North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is reportedly in China and there’s speculation his son Kim Jong-un, heir apparent, is traveling with him. Kim Jong-il’s China trips are usually confirmed after he returns to the North out of security reasons, but offici…
August 25, 2010
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is in North Korea to secure the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a 30-year-old American missionary who was sentenced in May to eight years of hard labor and fined $700,000 for illegally entering the North. Carter met Pyongyang’s nominal leader Kim Young-nam and may even sit down with Kim Jong-il. The trip is significant because the release of an American civilian has once again brought a former U.S. president out of retirement at a time when tensions are high between Washington and Pyongyang as well as on the Korean peninsula. What’s more, it comes at a time when the Dear Leader’s health is said to be deteriorating. History has shown that the political environment tends to warm after a former U.S. president flies to the rescue. Why send Carter now and what can we expect from his trip? Click “read more.”
President Carter is no stranger to freeing hostages in North Korea. He did it in 1994, which in effect defused the first nuclear crisis by bringing the two sides to the negotiating table. He is also well-liked by North Korea and has negotiated with Kim Il-Sung, founder of the regime and Kim Jong-il’s father. Carter is also a symbol of peace and has consistently urged the U.S. to engage North Korea with dialogue regardless of circumstance.
However, Carter has been known to take matters into his own hands and he may be tempted to put his spin on U.S. foreign policy once again. In 1994, he brokered a deal to improve U.S.-North Korean relations in exchange for denuclearization, the scope of which was first brought to the Clinton administration’s attention during a CNN broadcast of Carter’s voluntary trip. Unable to reverse the work of a former president, the Clinton administration had to use Carter’s deal as the foundation of the 1994 Geneva Agreed Framework.
Pyongyang may misinterpret Carter’s visit as President Obama’s willingness to move beyond the Cheonan incident and ease pressure against the North. The challenge will be to ensure that Carter does not engage in freelance diplomacy again, especially since his personal views run counter to the Obama administration’s current containment policy, although the door is open for rewarding good behavior.
The Cable reported Carter was chosen because he is not an acting U.S. official. However, Yonhap News (Korean text only) reported that Pyongyang specifically requested President Carter via an intermediary, Professor Hans Park at the University of Georgia, during his trip to North Korea trip early July.
OBJECTIVES AND OPTIONS
U.S. and South Korean officials are tight-lipped on details of Carter’s visit. What’s more, North Korea continues to be a black-box, which is why it is easy to speculate rather than offer concrete arguments based on confirmed facts. Still, some cautious observations about the potential objectives of the different actors involved can be made based on history and present circumstances:
a) U.S. – Private, Humanitarian Mission? The U.S. administration maintains that Carter’s trip is strictly “humanitarian and private,” which were the same words used when former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited North Korea to free two American journalists at a tense diplomatic time. Many North Korea watchers immediately interpreted Carter’s visit as Washington dispatching an envoy, but the State Department has denied this.
If, in fact, Carter’s trip is purely a private humanitarian mission as the U.S. claims, then prospects for a breakthrough depend on Kim Jong-il (see more on this below). It is unclear whether Kim will follow his late father’s footsteps and attempt to engineer another breakthrough in the nuclear saga.
However, the public seems to be forgetting that Gomes walked into North Korea with the intention of getting caught. The missionary was said to have been on a mission: to spread Christianity and covert North Korea. To rescue Gomes may prompt him to head right back to the North. If there are more like him with the same mission, and if this become a pattern, Pyongyang may see it as another money-making opportunity since it slaps fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
b) U.S. & South Korea – Nuanced “Exit Strategy?” Until now, the Obama administration’s rhetoric and actions have made it clear that it is willing and ready to forego dialogue on the nuclear issue until after a North Korean leadership transition. Washington will soon slap more sanctions on Pyongyang and tensions are running high with the North having fired artillery near the de facto maritime border after a joint South Korea-U.S. military exercise. However, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly ordered fresh options be examined out of frustration with the current policy.
To date, Seoul has been firm that it will not participate in a resumption of the six-party talks until Pyongyang takes responsibility for torpedoing the Cheonan. However, the South Korean position may be softening. According to South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, “Strictly speaking, the sinking of the Cheonan and our punitive measures against the North, and the resumption of the six-party talks are different in nature.”
c) North Korea – Bargaining Chip? Some North Korea watchers caution that Carter’s trip will be used by Pyongyang to augment its legitimacy internally amid leadership succession uncertainties and bilateral tensions. The regime is also expected to herald the Carter visit as a diplomatic victory in the face of Washington’s tough stance towards it. This may explain why Pyongyang reportedly (Korean text only) vowed to release Gomes if Washington were to send Carter to the rescue. The trip also follows North Korea’s official media report that Gomes attempted suicide, frustrated his country was not doing more for him.
d) North Korea – Avoiding Responsibility? Pyongyang may use Carter’s visit and dangle the prospect of resuming negotiations as another way to avoid taking responsibility for sinking the Cheonan. North Korea may be receiving China’s help to do just that. Beijing has been trying to arrange another round of six-party talks, and Carter’s trip comes on the heels of Chinese nuclear envoy Wu Dawei’s visit to the North. Wu is also scheduled to visit Seoul and Tokyo this week to discuss resuming multilateral nuclear negotiations.
POSSIBLE OUTCOMES & IMPLICATIONS
How might the current impasse look after Carter’s visit? Expect one or more of the following scenarios:
a) Breakthrough? North Korea’s latest behavior suggests that chances are low for the immediate resumption of six-party talks. Against this backdrop, Carter’s visit may be seen as an opportunity for Washington and Seoul to transition from their current policy of containment to one of engagement. However, the Obama administration has held firm to its two-track policy of pressure and talks: it will only engage Pyongyang if the regime agrees to fulfill its past nuclear commitments and returns to the six-party talks. It has also supported Seoul’s position to resume nuclear dialogue after a North Korean apology for sinking the Cheonan. If Carter’s mission does lead to some sort of a breakthrough, the South Korean public will not allow the Cheonan incident to be brushed over lightly.
Kim Jong-il’s next move is anybody’s guess. But Carter’s visit may be the last time he can take matters into his own hands directly with the U.S. as his health continues to deteriorate. It may serve as a face-saving measure for Pyongyang to return to international dialogue in light of upcoming U.S. financial sanctions that could further isolate it from the global community. The trip will also provide a clue as to whether Kim has the will to take concrete steps toward denuclearization. At the least, Carter’s visit could lead to a resumption of direct Washington-Pyongyang dialogue and possibly among all six parties. Nevertheless, the mission will be meaningless for the nuclear impasse if it does not result in a shift in North Korean behavior.
b) Feeding Bad Behavior? Following President Clinton’s trip, Pyongyang initially engaged in talks with Washington but used them to make additional demands and upped its provocations. If this outcome repeats itself following Carter’s visit, then it will have served to vindicate North Korea’s unwillingness to compromise.
c) Inter-Korean Relations? It is unclear whether Gomes’ release will help thaw inter-Korean relations. The release of two American journalists after President Clinton’s visit led to the return of South Koreans, and the same result is widely hoped for this time as well. Four South Korean and three Chinese fishermen are currently being held in North Korea for allegedly crossing into the North’s exclusive economic zone. If they are released, it could serve as an opportunity for the two Koreas to resume dialogue.
– Creativity and strategic flexibility should always be explored in finding a way to break the North Korean impasse. However, the message should remain that countries must abide by certain international rules and agreements. Washington must continue to prod Pyongyang to fulfill past nuclear pledges in exchange for the other five parties upholding their end of the bargain.
– If Carter’s mission results in progress or even a breakthrough, the allies will need to carefully deal with the Cheonan attack so that it does not become a forgotten incident.
– Given Kim Jong-Il’s ailing health, contingency plans must also be made to cushion any shocks as a result of a possible collapse in the North amid a leadership succession. Seoul’s consideration of imposing a “reunification tax” signals that time may be approaching faster than expected.
Anyone following North Korean statements for the first time might be forgiven for thinking that the world came extremely close to witnessing major war several times over the past few weeks. On July 24 the DPRK foreign ministry announced it would respond to joint US-South Korean military exercises with “powerful nuclear deterrence,” saying the drills amounted to a provocation that would prompt a “retaliatory sacred war.” Days later, North Korea said it would have to “bolster its nuclear deterrent” in a “more advanced way” to cope with the increasing nuclear threat posed by the U.S. Then, in response to South Korea’s August anti-submarine exercise in the West Sea, Pyongyang threatened a “strong physical retaliation,” adding that if South Korea attacked it during the drills, it would invite a “most powerful retaliation.” This week, the North fired a volley of artillery shells into waters near South Korea and threatened to use its nuclear deterrent to show “what a real war is like” if deemed necessary. However, there has been no sign of war yet, no clear indication of a third nuclear test and no mobilization of forces north of the DMZ.
The fact that North Korea’s belligerent rhetoric is far from becoming a reality comes as no surprise. As Pyotr Razvin from the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry explains, “North Korea has been threatening to spill seas of blood and destroy imperialists and their marionettes for several decades. I think they could not have kept silent in their current position and they could not have approved of the maneuvers. They had to say something. Now what do they say? They threaten.” This is presumably why one report suggests that most young people in the ROK remain unconcerned about North Korea despite heightened tensions after the sinking of the Cheonan. Indeed, decades of threats make it relatively easy to disregard them. But is there a risk to assume that rhetoric will rarely articulate beyond words?
The ever-widening gulf in conventional military capabilities is arguably the main reason North Korea has been deterred from turning military threats into action beyond a few border skirmishes along the DMZ and NLL. However, threats and warnings in other areas do sometimes materialize. In Octtober 2006, North Korea conducted a nuclear test. In February 2009, it launched its Unha satellite launch vehicle. And in April 2009, it left the Six Party Talks after the UN Security Council condemned the satellite launch and “bolstered” its nuclear deterrent by testing another nuclear device in May.
Should we then be worried about its latest threats and warnings? It seems doubtful that Pyongyang would start a war: it would be suicidal, and its carefully-worded threats suggest otherwise. A July 24<sup>th</sup> Foreign Ministry statement says Pyongyang will “legitimately counter with powerful nuclear deterrence the largest-ever nuclear war exercises to be staged by the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces,” which merely shows that it sees its nuclear weapons as a deterrent. Similarly, by saying “the army and people of the DPRK will start a retaliatory sacred war of their own style based on nuclear deterrent any time necessary in order to counter the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces deliberately pushing the situation to the brink of a war,” Pyongyang appears to be saying it will use nuclear force if it is pushed into an undefined corner. Similar ‘caveats’ are present in their most recent nuclear threats, suggesting a low possibility of a North Korean nuclear attack. .
North Korea’s threat to “boost its nuclear deterrence in an advanced way,” is one potential area that could lead to some realization since similar language was used ahead of its May 2009 nuclear test. However, the question is how? A third nuclear test? Developing its HEU program? Developing a hydrogen bomb? Or merely continuing its plutonium program?
High level North Korean defector Hwang Jang Yop this week speculated that a third nuclear test might occur because Pyongyang ” believes nuclear arms are its most important defensive tool, and the country will not abandon its nuclear ambitions.” While it’s plausible the regime is also developing its highly enriched uranium program, it is arguable that this program is still in its infancy. Many experts also doubt North Korea will use hydrogen bombs, despite a recent claim to have succeeded in nuclear fusion. However, Pyongyng could be suggesting it’s nearing plutonium weaponization – an issue already under considerable debate.
North Korea’s launching of artillery shells this week following South Korea’s ant-submarine drill, while a relatively minor incident, does follow its warning to “counter the reckless naval firing projected by the group of traitors with strong physical retaliation.” While the artillery drill doesn’t quite fit the concept of a ‘strong physical retaliation,’ the international community shouldn’t completely ignore Pyongyang’s warnings. In light of the sinking of Cheonan, future warnings may be backed with more substantive acts if Pyongyang grows confident it can provoke Seoul with little fear of grave military consequences – especially since the South’s military didn’t respond to the artillery shelling in any major way.
Although reading into North Korean threats is like attempting to read tea leaves, one should not be too hasty in dismissing them entirely. It seems unlikely that Pyongyang will trigger war, but it seems to be developing its nuclear program and it may further instigate border clashes. None of this is favorable for South Korea or the region especially if it leads to escalation. North Korea would of course be less incentivized to make threats and act belligerently if it were engaging proactively with the U.S and South Korea. But the current policy of waiting for a Cheonan apology as a precursor to engagement might also take forever. What’s more, Pyongyang’s belligerency may continue and even increase in scale. John Feffer says this approach is like “putting the cart before the horse…The Nixon administration didn’t wait for the perfect moment to engage Beijing [and] as the case of detente with China demonstrates, changes take place either as part of the short-term engagement process or, more likely, somewhere down the line when the leadership can safely embrace the changes as indigenous rather than imposed by outside actors.” With little known about Kim Jong Il’s successor and talk of a potential power struggle when he dies, it seems prudent to talk to Pyongyang as soon as possible
It was reported at the end of last month that China successfully shot down one of its redundant satellites in January. Allegedly, the firing took place at nearly the same time as a successful Chinese missile interception test conducted on January 11. Given the reaction to its 2007 launch, some observers have suggested that the recent launch may have been ordered as a means for Beijing to vent displeasure over recent Taiwanese efforts to buy the Patriot missile defense system from the U.S. However, others claim that the time needed to prepare for such a launch makes this notion unlikely. Either way, the news is further evidence of continuing Chinese efforts to boost their space based military capabilities, and given the outcry following the last test, has probably not been met with cheers from countries possessing satellite capabilities.
In context of this news, Beijing’s official position on space might come as a surprise to some:
“The Chinese government has all along regarded the space industry as an integral part of the state’s comprehensive development strategy, and upheld that the exploration and utilization of outer space should be for peaceful purposes and benefit the whole of mankind.”
China’s official position is probably guided by the concerns over the prospect of space based missile defense systems which might one day render its relatively few numbers of ICBMs useless. However, just as in 2007, China risks losing legitimacy in this regard when it destroys its own satellites….
After its 2007 anti-satellite test, Beijing commented “China has never, and will never, participate in any form of space arms race”. Nevertheless, countries such as Japan and Australia viewed China’s launch in exactly that context – especially given that it was the first such test since the Cold War. With the military benefits that satellite constellations confer to a country, it is arguable that they had much justification in this accusation.
Indeed, the informational advantages that satellites and space-based services can bring to military and security operations are significant. They can improve the capabilities and performance of conventional weapons, greatly expand intelligence services, and through the actual launching of satellites, improve upon a nation’s missile capabilities. Given its public stance on the militarization of space, China’s decision to shoot down the satellite in 2007 was thus highly controversial. Indeed, one can only imagine how difficult it might be in coordinating any defense against a possible Chinese invasion of the Taiwan Straits without the aid of the U.S satellites currently watching over the area.
Another problem associated with anti-satellite operations results from the actual strike of the kinetic missile and the sheer amount of debris it causes. Such debris can cause significant damage to other space users and this dynamic was one of the motivations for the USSR and USA to stop such testing in the 1980s. According to one report, the 2007 satellite destruction is “now being viewed as the most prolific and severe fragmentation in the course of five decades of space operations”. NASA studies indicate that the debris cloud now extends from 125 miles to 2,292 miles, orbiting at mean altitudes of 528 miles or greater – which reportedly means it will be very long lived. Naturally, should any of this debris crash into satellites or spacecraft in low orbit there would be calamitous results. So significant is this problem that it is thus somewhat interesting that reaction to this year’s anti-satellite test has been so much more muted than in 2007.
Anti-satellite testing is clearly dangerous, but as a result of the advantages it can confer to an attacker, it may be inevitable in future warfare. Consequently, it seems that tests such as these are only likely to provoke other countries to invest in alternative approaches and technologies to mitigate the effects of losing a major surveillance satellite. One approach could see countries putting constellations of smaller satellites into orbit that provide increased coverage and survivability. Another could result in greater investment in UAV technology, which can increasingly play some of the roles traditionally reserved for satellites – as well as offering a short-notice fix (given UAV’s can be put into the sky so quick). But while these outcomes are not indicative of the start of a space arms race, if in the future they are accompanied by other countries conducting further anti-satellite tests, things may change.
It is also hard to see how China’s tests will help pave the way for future cooperation with the U.S President Barack Obama’s June 2010 National Space Policy emphasized the important role of international cooperation in space and demonstrated the apparent willingness of the US to begin work on a space weapons treaty. However, news of China’s January 2010 test may have ruffled feathers among members of Congress, whom Gregory Kulacki at the Union of Concerned Scientists noted, “will want to deny China status as a member in good standing of the international community of space-faring nations”. Ultimately though, this might not be something China is seeking to pursue. With its abundant financial resources and high level scientific know-how, the prestige of advancing its space based technologies by itself may prove too irresistible for Beijing. But quite how future tests will fit with China’s commitment not to ‘to test, deploy or use any weapons, weapons systems or components in outer space’, remains to be seen.
Given the technology for shooting down satellites has been around since the Cold War, it is hard to see the technological imperative for countries such as China to conduct such tests. While Beijing may have made a political statement (for good or bad) with its 2007 test, if it remains committed to the peaceful use of space then it is hard to understand the advantage of shooting down further satellites. Indeed, with the U.S made Vanguard 1 still in orbit since launch in 1958, one has to wonder why China feels compelled to shoot down satellites that are several decades younger. The debris caused by such tests is a major risk for other space users and given its potential to upset the prospects for a space weapons treaty, it seems evident that China should refrain from further anti-satellite launches.
The U.S and South Korea are not currently implementing policies that will garner positive results with North Korea, nor do they have an over-arching strategy for dealing with the isolated nation, agreed three American experts at a policy forum event in Washington D.C Wednesday. Assessing the current situation from various perspectives, the panelists all implied that a more proactive, cohesive and long-term approach to engagement with Pyongyang would yield better outcomes for all involved.
Steven Linton, Founder of The Eugene Bell Foundation, a humanitarian organization providing development assistance to North Korea, started his analysis by suggesting that for a very long time North Korea has been looking for a positive and client-type relationship with the United States. Asking rhetorically how Washington managed to “blow it”, he answered by suggesting that American “ideological constructs” may be partly to blame. Ideological constructs that suggested ‘carrots’ would make North Korea change as a result of being “overwhelmed [with U.S] sincerity and good intentions”, or inversely, that ‘sticks’ would compel better behavior through the use of sanctions and threats. He put it to the audience that both of these ideological constructs have “now come face to face with reality and been shattered”…..
He remarked that, “North Korea is neither going to be guiled into doing something that it thinks is against its national interest, nor is it going to be threatened. The sooner we get away from that kind of simplistic approach the better. And I think one of the ways we can start to build a more realistic framework for understanding North Korea is to at least go back and look at modern Korean history.”
In this regard Linton suggested that while for decades the DPRK had been obsessed with exporting its Juche ideology to the world, as the country became poorer in the 1980s it instead became “focused primarily on building real political and diplomatic relationships to allow it to survive”. Responding to this situation he asked, “What have we offered North Korea? Are we offering them national survival or are we offering them another extreme makeover according to an ideology that will essentially negate most of what they consider their primary gains in the last fifty years?”
With the context set, Linton suggested that current policy “does not compute as national survival” for North Korea.
In moving forward from the current impasse he pointed out that it was imperative that countries such as the U.S and the ROK also stop responding to North Korea in a North Korean manner. He pointed out that South Korea, despite having a pluralistic society, huge civilian sector resources, and an enormous private sector pool of wealth, nevertheless tries to funnel all possible engagement through the Government – in just the same way that North Korea conducts all of its relations with Seoul. He conjectured that while private sector is the strongest part of a free society, U.S sanctions currently prevent American enterprise from making a difference, pointing out that “When a free society tries to funnel everything through government initiatives and ministries, you have a weakening rather than a strengthening of the process.”
A proactive approach would instead advocate a more hands-off approach allowing private organizations and enterprises engage North Korea on an individual basis, without the conditions and constructions currently being imposed by the current administrations in Seoul and Washington D.C. Presenting a video of some of the Eugene Bell Foundations’ success in North Korea, he finished his analysis by illustrating some of the positive impact such activities could have.
Karen Lee, Executive Director of the National Committee on North Korea, suggested that lessons learned regarding the sanctions applied to Iraq had seemingly gone over the head of South Korea. Remembering the widespread hurt to Iraq’s civilian population caused by the blunt approach applied after the Gulf War, she noted that the international community by consensus currently advocates sanctions that cause the minimal damage to civilian life. Consequently, South Korea’s decision to now prevent the bulk of NGOs from either delivering aid or conducting monitoring visits illustrates just how far the country is out of touch with today’s international sentiment. She added that Iraq “was a lesson that was learned the hard way, and I would expect that the South Korean government would come back inside within international consensus and lift that ban on NGO activities as quickly as possible.”
Labeling the various sanctions applied to North Korea as ‘tactics’, Lee rhetorically asked the administrations of South Korea and the U.S, “Where is the strategy? We know what your first and second step is, but what is the third step?” Citing the measures taken in response to the sinking of the Cheonan case as evidence of this over-reliance on tactics, she pointed to the lack of an exit strategy as smyptomic of the overall lack of an over-arching North Korea strategy in both Seoul and Washington.
Dwelling on the issue, Lee proposed that for sanctions to work effectively States must be united in their application and all must be in a position to have something to sacrifice. For its part and as a result of Washington’s decades long policy of economic isolation, she suggested that it correspondingly had very little to lose when pushing for sanctions. Correspondingly, Beijing, having significant economic trade with the DPRK, would have a lot more to lose if it were to vigorously impose robust sanctions – an important point to remember when accusing China of not currently doing enough, she added. But from Seoul’s perspective,
“A very interesting new development is that South Korea is now making an economic sacrifice in response to the Cheonan. It will be interesting to see if South Korea is able to sustain this economic sacrifice…A recent Chosun Ilbo report says that business people engaged in North Korean projects say they will be ruined if trade does not resume. So lets say that South Korea listens to its people and that trade is restarted again. How can the US continue to criticize China if it chooses not to engage in sanctions against the DPRK…if it doesn’t also choose to criticize South Korea, if in fact it makes this decision.”
Lee went on to show how little influence the US currently has with North Korea by citing the fact that the Obama administration recently linked visas for Track Two dialogue to success on the nuclear issue, a decision that actually took place before the Cheonan incident. She remarked, “I don’t think visa denial is an expression of strength, I actually think its an expression of weakness. I would like to see our government develop a transparent visa policy that encourages dialogue, not discourages it.”
Having illustrated the context behind each countries approach to sanctions, Lee rounded off her talk by pondering the situations they could ever be rolled back, especially with regards to partial compliance – a point that underscored her argument that they should only ever be part of a much larger North Korea strategy.
Doug Bandow, a Senior Fellow at Cato Institute rounded off the talk by recommending a new policy of engagement for Washington to pursue.
Noting that Pyongyang is currently proceeding on both its nuclear and missile programs with a sanctions regime already in place, he suggested it was clear that current policy was not delivering any real results. He argued that the concept of ignoring North Korea in the hope that the problem would go away was also imprudent, as illustrated by the fact that Pyongyang often acts belligerently when left alone for too long. As a result, Bandow suggested that the lack of over-arching policy that the other speakers had alluded to in their presentations illustrated the need for a “refashioned form of engagement” with the U.S involving China involved in a “more positive way”.
While admitting that “I think there is no option that we know will work”, Bandow added, “Nevertheless, we have to look at some options and make some changes compared to where we’re at. One of which strikes me is that we have to have diplomatic relations with North Korea. Whatever the rest of the issues, I see little to gain from refusing to recognize North Korea”. He remarked that such recognition would provide some sense to Pyongyang of respect from the U.S, while giving Washington some strongly needed inside information on a very closed society.
He added that to get into North Korean society, the more people that could go there from the West and have relationships, the better. However, he did admit that it was difficult to gauge the overall impact of such liaison. Consequently he also advocated a separation of Private and Governmental aid as a means of facilitating the work of organizations such as the Eugene Bell Foundation in future times of tension.
As part of this approach Bandow stated that it would be essential to simultaneously convince China that it is in their interest to be more proactive with North Korea. He consequently recommended a new approach that would illustrate both how and why China should think differently. Firstly, by making Beijing realize that the current situation was not necessarily as stable as it might think- through pointing to the sometimes strong pressure within the U.S to take military action against the DPRK following acts of belligerency. Secondly, that China should not assume that future WMD proliferation by North Korea will be met with the same restraint that has been characteristic of responses so far. Thirdly, that the U.S will not be interested in remaining in the middle of the situation forever and might one day allow the ROK or Japan to move ahead on their own nuclear programs.
He also suggested that China should be made clear that the U.S would not try and take unilateral advantage in the event things worked out badly, and that countries such as Japan and the ROK should be willing to share the costs of any future refugee problems. Longer-term he stated that “If China was helpful in resolving the situation…the U.S would be quite prepared to say America’s military role is over on the Korean peninsula”, noting it is approaching the time when Washington should step back.
In this regard he noted that without the 29,000 U.S troops stationed in South Korea, the U.S would actually not have much interest in the issue, nor would it be within easy reach of North Korean retaliation. Without this presence he thus asserted that other countries in the region would face an increased onus to step up and deal with the issue, allowing the U.S to take a more supportive role in future.
The event took place at the CATO Institute in Washington D.C on Wednesday July 14 2010. It was moderated by d Galen Carpenter, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.