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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs