News / Asia

Q&A: How North Korea's Nuclear Claim Looks to South Korea, China

American nuclear expert Siegfried Hecker's recent visit to North Korea has revealed new details about North Korea's uranium enrichment program. He was stunned, he says, by the sophistication of the new facility and the speed at which it was built.

The revelations have likely prompted closed-door, top level meetings inside the governments of Pyongyang's two neighbors, South Korea and China, although neither country has officially responded to the revelations.

VOA's Victor Beattie talks about the possible ramifications with Mike Chinoy, a Senior Fellow at the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and author of the 2008 book "Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis."

North Korea apparently chose to allow Siegfried Hecker to see new details about their uranium enrichment efforts. Why now?

The North Koreans have always wanted, for many years, to have uranium enrichment capability, although for a very long time their efforts to acquire the components and to actually put one together didn't go very far.  This recent effort appears to have really only picked up steam in the last year or 15 months, and I think what's significant about the timing is that the North Koreans have since a year ago this past summer been seeking to re-engage with the United States.  They wanted bilateral talks with the U.S. They've signaled the willingness to return to the six party talks, but under somewhat different terms than before in that they've wanted to be accepted as a nuclear power as the point of departure for any of that diplomatic engagement. The Obama administration, sticking with its allies in South Korea, has been very reluctant to get involved in talking directly with the North Koreans, and I think, the move now by the North Koreans to start building a uranium enrichment plant is what happens when you don't talk to the North.  The North Koreans have repeatedly sought to signal that in the absence of engagement, they will move ahead to develop what they call their nuclear deterrent, and this uranium enrichment is really part of that."

How does this affect Pyongyang's relationship with South Korea, which has been particularly tense since Seoul blamed the North for the March sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan?

"For South Korea, there is a somewhat similar moral as with the United States which is: this is what happens if you don't talk to the North Koreans. Because the South Koreans, particularly following the sinking of their naval vessel, like the Americans, have been unwilling to get involved in negotiations. They've insisted that the North Koreans apologize for the sinking of that ship. They've insisted that the North Koreans make clear commitments in advance about what they would do to roll back their nuclear program. And, at the same time, they, like the United States, have supported U.N. efforts at sanctions and other attempts to sort of coerce and pressure North Korea. Sanctions, coercion, pressure generally don't work with the North Koreans. They can inflict harm on North Korea, but there's very little evidence that they actually produce positive change in North Korean policy in the direction that the United States' allies would like."

How does this affect North Korea's relationship with its most important international ally, China?

"For the Chinese, it's obviously embarrassing to see their friends in North Korea do this. The Chinese have been pushing the U.S. and South Korea for months now to talk to North Korea. Chinese diplomats have been going to Seoul and going to Washington, saying 'It's time to put aside your objections and the North Koreans are willing to come back to the six party talks.  It's time to talk to them,' and that has not been advice that Washington has and Seoul have heeded.  The other thing is that it's very clear that the Chinese feel their main concern in the Korean peninsula is instability in North Korea and they are not going to let North Korea go down.  And this imposes built-in limits on how much pressure or coercion they are willing to inflict on North Korea. And the answer is not very much."

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid