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North Korea, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Regional Security in Northeast Asia

The North Korean Nuclear Threat: Evaluating Its Twenty-Year Evolution

Speakers: Stephen W. Bosworth, Dean Emeritus, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University; Special Representative for North Korea Policy, U.S. Department of State
Han Sung-Joo, Professor Emeritus, Korea University; Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea
Presider: Richard C. Bush III, Director, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, and Senior Fellow, John L. Thornton China Center, Brookings Institution
April 24, 2014

Event Description

Stephen Bosworth of Tufts University and Korea University's Han Sung-Joo join Richard Bush of the Center for East Asia Policy Studies to discuss the history of nuclear negotiations with North Korea and outline the potential policy options going forward. The panelists warn that ideology has frequently trumped pragmatism in negotiations with North Korea, which has resulted in worse outcomes. Given that North Korea is now a de facto nuclear state, military options to deal with the threat are no longer practical. However, efforts to increase economic ties between North Korea and its neighbors can still help to mitigate the risk of conflict by giving Pyongyang a greater stake in regional stability.

Event Highlights

Han Sung-Joo on how advances in North Korean missile technology may affect U.S. strategy in the region:

"Well, I don't really think that the commitment or idea of extended deterrence, especially vis-a-vis Japan, but also vis-a-vis South Korea, would be very much affected by North Korea's ability to hit the United States. Even with the capability, the U.S. is much more defensive, defendable, than either Japan or South Korea from the North Korean nuclear attack."

Stephen Bosworth on the feasibility of using military force against North Korea:

"You find some people who talk about the need for either regime change in North Korea, or a forceful military response. If I could figure out some way to make that happen, without putting 25 million South Koreans in grave danger, I would be all for it. But I've not been able to come up with that. So I think on any political or moral basis, the notion that somehow there's a military response here, is just not right."

Han Sung-Joo on the importance of pragmatism and flexibility when negotiating with North Korea:

"I think pragmatic and strategic goals are more important than principles or ideologies. And in both cases of 1992 and 2002, those who pursued or pushed North Korea very hard were more in favor of principles than the practical results at that time. Even now, those people who are opposed to adjusting this precondition of concrete actions by North Korea before coming to the six-party talks, they say we're sending them the wrong message, it's against our principles, and so on. I think that that is something that may not be a very productive way of doing things."

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