In the role of Secretary of State: ARNOLD KANTER
In the role of White House Adviser: DONALD A. BAER
In the role of Secretary of Defense: DONALD P. GREGG
In the role of JCS Representative: BERNARD E. TRAINOR (USMC Ret.)
In the role of National Security Adviser: ROBERT L. GALLUCCI,
Ambassador ROBERT L. GALLUCCI (Dean, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University; Former Ambassador-at-Large, Department of State): Looking at the situation with respect to domestic stability in the north, we judge their regime as stable, which is to say, that we do not see a near-term deterioration in the ability of Kim Jong Il to maintain power, notwithstanding this economic situation that he confronts.
We do believe there has been ascendancy on the part of the military in the north and that that may well be reflected in North Korean attitudes and behavior in the months ahead.
With respect to the food situation, we believe it has moved from a situation of malnutrition to starvation and back to malnutrition, and it is quite uneven as one looks around the North Korean countryside.
Finally, with respect to the situation in the south, in the Republic of Korea, we believe that the economic situation has been turning around. The decisions made by Kim Dae-jung have been the correct ones economically and that they are coming back as quickly as any of the countries in Asia. And that is where I will leave the situation with respect to an intelligence brief.
I’d now like to turn to the secretary of state for a review of the political situation and I turn it over to you, Arnie.
Mr. ARNOLD KANTER (Senior Fellow, Forum for International Policy): Since our task tonight is to fashion a recommendation for policy to the president, I thought it would be useful for all of us to remind ourselves what interests we have at stake and what the objectives are of the policies we may be recommending. And I think it’s important to do this not only to refresh our memories but to remind ourselves that the interests at stake are not always mutually consistent when it comes to fashioning policy, and we’re not only going to need to make judgments, we’re going to need to make judgments about trade-offs.
First, we obviously have a clear interest in maintaining regional stability and security. On the Korean peninsula, North Korea poses a clear military threat. It’s not just a misunderstood, paranoid country. We also need to be mindful of the fact that a war almost certainly would result in large-scale destruction and massive casualties in South Korea, as well as North Korea, starting with the 36,000 U.S. military personnel currently stationed there, and the city of Seoul, where a quarter to a third of the South Korean population live and which is within range of North Korean artillery.
Perhaps less obviously, an abrupt implosion of the North Korean regime could unleash forces and events which would have profoundly destabilizing consequences and could do serious damage to U.S. security and other regional interests. And more broadly, how the Korean peninsula evolves, and our own skill and success in managing that evolution, will have important implications for our security interests throughout the Asia Pacific, including, importantly, the future U.S. military presence in the region. As we think about policies, later in our discussion, particularly policies that have a coercive component, we need to bear these considerations in mind.
Second, we have an interest in limiting the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and our nonproliferation interests are affected in at least three ways by North Korea. First, of course, are the direct threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, including the way in which other nations in the region respond to these North Korean activities. Second are the proliferation consequences of North Korean exports, particularly missiles, to countries like Pakistan and Iraq. And third are the implications and consequences which flow from our management of the North Korean issue for other of our nonproliferation concerns, for example, trying to discourage Russian missile and nuclear assistance to Iran.
And last but not least among our interests are maintaining good relations with our regional allies, South Korea and Japan, and with other key regional actors, most importantly, China. And before my colleagues begin to start rolling your eyes again and mumbling about the State Department and its seeming preoccupation with bilateral relations, let me make two observations. The first is that I yield to no one in my conviction that good bilateral relations are means, not ends in themselves. I know that, I get that. But second, I am convinced that good bilateral relations are indispensable means to accomplishing many of our most important objectives. The U.S. has far fewer options and far poorer prospects for success when we have to go it alone.
With that as background, let me begin by describing South Korea’s current perspectives on North Korea. Under Kim Dae-jung, who’s been in office for a little more than a year, the ROK’s policy has undergone a substantial change. This change reflects Kim’s long-standing and well-known personal views on North Korea, but the domestic viability of this policy also stems an important measure from South Korea’s own economic slump. It’s been a beneficiary, in an odd way, of South Korea’s economic problems. In the current South Korean policy, which was originally dubbed “the sunshine policy,” until cooler minds prevailed, and is now called “the engagement policy,” is aimed at transforming North Korea, transforming North Korea into an economically viable, politically stable, and non-threatening presence on the Korean peninsula. It is a policy which seeks North-South reconciliation rather than confrontation. It postpones reunification of the peninsula to the indefinite future. It is composed, virtually, of all carrots and no sticks. It has effectively abandoned North Korean reciprocity as a condition for progress and has no discernible timetables or deadlines for North Korean response. And it has managed really quite impressive domestic political success to overlook any number of North Korean provocations and has boldly gone on in the face of these provocations.
Given what some might characterize as a fairly soft line, but in any event, highly conciliatory South Korean approach, we have to expect that any U.S. policy which attempts to pressure, much less threatens, North Korea in order to get North Korean responsiveness to our concerns will be a cause of great distress in Seoul.
Japan’s view of North Korea was transformed last August by North Korea’s flight test of its Daepodong missile. Previously, Japan’s relations with Pyongyang were more than scratchy, but Tokyo did not behave as though it thought it faced a serious or imminent security threat from North Korea. After the missile test, that’s all changed. And one clear result of the missile test and the impact it’s had on Japanese politics and psychology is that even if the North Korean missile program were not a top priority for us, we need to make it a top priority for us insofar as we expect Japanese support and Japanese money to carry out any policy we may recommend. Put simply, we need to regard the ballistic missile issue as now being tied for first place with the nuclear issue as we pursue our North Korea policy.
China. China is the key to the success of any U.S. policy toward North Korea. The good news is that we and the Chinese do see eye to eye on many issues. For example, neither of us wants to see a nuclear-armed North Korea; neither of us wants to see a second Korean War; and neither of us wants to deal with the consequences of a North Korean implosion. But the highest priority for the Chinese is the continued survival of North Korea, and this is because, from the Chinese perspective, a divided Korean peninsula still better serves their interests than one which is unified under Seoul’s leadership, much less a unified peninsula which results from a North Korean collapse.
And given this perspective, the centerpiece of Chinese policy is to keep North Korea on life support by providing substantial oil and food assistance. Importantly, China provides this assistance unconditionally; that is, without insisting that North Korea take its advice on any of a number of issues, much less take Chinese concerns into account. And this policy of unconditional assistance reflects a broader Chinese orientation to do nothing which might precipitate a North Korean collapse. A North Korean weakness is China’s worst fear.
But given this Chinese approach, it means that a U.S. policy or even a policy we carry out with our allies to try to increase pressure on North Korea is unlikely to succeed unless China can be persuaded to at least acquiesce in our policy, if not actively support it, by not filling any gaps we try to create in North Korea’s life-support system.
Let me also mention here that there may be an outside chance of persuading the Chinese to play a more active role on the missile issue specifically. If so, it would result from their very strong concerns about our plans to deploy regional theater missile defenses and from whether we are willing and able to do anything at all to address their concerns, and we may want to return to this issue later in our meeting.
The final point I want to make is about the 1994 agreed framework. First, we need to constantly, constantly remind ourselves that the agreed framework is a means to an end, not an end in itself. It is not the object of policy. And we cannot become so fixated on preserving the agreed framework that we lose sight of the interests it was designed to serve or fail to constantly assess how well it is serving those interests. Having said that, I need to add that the status of the agreed framework is the touchstone of whether and how we change U.S. policy. On the one hand, the agreed framework may be a foundation on which to build a more ambitious, positive approach toward North Korea. On the other hand, if the agreed framework unravels, either as a result of actions by Pyongyang or by our own actions, U.S. policy toward North Korea almost certainly would be transformed, and almost certainly we would have no choice but to take a tougher tack than we now are.
I mention all this because we’re facing a congressional deadline in a couple of months which could well determine the immediate fate of the agreed framework. And so, while the agreed framework is not the objective, it is a matter of considerable urgency and of substantial importance. And our discussions this evening, the policies recommend, as well as Bill Perry’s efforts in his review of Korea policy, need to be viewed in light of their impact on the agreed framework as well as in terms of the recommendations for substantive changes in policy toward North Korea.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Mr. Secretary, you came extraordinarily well prepared for this evening’s meeting. I don’t want to say that’s in sharp contrast to the normal course of events, but I thank you for that comprehensive review. I’d like to now ask the secretary of defense and the chairman to together capture the military situation as we see it.
Ambassador DONALD P. GREGG (Chairman of the Board, the Korea Society; Former Ambassador of the U.S. to Korea): The quality of policy out of the Department of State is sort of infinitely expandable. The amount of resources flowing from the Pentagon are finite, and I’m acutely aware that, in talking about North Korea, we are already engaged in southeastern Europe at this point; primarily air, but reading the latest polls and our president’s attention to them, who is to say when ground troops may become more involved? This has strong impact in our situation on the Korean peninsula. I’m very grateful to my predecessor, Dick Cheney, for putting on hold the process of a withdrawal, which otherwise in the fall of 1991 would have pulled another 10,000 troops out of Korea.
The defense of the Korean peninsula is still a very tricky business. It still requires the rapid insertion of air power and good weather to hold off what could be a short-term but violent attack from North Korea. God help us if the North Koreans were to attack at the beginning of a stretch of weather such as our pilots have endured in Kosovo. So I don’t want to get into the facts and figures of our fighting forces, but I just want to state that, in my view, our best role in Korea at the moment is to exude confidence but to avoid provocation.
There are two concerns I have with North Korea: one, that they may seek to try to take advantage of what they see of our being tied down in Southeast Asia, and we need to leave them in no doubt that we are perfectly capable of handling anything they can throw at us if they were to be so foolish as to choose to do that. But we need to do that without beating our chests or pointing our fingers or acting belligerent. I think that we have to go about our business in a quiet, professional manner, and my way of thinking, we have a real horse we can ride in northeast Asia in terms of Kim Dae-jung. He has won the confidence of his military. He’s established a new relationship with the Japanese. He has a good and ongoing relationship with the Chinese and he’s one of the few people in the region who intends to take the Russians seriously, which I personally favor.
I agree with the secretary that we need to do all we can to keep the Japanese calm. Mr. Taoka, the Asahi military affairs correspondent, said that he had not seen such a reaction out of the Japanese since Commodore Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay in 1857, when the Daepodong rocket went off. He feels and I feel that it is totally disproportionate to the threat, but we need to deal with that, because Japanese hysteria could have a very destabilizing effect on the whole region.
So Teddy Roosevelt comes to mind: “Speak softly but carry our big stick.” Remain absolutely confident, but do not engage in provocations. And, General Trainor, I leave it to you to spell that out in more specific terms.
Lieutenant General BERNARD E. TRAINOR (USMC, Retired; Associate, Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University): Yes. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I appreciate it.
Gentlemen, as you know, our declared capability is to be able to fight two near-simultaneous major regional contingencies. Now in the confines of this room, I’d like to say, don’t believe it. We’ve got two minor contingencies going on right now, one in Kosovo and one in the Persian Gulf, and we’re being stretched very thin. So for God’s sakes, you political masters of we military, don’t get us into a problem with the North Koreans where we’re going to get into some sort of a shooting war.
With that, let me say that the situation along the DMZ has been stable for well over a decade, but the threat is still considerable. The North Korean armed forces, their ground forces, are more than twice the size of the South Koreans, roughly a million men, and with 3,000 tanks with 10,000 pieces of artillery, most of it up along the DMZ and ready to go.
Amb. GALLUCCI: In hardened positions.
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: Yes. And a lot of the equipment is obsolete. Maintenance is questionable. Training has probably been weakened because of the internal problems. But they’re still a formidable force. Now their strategy, should, for whatever reason, they attack across the DMZ, would be to make use of surprise, and that’s why they are fully deployed in hardened positions, as the secretary has mentioned: to move very, very quickly, to break through the fixed defenses that the South Koreans have in place, and concurrently to use their quite robust special operations forces to go deep into the rear of the South Korean positions.
On the other hand, our strategy is based on early warning of some sort of a surprise attack and a reaction, a reaction in two ways: on the South Korean part of rapid mobilization to fill in positions that already exist for a defense in depth, because the positions are relatively shallow if you assume, as I think is a correct assumption, Seoul is the target of the North Koreans. On the American thought, it’s rapid reinforcement, primarily by air power. Ground forces, we have a small force from the 2nd Infantry Division, a trip-wire force, a bona fides, on the spot. Reinforcements fromout of there come from Okinawa or from Hawaii in terms of ground forces, but it’s not much. So it’s air power in the form of U.S. Air Force aircraft coming in and maybe fleet aircraft coming up.
Now you can see the two strategies are somewhat diametrically opposed. One counts on surprise and the other counts on warning time, mobilization and reinforcement.
The nightmare scenario is the one that’s been alluded to by the secretary of defense, which, for some reason, the North Koreans penetrate the defenses and head toward Seoul before, A, the South Koreans can properly mobilize or, B, we can get our air power into action. And that air power into action can be impeded by bad weather, but it could also be impeded by the use of the special-operations forces to hit the air, to capture the airfields or cause confusion at the airfields. And I wouldn’t discount the use of chemical weapons on the part of the North Koreans to neutralize the airfields and the ports. And added to that is they have developed, over the past decade, a missile capability, using missiles to hit not only airfields but ports of entry for reinforcements. This could complicate the defenses.
Now under most gaming plans, the North Koreans would not be able to take all of the peninsula before we would be able to react in sufficient force to stop them and turn the tide. But one of the war games that, as the chairman, I have been pushing but without too much success, because everybody’s so concerned about matters in the Middle East and in the Adriatic, but is a scenario where they do succeed in slowing down and neutralizing the reinforcement capability for sufficient time to let them break through and head toward Seoul before the South Koreans can mobilize, in which case I would not see them trying to fight through Seoul, with its multimillion-person population and the difficulties of fighting in an urban area, but rather, investing Seoul and just moving sufficiently across the Naktung south of Seoul and taking up defensive positions, and holding Seoul and its population hostage and then willing to negotiate. That, I think, is the nightmare scenario, and under the proper circumstances, it could come to pass. I’m not predicting this, but I think it’s well for us to always think in terms of worst-case scenarios, particularly at this time where we are stretched so thin with our military.
Amb. GALLUCCI: General, Mr. Secretary, thank you for that upbeat presentation. I’m certainly much encouraged about our defensive capability having heard that. Before we start talking about the issues, I need to ask, please, for Don Baer to give us a little domestic context here. And you don’t need to take a cue from your colleagues. You could actually be somewhat briefer and capture this...
Mr. DONALD A. BAER (Senior Vice President, Public Policy & Communications, Discovery Communications, Inc.; Former Assistant to President Clinton for Strategic Planning and Communications): In the noble tradition of White House political advisers, let me wing it.
Amb. GALLUCCI: That’s what the rest of us are doing, so why not?
Mr. BAER: Let me say at the outset, first, Mr. Secretary of Defense, I’ve seen no polls on this so far. As you know, we take no polls on serious foreign policy matters, and so there are none for us to see. But with all due respect to those of you who have been subject to Senate confirmation, which I have not been, I don’t need a poll to know that, to echo your words, the patience of the American people and the Congress is also finite with regard to this situation.
I think we start—we’d have to recognize that we start when it comes to Congress, the public, and the press, in a situation about deep skepticism, and at the same time, a great sense of unease—deep skepticism about anything that we might do, and a sense of unease about anything that we don’t do. And at the same time I think we have to recognize that this is a situation at the moment, fortunately, perhaps, that is not subject to the CNN effect. We’re not seeing pictures flowing out of there showing us the humanitarian problems. I’ll come back to that, because I think it presents us with an opportunity, but it’s one that we have to seize.
Why the skepticism? Well, first of all, of course, North Korea’s credibility with regard to its promises is very low, and I want to tell you that my sense of Congress is that there is no appetite, none whatsoever, for paying more money in order to get North Korea to come forward with the promises that it’s already made. We’ve already paid for and bought those promises, and I think it’s going to be very difficult for us to get more. But there’s a larger sense of skepticism that you’ve all alluded to, and we are seeing it, we have to recognize it. We hear it now in the press. We’re going to be hearing it more and more as we approach the year 2000, and perhaps some of our political opponents take the opportunity to remind us of this.
There’s a gnawing sense that our foreign policy fix is seen both tentative and temporary, that overall sense of fecklessness at the top and throughout the ranks, and frankly, we have to be very careful about this as we go forward.
Let me talk about the press for a minute. At the moment, so far as I know, the press is not on to the intelligence that you’ve talked about. Now that’s in part because we’ve only discussed this in the principles meeting. And the moment that this gets out of the principles meeting, we can begin to expect some of this to begin to get out, and so we have to move very quickly, but obviously very carefully. I just want to underscore for you that the people in the press that I’ve talked to also have these kind of competing considerations with regard to what we might do in North Korea. On the one hand, they believe we ought to do something for South Korea and North Korea because of the humanitarian situations that you describe, but on the other hand, as one of my friends in the press described it, they see North Korea as kind of a Disney World theme park of the Cold War, and they wonder why in the world we would want to get more deeply involved in that, given the potential catastrophe that could be involved.
Now back to the absence of this sort of current CNN effect, with no pictures to drive home the importance, I really do see that as a positive, because it gives us a chance now, moving now, to begin to lay what we might do going forward in a sense of a larger strategy rather than just a crisis management. And very much our communications plan is going to be to try to envelop this as a sense of strategy. The president, in the 1997 State of the Union address, as he laid out his second-term foreign policy agenda, talked in terms of achieving a more stable Asia as one of his main objectives, and I think we have to view what we’re doing now in that context and in every way possible move it forward in that context. And as I’ve said, I think we have to handle it carefully, quietly, and efficiently at this point.
To your point, Mr. Secretary of State, it’s not only the military that can only do so much at this point. If you look just on the foreign policy side of the ledger. At this point there’s only so much that Congress, the press, the public, and, I have to confess, this White House, can process when we’ve got the Yugoslavian situation and what it may mean with regard to our Russian relations; we’ve got China; we have after the elections in the Middle East the potential to move forward there, and there’s going to be a strong political desire to move forward there. We have Northern Ireland, which continues to bubble up and which is something we are heavily invested in. And I have to also tell you, the president has three trips abroad scheduled between now and the end of the year. That is going to absorb an enormous amount of effort on the part of this White House, and I haven’t even mentioned Social Security and Medicare. So it’s very important that we move on this as quickly and strategically as possible.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Thanks a lot.
Mr. BAER: Was that short enough?
Amb. GALLUCCI: That’s short enough, and it continues in the upbeat way in which we’ve been proceeding. Let me remind you, the idea here is to end up with some recommendations to the president about what we ought to do with North Korea, what—should we be proposing a bigger, larger deal? Should we keep the agreed framework? Should we dump the agreed framework? What is it necessary for the North Koreans to do to keep the agreed framework? What course will we follow?
You’re, I think, probably wondering how we’re doing on the negotiations we’ve had so far, so let me just briefly say, and Ambassador Kartman has negotiated access to one of those sites and we’ll be able to take measurements there and we’ll be able to go back, if necessary. Bob Einhorn has talked to the North Koreans about the ballistic missile problem and has gotten North Korean suggestions that are, at best, characterized as laughable for how much we’d have to pay for progress on missiles; really no progress there. Four-party talks—nice to have a process; no real substance. And I know that, gentlemen, you have heard pieces of the Perry mission. We are, in fact, supposed to supplement that with this meeting with our recommendations to the president. I’ll tell you that former Secretary Perry is thinking of presenting a proposal that would be quite robust in terms of what we might offer to the North Koreans to get more performance. It’s our job to put some flesh on all this.
So if we can, let’s go to some of the issues that I think we ought to be addressing. First, briefly, I’d like to hear some discussion of what we ought to be aiming at in terms of this North Korean regime. We have suffered some criticism for what we have done so far that has sustained a regime that has been called the worst one in existence on Earth today. And we could be heading in a direction of providing more assistance to further sustain this regime. And the first question that I’d ask you all is: Should we be aiming to promote a collapse of that regime? Is that something we can manage? Is that the desirable outcome or, in fact, is that something that we need to avoid at all costs because it could lead to the catastrophe that we are told we must avoid, which is a war on the Korean peninsula? Anyone care to address that?
Mr. BAER: Let me just say that, for purposes of planning our policy, we need to assume the North Korean regime will continue on indefinitely, if only because the PRC will do almost anything that’s required to keep it afloat. So absent active measures by us or others to precipitate the overthrow, we’re going to have a North Korean regime, and that should be the premise of our policy. I think active measures to undermine North Korea’s regime would be ill-advised on all sorts of scores, ranging from the implications for stability on the Korean peninsula to, essentially, the United States being isolated and alienated from its key allies in the region and elsewhere in the world.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Let me just ask: Don, how does it go over when we provide potatoes or humanitarian assistance to North Korea, domestically? And how does it work with the Congress? Are they comfortable with that kind of support? It doesn’t have the heavy, fuel-oil kind of problem of, you know, perhaps the substitution principle being assisting a war machine. Can we do this and expect to get support?
Mr. BAER: Well, I think we can expect to get support, or put another way, I think we can expect not to receive the lack of support if we do that, which is to say we’re sustaining the status quo in that situation. We are trying to keep some people afloat there and help them somewhat, but we are not really sort of breaking through and changing anything in the balance of the situation there. But I think we will continue to get some support for it. Again, I have to tell you, as long as the money is going in that direction rather than aimed toward the regime with a way to sort of buy them off of their increased buildup, we’re probably in better shape.
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: Gentlemen, the only people that are suffering from the longevity of this regime are the North Koreans. The rest of the world, including ourselves, have done pretty well over the last 50 years with North Korea being what it is. So anything that would upset the status quo has a lot of uncertainties connected with it which are not necessarily in our favor. And one of the side blessings of having an enemy, if you will, a threat in the region, is it provides a legitimacy and a logic for our presence in the western Pacific. If there was no North Korea and we could invent an enemy, I think there’d be terrific domestic and international pressures for us to get out of that part of the world, and I don’t think that’s in our best interests.
Amb. GALLUCCI: OK.
Amb. GREGG: I would say there are those who seem enthusiastic about inventing a new enemy in Beijing, and that’s something I devoutly oppose. There was a conference—and I’m getting outside of my Sec Def bailiwick, but there was a conference in Seoul in 1996 which involved a number of German economists, and the question was: What would it cost South Korea to deal with a collapsing North Korea? And the costs were absolutely staggering. And South Korea at that point was still in its boom period economically, but even then the costs, which ran $2 trillion to $3 trillion, were far beyond anything that South Korea could have sustained, even at that point. So as far as South Korea is concerned, a North Korean collapse is something that should be assiduously avoided.
Amb. GALLUCCI: OK. I take from this that, Don, you can craft some talking points to use here, for press guidance, for why we’re helping the North Korean regime and we can move on. Let’s go to a...
Amb. GREGG: National interest. We’ll just go with that.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Does that work for you?
Amb. GREGG: Oh, yeah, sure.
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: Just as long as it’s vital.
Amb. GREGG: Vital national—it works with The New York Times. That’s all we have to worry about.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Let’s go to the question of North Korean objectives. I have an intelligence brief here that says North Korea probably never gave up its intention to fabricate nuclear weapons and probably never will. And they use as an example of this the fact that they’ve agreed to sell the known facilities in the agreed framework but then probably pursued a secret program and will at all costs. Now first of all, how does that sound to you all? And second, how much of a problem does that present to us in terms in which the secretary of state said we had to view the agreed framework, which was a means rather than an end? Mr. Secretary? I question it to you.
Mr. BAER: OK. I think that we are unlikely to be able to conclusively, once and for all, buy out the North Korean nuclear program. We can rent parts of it. We can constrain it. We can stretch it out. But I think that we need to be realistic and view it as an issue which will be managed rather than a problem which will be solved. I think we have to assume that, as long as there is a North Korea, it will have at least some latent nuclear capability.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Do you concur with that, Mr. Secretary?
Amb. GREGG: Ah, yes, I do. The South Koreans went through their own nuclear phase after we withdrew from Vietnam in the early ‘70s. The South Koreans started on a nuclear program, which we discovered and stopped. And I think that the North Koreans are quite determined to pursue some sort of limited capability, and there are senior military officers in our service now who believe that they have two functioning nuclear weapons, which they could deliver by either pushing them off the rear end of a truck or pushing them out of an Alutian jet. And I think that it’s good that we recognize that, but I would remind us that we also deterred the Soviet Union, that had several thousand nuclear weapons on the end of actual ICBMs, and North Korea is a long, long way from that.
Amb. GALLUCCI: What I don’t get about this, Mr. Secretary, is it is his problem. If these judgments I’ve just heard were made public, I would assume that the problem of defending the agreed framework would become pretty tough, wouldn’t it? Right?
Mr. BAER: Right. And I think what we’ve done here is define precisely the advice we’ve got to get to in order to give the president, which is, to carry forward your comparison, Mr. Secretary, how do we continue a rent stabilization program without it becoming widely known that that’s what we’ve had to do, because the downside to this is that the appearance that someone has been asleep at the switch with regard to monitoring and making sure that they’re living up to the framework? I think what I’ve been saying is, what we are eager to do is to do this and do it quietly. We don’t need this crisis. We can’t really afford this crisis at this point, so how do we carry forward? What is the advice we give the president in order to achieve that?
Amb. GALLUCCI: What I don’t understand is, what is the standard we’re trying to keep the North Koreans to? I mean, is it a believable or plausible standard? It was in 1994 that they’d have no nuclear program, no gas-graphite program, and that their only nuclear program was one we were going to build for them—light-water reactors. What I think I’m hearing now is the standard I’m supposed to go tell the president is, they’re going to have this secret nuclear program. We’re going to be playing knock the peg down all over the country, and every time one pops up again we’re still going to maintain support from the Congress. Is that plausible?
Mr. BAER: Well, is that an acceptable long-term proposition? I don’t know. It will not be an acceptable long-term proposition to the Congress.
Amb. GREGG: Well, remember, I said that the South Koreans had their own nuclear program, which we talked them out of by making it more reasonable and satisfactory for them to abandon it. And I think that Kim Dae-jung has, in terms of his policy, the same sort of approach to the north. Mr. Secretary, go ahead.
Mr. KANTER: I was just going to say that I don’t think we need to throw up our hands if we all accept the proposition that the North Koreans will have a latent nuclear capability and a motivation to acquire nuclear weapons for as long as there’s a North Korea. The agreed framework, I think, did have a major impact on their program. One could imagine an expanded agreement with other features, which could have an even more significant impact on their program; indeed, on their incentives. The caution is simply one of eternal vigilance; that is, just because the North Koreans agree to do something doesn’t mean they’re going to do it.
Amb. GALLUCCI: OK.
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: I think it’s worthwhile to have a working assumption that the North Koreans do want to have nuclear weapons, and they are going to use every means to develop them, probably, as much in secret as possible, and then kind of worst-case it. So what do we do? Well, we have to look for the steps to impede them without buying them off to the point where the public and the Congress turns against us.
Mr. BAER: But—excuse me.
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: Well, just hear me out. But then, continue on the assumption that they get the weapons and also the fact that they develop their TD-1, TD-2 missile capabilities; then you have to say, “All right. Is that the end of the world? What are they going to do with these missiles?” Well, in large measure, you can argue that the missile is somewhat unuseful from a military standpoint. It’s very good from a psychological standpoint. And it could be viewed by the North Koreans as being a defense against a beleaguered regime threatened by the American imperialists. It could also be viewed as an offensive weapon in order to reunite Korea under their regime, but that equates with suicide. So the business of trying to buy them off to forestall what I think could be the inevitable I just don’t think is the way to go, and I think it’s avoidable.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Don.
Mr. BAER: I know you all are aware of this. The only thing I want to reinforce is that it’s the president who has told the country that the agreed framework is a situation that will help us step down from that brink. And if we have intelligence that suggests that isn’t true, we do have to be concerned about the message he has already sent to the country and how we are going to support him, if we have to shift that message or if we can sustain that message.
Amb. GALLUCCI: OK. General, we have to get to the question of what we’re going to do with the North Koreans next in the Perry proposals, but it’s going to be useful to focus our minds to ask: What’s the alternative to the framework? Because, particularly if we start with this idea—a correct idea, by the way—that the framework is not an objective, all right? We’re not going to keep the framework at all costs. Got it. What’s the alternative to the framework? If we have to walk away from the framework, then the question I really want to put to you is: How do we deal, if there is no framework, with a North Korea that openly pursues a nuclear weapons program, regenerates a nuclear weapons program, openly starts the further export, testing and deployment of ballistic missiles? If we don’t preserve the framework, what are our options? Can we go back to 1994? Can we look at sanctions again? How would the Japanese respond to that? How would—sunshine policy—the republic of Korea respond? Is there a pre-emption option? Do we have a military option to deal with this problem, gentlemen? Can we do that? Is there a covert action option? Can we deal with it that way? Is there any alternative to the agreed framework, or is it nice to say that the agreed framework is not an end in itself but we really have no alternative?
Amb. GREGG: I don’t think we have a pre-emption option. When I...
Amb. GALLUCCI: Are you saying you guys couldn’t hit these facilities?
Amb. GREGG: Yes, we can hit those facilities, but the North Korean ability to retaliate against some of South Korea’s nuclear facilities and create fallout from damaged reactors is formidable. I think that needs to be avoided. Certainly we can take out Kumchangri or Yungbyon or whatever, but their ability to retaliate against the many nuclear reactors that South Korea has is something we cannot contend with.
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: But they’re great for digging and great for hiding, and I think we better be careful when we think about the use of military force, overt force or even covert force, to do something like that. Not only is it destabilizing; I think that the chances of success are less than 50 percent. And if you try to put covert forces in there, the chances of their success, I think, are less than that and the chances of their survival are miniscule. So I think we should be looking for other means, other than the military solution, to this particular problem.
Amb. GREGG: If I may say, I think we have to keep in mind that North Korea’s one goal is to survive. And what does survival mean to them? It means that their political leadership remains intact. At this point, I think they are turning to nuclear and missile technologies as one of the few ways that they can gain foreign exchange. I think that Kim Dae-jung has an idea that if there’s a broader relationship established with the north, they can find there are other ways of making far more foreign exchange. And I would not rule out that having an impact on the North Korean leadership. Survival is what they are after, not self-destruction.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Mr. Secretary.
Mr. KANTER: But let me just interject here that if the North Korean threat to retaliate is the trump card, then we have essentially signed up to a policy of blackmail, because if they can retaliate in the face of—if we pre-empt, and it’s a very—I mean, that’s not a crazy idea. It’s a very real risk. If we were to have an effective program of multilateral sanctions which tightened the noose and ultimately threatened their survival, they could threaten to attack. As long as we believe the threat of a North Korean attack is the show stopper, then that truncates our policy options. It says we need to continue to try to buy them off and hope for the best, because we fear the worst.
Amb. GALLUCCI: With all due respect, Mr. Secretary, that’s not what I heard those guys say. What I heard them say was that this military option was really unattractive because of what the consequences would be. That doesn’t mean that we have to get blackmailed. That means that we may have to choose between three alternatives. That’s not right. We have three options. One option would be to be blackmailed, right? Make it four. One option is to be blackmailed, and that means that we’re going to pay lots more to get the compliance we want than we should, presumably. Second is we’ll pay the right amount and it’ll be a good deal. Third is that we won’t pay at all and we’ll accept a North Korea with nuclear weapons, with ballistic missiles, and we’ll go into a posture of deterrence and defense, like we do elsewhere in the world. And fourth is we’ll decide that that’s unacceptable, and so were the first two options, and we’ll use the military instrument. And the question is, just how awful is that going to be? So I would say we’re not forced to accept blackmail, with all due respect, but it could come to that.
Mr. KANTER: I accept your refinement and I like your list of options.
Mr. BAER: Although finding the difference between options...
Amb. GALLUCCI: Excuse me. Would you first—I just want to live with that for a moment.
Mr. BAER: This is a mock NSC meeting, isn’t it?
Mr. KANTER: It’s a mocking NSC meeting.
Amb. GALLUCCI: A mock NSC is almost redundant. We’ve got to just—please, Don.
Mr. BAER: Finding the balance between blackmail, option one, and paying the right amount, option two, I think, is a very, very fine balance. And I suspect that’s where we’re going to come out, but I’d like some discussion on exactly how we get to that point.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Look, please.
Mr. BAER: I want to see if the third option is a real option in terms of our own domestic politics; that is, can we treat North Korea the way, as you said, Bob, we treat other countries in the world...
Amb. GALLUCCI: Have treated.
Mr. BAER: ...have treated—that is, we learn to live with a North Korea with a declared nuclear capability and doing all kinds of other bad stuff we don’t like, and we sort of try to deal with that diplomatically and we strengthen our capabilities for deterrence and defense, but we live with it? Can we live with that in terms of our own politics?
Amb. GREGG: We’re living with India and Pakistan.
Mr. BAER: Well, but that’s why I’m asking the question.
Amb. GALLUCCI: We don’t have any troops at Kashmir, you know?
Mr. BAER: Is the third option an option?
Mr. KANTER: And it really depends on the costs of that option, weighing those costs, and also an evaluation of the potential that option three winds up putting you into option four, which is a situation where you’d have to get a military alternative.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Excuse me a second, but to get real here for a second, you both talked about the consequences of a North Korean retaliation. If you didn’t bring Kim Dae-jung along, and my information is that this would not be easy, and you didn’t bring Tokyo along, could you deal with a Korean peninsula contingency? Does the war plan permit that?
Amb. GREGG: It would be a disaster, absolute disaster.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Terrific.
Amb. GREGG: Absolutely.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Do you want to mitigate that at all? Complete and absolute, perhaps?
Amb. GREGG: Close. Close.
Amb. GALLUCCI: I see. All right.
Mr. KANTER: Well, can we ask the secretary of defense and the JCS whether or not option three, which is to pay nothing and to accept North Korea and the cost of deterrence and defense—whether that’s realistic and what it would take in order to do that?
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: Well, I think that, yes, I can find a glimmer of sunlight in that, in that it makes a lot of the people in the area all the more beholden to the United States as a safeguard and also increases the defense budget. So I can see that there are certain advantages to letting them have that...
Mr. KANTER: Sorry I asked.
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: ...particularly when they know that using it against us means the end of the regime.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Gentlemen, I need to interrupt here. Got a message which bears directly on where we are and where we’re headed in this discussion. The next topic on our agenda was to ask the question about what package of incentives we might put together to get the North to comply fully with the framework, but also to deal with the ballistic missile issue, both the exports as well as the tests and deployment. And the message is that the North Koreans have just tested, again, a multistage missile, and it has gone over the Japanese main island. This puts a little sharper point on the question, and I wonder how, gentlemen, under these circumstances, you would propose that we proceed.
Mr. KANTER: Break for coffee.
Amb. GALLUCCI: I’ll have it brought in. Go ahead.
Mr. BAER: There’s a helicopter waiting outside for all of us, actually.
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: Again, I’d look to a glimmer of sunshine, and I think this might induce the Japanese to cough up a lot of money for theater air defenses.
Amb. GALLUCCI: You do have a silver-lining capacity that I deeply admire.
Mr. KANTER: This is going to make it much more difficult to get any Japanese support for an ambitious program with North Korea; that is, for a generous offer which was premised on Japanese funding.
Amb. GREGG: And if the North Koreans have done that, that is deeply disturbing to me, because it would indicate that they have a total disregard of the sensitivities of the countries with which they’re dealing. And if they have fired another multistage...
Amb. GALLUCCI: I’m sorry. This is not if; they’ve done it.
Amb. GREGG: All right.
Amb. GALLUCCI: This is from the Central Intelligence Agency. This is for sure.
Amb. GREGG: Well, it is very, very disturbing to me, because it would indicate that the North Koreans are really indifferent to what they are causing in terms of reaction from the Japanese.
Amb. GALLUCCI: I should tell you, there is an additional assessment here. It also reads that “This is as expected,” in paren, “I told you so,” and that they are simply increasing their bargaining chip.
Mr. BAER: Is this in The Washington Post? What are you reading there?
Amb. GALLUCCI: That’ll be tomorrow.
Mr. BAER: No, I’m actually wondering why my pager hasn’t gone off with a call from Wolf Blitzer. But...
Amb. GALLUCCI: The question on the floor here, I think, is if this is a clear indicator then it’s going to be very hard to get compliance on the ballistic missile issue. And we have the comments we already have about the alternatives to the agreed framework. And we also have the observation, the bedrock, that the agreed framework is not an end in itself. Do we try to sustain the framework if it only succeeds in dealing with the nuclear program, and even that—as we have to keep checking on it—but we can’t get compliance on ballistic missiles? Is this doable domestically? Is this desirable from a security perspective? How does this play with Japan and South Korea?
Mr. KANTER: I’ll leave it to Don to talk about the domestic politics. I’ll simply note my skepticism that there’ll be much enthusiasm for funding the U.S. portion of the agreed framework in light of this latest development. I think that keeping the agreed framework on track in terms of Japanese support has suddenly become very problematic. Now this might be manageable in the short term because the Japanese contribution is sort of phased in. We may have a little time to manage this. But they are a major funder of the light-water reactors, and I think you have to assume that that will be a very difficult position to sustain in Tokyo. And in addition, any help we were looking to Tokyo for on humanitarian assistance and, as I mentioned, any help we were looking to Tokyo for on more far-reaching gestures to North Korea, I think, have been thrown into severe question.
Seoul, I think, is going to be quite calm about this. It’s one more development; just sort of, you know, absorb it into the sunshine policy. And I think...
Amb. GALLUCCI: Another ray, so to speak.
Mr. KANTER: As it were. And I think that this missile test could actually impose some fairly serious strains among Seoul, Tokyo, and perhaps also Washington.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Don.
Mr. BAER: Well, it’s a mixed blessing. On the one hand, clearly, my goal of dealing with this as a strategic proposition is out the window. We are in a crisis now which we have to manage. On the other hand...
Amb. GALLUCCI: Wait a minute. We’re in a crisis because they did what they did on August 31st again?
Mr. BAER: Yes. We’re in a crisis situation because the second part of this is we’ve succeeded in taking Yugoslavia off the front page, so I think that we’re in a situation now where—I agree with the secretary of state, as I’ve said before—there’s not going to be wild enthusiasm for continuing to fund the agreed framework out of Congress. However, clearly, the unease about us doing nothing has been ratcheted up, and...
Amb. GALLUCCI: Can’t you get your congressmen and senators to look at the situation as we have, what the alternatives are?
Mr. BAER: Well, in order to do that, we have to get out ahead of this quickly now, because what’s going to happen is a lead opinion is going to begin to harden around various other alternatives that we won’t be defining, and so it’s very important coming out of this meeting soon that we’re able to propose to the president what we go forward with in terms of a process by which we’re going to be dealing with this.
Amb. GALLUCCI: What is the real military—I mean, can’t we sell this as just another effort on the part of the North Koreans to jack up the price and it’s just increasing the chip? I mean, what is the real military significance?
Amb. GREGG: Zilch. I think that our...
Amb. GALLUCCI: Is that spelled with a Z?
Amb. GREGG: Z. And I think that our—I think we can make a crisis out of it. We can put our hair on fire. And...
Mr. KANTER: That’s what Baer’s going to do. I’m worried about this.
Mr. BAER: I got the pager here.
Amb. GREGG: I don’t think we’re the main actor, and I think we make a mistake if we pretend that we’re the main actor in northeast Asia. I think Kim Dae-jung is the main actor. I think that our immediate task is to get with him, to see how he interprets this, to try to calm the Japanese down and to move together with South Korea and the Japanese to create a unified response to this. I think if we go off on our own, sort of pretending that we’re the master of the universe in northeast Asia, it would be a big mistake.
Amb. GALLUCCI: General.
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: Well, it certainly reflects an increased military capability on his part, and I think it also reflects that he’s relatively indifferent to the agreed framework, because he’s doing these things and at the same time playing footsie with that. So I think, in a certain sense, to pursue the agreed framework approach, it flies in the face of the reality that, A, he’s going to pursue getting nuclear weapons, regardless of what agreements he’s made; number two, he’s working on a system to be able to deliver those weapons. So we must look for means to impede him in that progress, and I would prefer them to be short of actual military operations but, I mean, we could put against the sanction squeeze and, you know, I would defer to the humanitarians in the group about embargoing any sort of aid to North Korea and let them all starve.
Amb. GALLUCCI: General, let me just press you on this, because I’d hate to lose the military on this one, but I can see possibly shaping up an option for the president that says that we ought to hold our nose here and we ought to freeze the nuclear program by the use of the framework, which will still require us to reward the North Koreans for bad behavior, something that’s going to be very difficult for him to defend but, in terms of capability, a very desirable thing to do, because ballistic missiles are one thing; ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads are another.
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: Well, if you can still operate within the agreed framework, that, to me, is simply a corollary to what I said...
Amb. GALLUCCI: Right.
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: ...to the fact that this is an increased capability and an indication that, despite the agreements with the United States, he’s still pursuing a dual track of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Mr. KANTER: Let me suggest we might be able to somehow make a virtue of this development.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Certainly. Lemonade.
Mr. KANTER: It’s lemonade time. Something like the following: announce an immediate suspension of implementation of the agreed framework, in part to deal with the congressional problem that I think you’re going to face June 30th in any event, in light of this development.
Amb. GREGG: Do it before they do it to us.
Mr. KANTER: Right. And then hopefully, having thus gotten Gong Yong’s attention, fashion a more ambitious program which would embed the agreed framework in more far-reaching measures, both with respect to the nuclear program and the ballistic missile program, and put that on the table as a substitute, hopefully having elicited North Korean interest, both because they’ve demonstrated to us that they got our attention, and we’ve demonstrated to them that, in fact, we are prepared to walk away from the agreed framework in the face of this behavior.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Interesting. This meeting is going to take on a little bit of the quality of “The McLaughlin Group” now because we have a lot of situation room, back-bencher, strap-hangers behind us here, and they have been wanting to speak at us.
Mr. KANTER: We never allow them to speak.
Amb. GALLUCCI: We’re going to make an exception. But before we do, I want to go around to each of you and speak to the recommendation that we would make to the president, and it is: Now, under the circumstances, do we approach North Korea with a new deal? What’s the deal? When? Do we need a special envoy? Do we need something specific to keep the agreed framework in place? And what do we do if the agreed framework cannot be kept in place? Just if you would, with those thoughts in mind, take a minute and respond. And when I say take a minute, I mean it literally. Mr. Secretary.
Amb. GREGG: I think we need to remind ourselves that Kim Dae-jung is the central player. I think we need to move in concert with him. We need to remind ourselves that the missile firing by the North Koreans is not a violation of the agreed framework, and I think we need to fashion a broader agreement which would capture that within it and make it worthwhile for the North Koreans to live up to it.
Amb. GALLUCCI: So I tell the president to tough it out.
Amb. GREGG: Yes.
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: That’s basically my feeling. I think we discount the agreed framework and learn to live with their programs and seek as many other means as possible to impede them.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Wait a minute. Are you tossing off the agreed framework, Mr. Secretary? I mean...
Amb. GREGG: No.
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: I wasn’t, either. I was simply downplaying it.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Downplaying it. OK. Mr. Secretary?
Mr. KANTER: Kim Dae-jung is not the key player. He’s a key player. We’re another key player. And it’s very important that we keep him on board, but we need to fashion a policy which serves our interests, not his. I think that the agreed framework is toast unless we can rescue it. I don’t think we can maintain the status quo. I don’t think we can tough it out. Even if Don can pull a rabbit out of the hat here, I don’t think I can pull a rabbit out of the hat in Tokyo. I think we need to freeze implementation of the agreed framework and see if we can use that as a basis for fashioning a more far-reaching agreement. And if the North Koreans don’t respond—and I must say, I am pessimistic they will respond. The North Koreans are great at taking money and lousy at taking anything else. We need to look at whether we can engage the Chinese as well as the Japanese, and yes, the South Koreans, in a policy which gives a more ambitious proposal a fair chance, and failing that engages in real sanctions which really bite. And I have to tell you that will be an impossibly tough sell in Beijing unless we can address their concerns on theater missile defense or on other issues.
Amb. GALLUCCI: I think I’ve got it. Don.
Mr. BAER: I’ve got short-term and long-term concerns. The short-term concern is, in 15 minutes, I have to put a statement out, go out and do it myself, have you go out and give a statement or have the president go out and give a statement.
Amb. GALLUCCI: I like the president doing it, as always.
Mr. BAER: I fear that what we’ve said about Congress all along suggests that we cannot sustain the agreed framework under these circumstances. As you point out, they’re going to do it to us unless we figure out a way to get out ahead of it. The other thing, and I will say it in the confines of this room, that concerns me is that if we allow the agreed framework to stand, go forward without the appearance, and hopefully some reality, that we are trying to broaden that and move forward with a process of our own, we are putting in the hands of the North Koreans the ability to wreak real havoc in the year 2000 during an election year with the direction of all kinds of things that could go on. And I think we have an interest to try to sustain and continue the policies of this administration going forward, and so I think it makes sense at this juncture that we move forward as fast as possible to show, along the lines of the secretary of state’s proposal, that we are doing something to try to improve the situation.
Amb. GALLUCCI: So you think the secretary of state has framed a more politically viable posture domestically?
Mr. BAER: Yeah. I think it may go a little too far. I don’t want to sort of—I’d like to find a balance here in the first instance in which we can calm people down and say, “There’s no need to worry about this. The agreed framework is in place. We’re moving forward,” and at the same time, move as quickly as possible to get a new process in place that we can show that we’re being energetic about. But again, I have to tell you, we now have 10 minutes.
Amb. GALLUCCI: All right. Before I go off to brief the president, I’ve got to know whether anybody in the room has additional thoughts. You there.
QUESTIONER: I’m a little annoyed that I wasn’t invited to this meeting.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Excuse me, but that’s always been the case, Winston.
Mr. KANTER: It’s his fault.
QUESTIONER: You’re always cutting out our agency, and this is why our policy’s all screwed up. And I’m also tempted to ask the national security adviser what he thinks of the agreed framework, but I will pass on that.
Amb. GALLUCCI: You gave him the microphone?
QUESTIONER: I have a question both for the JCS and a question for the secretary of state. The JCS said we should stop worrying and live with the bombs and live with missiles, but constrain it. How do you go about constraining it, blockades? Sanctions? Looks like it’s a pretty tough sell with some of the other actors in the region.
To the secretary of state: In order to get Chinese cooperation on a tougher policy toward North Korea, including on missiles, would you cave in on theater missile defense for U.S. security purposes?
Amb. GALLUCCI: First, General.
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: I’d say, A, live with it, but then impede their capability as much as possible by all non-military means that you have available, including sanctions.
QUESTIONER: But the Chinese are not compliant with sanctions? And what other things are you talking about? I knew I should have been invited to this meeting.
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: Yeah. No, what I’m trying to say...
Amb. GALLUCCI: Funny, I was concluding the opposite.
Lt. Gen. TRAINOR: What I’m trying to eliminate is a military option and other political, economic options, psychological options, as may be available, to include sanctions insofar as you can apply sanctions. So in other words, you’re making it tough on the guy, but you’re not taking any military action to stop him.
Amb. GALLUCCI: I think you’d do it in enough time. Mr. Secretary.
Mr. KANTER: No.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Thank you very much.
Mr. KANTER: One possible approach, however, that may bear further study is a U.S. shipboard TMD capability, which would then be deployed with the U.S. forces in the region and, as existing U.S. forces in the region are deployed, to protect U.S. personnel, U.S. facilities and those of our allies and other interested parties. That might be a way to assuage some Chinese concerns without essentially trading away TMD.
Amb. GALLUCCI: Whew. We’ll talk about that later. Yes.
QUESTIONER: If we don’t provide them KOs, aka rights, will the Chinese?
Mr. KANTER: Yeah.
Mr. KANTER: Yeah. I mean, the track record is very clear on this. The Chinese will provide whatever is required, and they’ll advise the North Koreans about how to do things better, and the North Koreans will tell them to get lost, and then the Chinese provide more assistance.
QUESTIONER: It was wisely said before that we address the South Korean concerns that led them to avoid going nuclear, but I have heard nothing to suggest your addressing the North Korean concerns that interest them in going nuclear. There is always a possibility of devising a tactic of a radical nature tha