonomy, independence. And with time, although the North has attempted to quarantine and isolate areas of foreign investment, this may begin to shape forces in the North, may begin to change thinking in the North, and it’s therefore worth sticking with the efforts that, for example, President Kim Dae-jung is attempting in his engagement policy.

Mr. MIKE LARALEE (Tokyo Broadcasting): Mike Laralee from Tokyo Broadcasting. In the event of another North Korean missile test, what is the probability of getting all three countries on board—South Korea, the United States and Japan? In the past—and it still seems questionable whether Japan will support the continued agreed framework and their funding for the agreed framework if North Korea does another missile test. And in South Korea, it’s questionable whether they will agree to cut back on diplomatic relations with the North because of the sunshine policy of Kim Dae-jung. So what is the probability of China getting—with these recommendations—getting all three countries on board?

Ambassador LANEY: Well, just this morning, a report came out of Singapore that the foreign ministers of those three countries have indicated an agreement—this is where they are, today—that they would work together in their response, whatever the situation might be. And one can’t second-guess that at this point to what that response would be, but I think that bodes well for the future in terms of the coordination of policy. With regard to Japan’s view of South Korea’s engagement with the North, I’d say in that regard we have an awfully good thing going with the new reproachment between Seoul and Tokyo. President Kim Dae-jung’s visit to Tokyo awhile back was exceedingly successful and I think the feeling in Japan about Korea is warmer than it has been certainly in my memory. That simply says that the relationship is one of greater trust and of openness, which I think means that they will work very closely together.

With regard to the activity of the sunshine policy, of the engagement policy, I think we’ve already seen President Kim calibrate that somewhat. It’s not as open-ended as it has been. He has shown, in several instances, a response, which may have surprised some, of steel; the naval engagement being one. His determination not to proceed with the Beijing talks unless the North came through with an opportunity for family visitation, and so forth. So I think that the engagement policy, itself, is going through a certain metamorphosis.

I don’t think that President Kim, as far as I know, has indicated at all that he is backing off of the general idea and the long-term view that the only way to finally affect what goes on in North Korea is through engagement, or involvement, with the outside world. And this is going to take some time because the downside risks for the regime are so high, and yet the pressures to do it are so great. And that’s, of course, their dilemma. And I think President Kim is trying to, well, frankly, play on that dilemma to the advantage of greater security in the northeast. Weapons of mass destruction and missiles are another dimension, however.

Ambassador ABRAMOWITZ: Let me just add a point to that. Good. Clearly, you are right. The initial response to the first launch was quite ragged with different points of view by each of the countries. I think that has been recognized. I think Mr. Perry’s effort in bringing the countries together and proposing a common approach to North Korea has been a big step forward. I think Ambassador Laney has pointed out the statement of foreign ministers recognizing the problem and agreeing that they will act in concert is another step forward. So while one can’t predict—a lot depends on what happens—I think the three countries are significantly aware of the issue and are trying very hard to come up with an agreed posture and I suspect that they will do so. I think the ground has certainly been laid for that.

Mr. MIYASA DOFOKULONIS: My name is Miyasa Dofokulonis, Japanese News Agency. I have two questions, and the first one is on page 12 of the first section of your recommendation about the food aid policies. And as the U.S. government has been sending humanitarian food aid to North in responding to the WFP and with strict monitoring and maybe up—except the 100 southern towns on a bilateral basis. What is the problem with the food aid policy? This is the first question. And the second question is on page 13. After North Korea starting engagement, how to deal with North Korean missile threat. This recommendation doesn’t touch on specific view or ways to deal with the North Korean missile threat. And my question is: In 1994, the U.S. traded off the North Korean nuclear threat in exchange for their nuclear reactors, and this missile threat is serious enough to buy off these North Korean missile programs. Have you discussed on some specific measures of buying off missile programs in North Korea?

Dr. GREEN: Well, I’ll let Ambassador Laney and Ambassador Abramowitz answer on ...(unintelligible) handling of the missiles. Let me just say that in the report, we argue that the missile threat is a problem, that the Taepodong test would be symbolically, and politically, a very significant event, but that the North is already deploying shorter-range ballistic missiles. So there already is an emerging ballistic missile threat, one that has to be dealt with in the defense policies and defense cooperation of Japan, the U.S., and the Republic of Korea. We argue in the report that we should try a broad, comprehensive package that would take care of the missile problem, but it was our sense that it would be unlikely that North Korea would agree, at least in the near term, to sell its missiles because the missiles remain their trump card, their deterrent against attack and an important negotiating card. But it’s certainly worth a try, and it’s possible that we may be able to deter, or induce, them to not launch missiles, or perhaps convince them to slow down the process.

Ambassador ABRAMOWITZ: On food aid, we have a situation in which China is, of course, the major provider and the major crop, in a sense, for the North Korean government regime, and that Chinese aid is used to feed all those in need in North Korea; a most interesting protection. There is a large population of North Korea that’s not interested in protection, and I think we have a few from the outside world—the Americans, and others through the World Food Program—basically supplies a sort of triage for the population that exists. And I think we all think that’s a very honorable thing. I think it’s important to make sure that the food goes to these people, and that both the humanitarian effort keeps alive the people who are most affected by this effort. So in that sense, we think we should continue humanitarian aid. And it’s also an American tradition. We don’t like to use food for political purposes. And I think that’s the general attitude throughout the task force. There are people who are on the task force who want to use aid—to cut off aid if the North Koreans should ...(unintelligible) but that’s not the general feeling for most members of the task force.

Mr. JOSEPH SERANATARIA (Carnegie Endowment): Thank you. I’m Joseph Seranataria with the Carnegie Endowment. The report talks about the ambivalent reaction that North Korea has had to the Perry proposals. A lot currently seems to be resting on how we interpret the Taepodong II launch, if it should occur. And Donald Gregg warns in one of his dissents here that we shouldn’t overreact to this. The missile, if it comes, will have more do to with North Korea’s perception of its sovereignty and independence than with the rejection of Secretary Perry’s message. And if you read the North Korean statement, this is certainly what they emphasize, that no nation has a right to tell another nation it can’t ...(unintelligible). How did you wrestle with this, and do you, as a task force, have a clear sense of what message the North Koreans intend to send with that? Is it one of sovereignty and independence or is it in your face, `we’re going ahead with our missile programs. We reject your overtures?’

Dr. GREEN: We did wrestle.

Ambassador ABRAMOWITZ: And you raise a very good point. And I can tell you how we felt about it. As Dr. Green points out, it was a major subject of our deliberations. And basically, I think most members of the task force agree that with the decline of North Korea’s eventual capabilities, the ability to obtain a missile capability, and perhaps marry nuclear capability, is their best way of, one, preserving deterrence for themselves, and two, of trying to blackmail the West if the West offers suitable blackmail provisions, so to speak.

And I think you will see over the next few months a significant effort on the part of the North Koreans to demonstrate it’s working very hard—they might fire off a missile or two—and that is, of course, one way of trying to raise the price for dealing with this issue. And we wrestled on how to deal with it. We still think that the approach of the Perry comprehensive is a reciprocal way of helping North Korea economically while they will take steps to reduce tensions and limit their acquisition of weapons of mass destruction—is still the best way to deal with it.

Unfortunately, I don’t think North Korea—and I think this view is shared by most members of the task force—is willing to give up its major source of leverage on the West and the United States and its allies, and that is its military capabilities. And we’re just going to have to live with it and if it occurs, we’re going to have to handle it in perhaps the ways we suggested, but we’re going to have to live with it.

Ambassador LANEY: The missile threat, as we all know, changes the dynamics of security from the Korean Peninsula to the whole region. I think the stake that China has in the development of North Korean missiles is very significant. They have been canny in responding in our request to bring pressure to bear upon North Korea not to develop further missile capability because of its destabilizing tendency. China’s very much concerned about the possibility that Japan would feel the need to do more in military preparedness, certainly for the first time since the Second World War, and they look very genuinely upon that prospect. At the same time, it’s hard to get them to acknowledge that they could or can’t affect North Korea’s basic bottom-line behavior.

Therefore, I think the task force sees this as a regional issue; not just the United States, and Tokyo, and Seoul, but also with Beijing, obviously. And that’s very important that all of these be coordinated because recent coup d’etats with Beijing haven’t helped in this matter. But the fact is that a missile now moves this into another dimension. Whereas before we principally were concerned with peninsula security, that’s no longer the case and all of us have a major stake in what the significance of North Korean missiles may be.

Mr. TAKA SAKAMOTO (Euro-Hiroshima): Taka Sakamoto, correspondent of Euro-Hiroshima, Japanese newspaper. I have questions about two measures you’ve proposed. One is that if North Koreans are spurned in this engagement, you suggest that the U.S. should downgrade level of the different activities with North Koreans. I want to know what level would be appropriate for the different activities with the North Koreans. And another question is about the sanction liftings. You propose that U.S. should lift sanctions under the Trading With The Enemy Act if North Koreans agree not to launch the missile again and I think lifting of these sanctions would require the congressional approval. Given the fact that Congress is controlled by Republicans, how is the government going to get the consent from the Congress? In other words, how much is this recommendation feasible? Thank you.

Dr. GREEN: If I could, let me answer the second one just on the technical point. The Trading With The Enemy Act sanctions can be lifted selectively or in whole by the president, based on his authority, based on a national security judgment. And I want to make sure people don’t misunderstand what we’re saying here. The Trading With The Enemy Act sanctions are largely symbolic. By selectively lifting them, the administration would open up more opportunities for private-sector interaction with the North. But it would provide no incentives for actual investment and no actual economic assistance to the North. There would be no OPEC, there would be no trade guarantees, or insurance, or trader investment.

And so it would be an act, which we discussed in our earlier report, as well, that we felt would do several things. First, it would open up the North to more contact. Secondly, it would demonstrate to the North the potential advantages of increasing investment and reforming and opening up. And third, it would demonstrate our intentions to follow through on a package of larger economic assistance in the future should North Korea take serious steps to reduce the threat it poses to South Korea and Japan, and the rest of the region.

The other question was on the downgrading of diplomacy.

Ambassador ABRAMOWITZ: We, in looking at what should be done to deal with the North Korean—a response to a North Korean launch—we felt, in general, that we had to move on a number of fronts, and basically we felt that we should—if this occurred despite our efforts to get them to stop and despite efforts to propose a comprehensive package—we would basically stop running after them. We would make it clear that we’re available to talk when they’re ready to talk seriously, but they’re not really ready to respond constructively to all that’s been put on the table for you. So the likely answer James Baker called—said one day about the Israelis: You have our number—456-1414. Give us a call when you’re ready to talk seriously. That was the general thrust of that response. What was the other point to put to rest?

We originally, in our initial report—I just want to add one thing to what Dr. Green said in our original report. We felt that it was important to make it clear that we were really serious about trying to deal with North Korea in a constructive way and prepared to consider all sorts of things, including a very large package which could aid the process of reversing the hostility on the peninsula. And we felt it was necessary, as an indication of that, to make it clear by unilaterally removing some of the sanctions. And a lot of people felt it should have been done anyway, that these sanctions were no good and that the best way of encouraging North Korea is to engage them in this and some other things. But basically we felt that unilaterally moving ahead would convey the seriousness of ...(unintelligible).

And that’s basically, I think, what many still believe. It is extremely difficult to do, politically, even though the president has the capability of doing that. Congress is, of course, very sensitive to it, a very tough-minded attitude towards this issue and they would not jump up and down in applause if we were to do that. That’s a fair point.

Question from the audience: I’ll just talk loudly. We’ve talked a lot about if they test, but I haven’t heard anything about deployment. There are many people who feel that, in fact, if they were to sell the missile or its components to some Middle Eastern or South Asian buyer and let them do the testing—which is another set of problems for us—but in the long run, isn’t the strategic deployment ...(unintelligible). If they deploy it down the road, does that kick in your worst-case scenarios and how do we respond to that?

Ambassador LANEY: As Professor Green pointed out earlier, they already have missiles that can launch to Japan that are deployed. These are not the ones that are tested, or are supposed to be tested. The right part of the likely use of such missile technology is to sell to other countries. Whether that’s by exchange for other kinds of weaponry or cash remains to be seen, but that proliferation issue is a major concern of the United States, as well as of other countries. We have not specifically drawn a line and the deployment of the long-range missiles and so forth because it depends on the warhead. But we feel like there is kind of a threshold issue here. The testing of the Taepodong II certainly speaks of the intent to be very aggressive in a wider sphere. After all, the city of Seoul, a city in the metropolitan area of 15 million people, has lived under a threat equivalent to a missile for more than 10 years; the forward deployment of artillery and long-range mortars.

But now we have other cities as well brought within the orbit of this possibility, and the Taepodong II just simply extends that. I think what we’re dealing with, in one sense, is the political sensitivity, both in Japan and the United States, as well as in South Korea, and you’re going to have a lot of energized people if this turns out to be a real prospect of a threat. Therefore, we’ve put it at the threshold of testing rather than down the road a piece, although that would, of course, increase the seriousness of the whole enterprise.

Dr. GREEN: You will find in the report on this issue that we addressed the broader proliferation problem. The development of missiles is not isolated to North Korea, either as a development nor as an export issue. You probably saw the article in The New York Times a few weeks ago about Gulf defense officials visiting Pakistan to look at their missile capabilities and so forth. And it was our feeling that this was not only a problem beyond Northeast Asia that required high-level attention.

But it was also a problem that’s broader and, therefore, gives us other areas where we can go at it, where we could put pressure, for example, on third countries that are assisting North Korea with their missile development program in order to constrain it. And it was our sense that that was worth doing and that it would require high-level attention in the administration beyond the East Asian focus, which North Korea usually receives.

Question from the audience: The engagement policy seems to be getting challenged on two sides; first, by the North Koreans with their provocative actions, and secondly, on the Hill. In April, Chairman Gilman introduced a piece of legislation essentially following on what the Congress was prepared to do in October of last year. In a letter to the president, it seemed like the appointment of a policy coordinator was meant to address the U.S. domestic side of this problem. And I was wondering: Is there anything in this report which really gets at that issue, which is just as important as what the North Koreans do?

Ambassador ABRAMOWITZ: In the case of North Korea and its response, today it still is quite negative. And in the spirit in which it was tried, and the willingness to try to get a new, serious process going which the South Koreans would like with the North, clearly it doesn’t seem to be working because the North Koreans are not responding. And to me, that’s an incredible thing, given as we all pointed out, the extraordinary flexibility initially shown by the Kim Dae-jung administration.

In regard to the United States, I think there has been some concern with what was initially felt to be the lack of reciprocity, that there seemed to be some concern that the South Koreans were departing from reciprocity. I think that concern has been essentially alleviated over the past three months. I think Kim Dae-jung made it clear, as he did at the beginning when he first enunciated his engagement policy, that the reciprocity would be the principle order of the day. I think he has demonstrated that in the last few months, and I think the concern—I can’t say it’s ameliorated. I don’t know, but I think on the Hill, it has been diminished.

There is, of course, continuing concern on the Hill for the whole approach to North Korea. There’s a dissatisfaction that comes, I think, on its very nature. It’s a very frustrating country to deal with. It’s very hard to know what to do. It’s easy to posture and to be rhetorical. And to come up with concrete measures that usefully deal with the situation is not easy, but I believe that Kim Dae-jung has demonstrated in his approach to it—his recent approach, I think, has gone a long way to alleviate concerns.

Dr. GREEN: I think this will be the last question. Please.

Mr. KENJI SOBATA (NHK): Kenji Sobata from NHK. Although Dr. Perry delivered his comprehensive approach to Chun Hwan, he hasn’t officially concluded his policy review yet, and it seems that he has been waiting for a North Korean response to his approach. But I think they have, you know, intention with preparation to launch another missile as a very provocative act, and pretty much the answer to his proposal. So what is he waiting for, actually? Is he kind of afraid of his report being immediately undermined by the missile launch?

Ambassador LANEY: This is pure conjecture, but I have an idea that Mr. Perry is hoping to get a response from North Korea. And that response could be a missile launch, which would not be very welcoming. On the other hand, there is an invitation, I understand, out to Kang Sok Ju, who was the (unintelligible) post-Perry when he went up to Pyongyang in May—for him to visit Washington. There has been no response to that, either; they haven’t declined and they haven’t accepted. So in a sense, it’s in limbo. And, you know, not knowing North Korea, one might surmise that a lot of things may remain in limbo and we’ll have to try to decipher the tea leaves.

Some of the things will be visible, if there’s a launch or another provocation. But I think on the whole, the task force is saying we need to be firm; we certainly need stronger terms, as our recommendations point out, very strong. And I might add that this was the cornerstone of President Kim Dae-jung’s inaugural speech. Stronger terms was the basis of everything else, and he would not abide provocation. And I think the recent events have shown that’s the case.

But for us, it does seem to be that this deterrence is the basis on the one hand, and we do need to try to see if it’s possible to maintain some kind of engagement with the North, because to isolate them totally would mean that we had absolutely no influence on them, no way of bringing anything to bear. And so this is the kind of limbo we’re caught in.

Dr. GREEN: I’d like to thank Ambassador Abramowitz, Ambassador Laney. They’ve shepherded us through this very difficult problem of almost three years. We thank you. I’ll stick around in the back by the coffee if some of you want to ask follow-up questions. There are some members of the task force here, but I won’t point them out because they may want to escape quietly out the back door now. But we’re done for now, and I’ll be happy to entertain further questions in the back. Thank you very much.

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Transcript

What To Do About Tensions in Asia

Speakers: Jeffrey Bader, Karl W. Eikenberry, and Michael J. Green
Presider: Richard N. Haass

China's recent declaration of an air defense identification zone and territorial disputes in the East China and South China seas have led to...

Audio

What to Do About Tensions in Asia

Speakers: Jeffrey Bader, Karl W. Eikenberry, and Michael J. Green
Presider: Richard N. Haass

China's recent declaration of an air defense identification zone and territorial disputes in the East China and South China seas have led to...