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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid