News / Asia

S. Korean President Issues Warning to North

People watch a television airing a live broadcast of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's retirement speech at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, February 19, 2013.
People watch a television airing a live broadcast of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's retirement speech at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, February 19, 2013.
In a farewell speech to the nation six days before leaving office, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Tuesday warned Pyongyang its missiles and weapons are taking the North “closer and closer to a dead-end.”

Lee alerted his compatriots to hastily prepare for reunification of the Korean peninsula. The president asserted that “even though the North Korean regime is refusing to change, its citizens are quickly changing and nobody can block that.

However, there is no outside evidence of any citizen protests in isolated North Korea which human rights advocates describe as one of the world's most repressive states.

In past months, North Korea has defied international sanctions by launching a rocket into orbit and claiming a successful underground test of a third nuclear device.

Negotiations are underway in New York, with Chinese and American diplomats seen as the key players, for a fresh round of U.N. sanctions to be imposed on North Korea.

Frustration about Pyongyang's continued defiance of existing U.N. resolutions barring it from ballistic missile and nuclear weapons development is evident at a two-day gathering of 200 nuclear scientists, engineers, policy analysts and public intellectuals from around the world underway in Seoul

North Korea dominates the agenda at the Asan 2013 Nuclear Forum where participants are in disagreement about to blame for the perceived diplomatic failures and what to do next.

“North Korea is not afraid of sanctions” because it has no middle class to appease, said Vasily Mikheev, vice president of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Japan Institute of International Affairs adjunct fellow Tetsuya Endo, formerly Japan's ambassador tasked with normalization talks with North Korea, spoke on the same panel titled “Dealing with a Nuclear North Korea.”  He predicted it is “only a matter of time” before Pyongyang's scientists miniaturize a nuclear weapon that could be placed atop a long-range rocket.

But a former U.S. policy maker, Joel Wit, declared that “none of us here can predict the future of North Korea's intentions.”

Wit says it is also important to dispel the myths that North Korea is isolated, failing or run by crazy leaders.

“They are not crazy. They are realists about maneuvering among great powers,” said Wit, the senior research scholar of the US-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Wit, a former U.S. State Department official who worked extensively on nuclear arms control and North Korea issues, added that Pyongyang's recent actions require Washington to “re-examine its current approach of weak sanctions and weak diplomacy.”

All of Washington's options regarding North Korea are “very difficult,” according to Gary Samore who coordinated the attempt to control weapons of mass destruction in the first term of the Obama administration.

“Using military force is not attractive because that could trigger a broader conflict on the Korean peninsula. Sanctions are hard to impose because North Korea is isolated and China protects North Korea,“ said Samore. “Our experience with diplomacy with North Korea is a very unhappy experience because they cheated or reneged on every agreement they reached.”

Chung Mong-joon, the Asan Institute's patron and honorary chairman, best known as a billionaire lawmaker from the governing Saenuri Party, noted in opening remarks that his country “needs to think the unthinkable.” And, that scenario, Chung warned, may mean South Korea having its own nuclear arsenal as “the only way to negotiate a grand bargain with North Korea.”

Chung characterized the protection provided by the United States with its nuclear force as a “torn umbrella” in need of repair.

South Korean reporters are pestering forum attendees for responses to statements by Chung and other prominent South Koreans that Seoul needs its own nuclear weapons or should ask Washington to re-deploy tactical nuclear weapons on the peninsula.

"U.S. nuclear weapons are not needed in South Korea from a military perspective and the country building its own nuclear bomb would be an even worse choice,” said MacArthur Foundation President Robert Gallucci.

“That would be a grievous mistake,” said Gallucci to reporters. “It's a decision, of course, that South Korea, now a treaty adherent to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, would have to make in its own sovereign interests. And, my view is that those interests would not justify the acquisition of nuclear weapons.”

The consequences of a step in that direction, he predicted, would “be serious and negative for South Korea and other states in the region.”

Gallucci, as a diplomat in 1994, negotiated a deal with Pyongyang on nuclear reactors intended to avoid a confrontation between the United States and North Korea.

Many analysts assert Beijing's cooperation is critical to resolving the current crisis.

China could cripple North Korea's meager, but desperately needed, international commerce and its related financial transactions. It has expressed increasing frustration with Pyongyang's recent provocation.

But Chinese analysts say their government has no desire to suffocate North Korea to the point of collapse. That would create a humanitarian crisis on China's border and the prospect of a unified Korea allied with the United States.

The two Koreas fought a devastating three-year war to a stalemate in 1953. The United States led U.N. forces formed to save South Korea after the North invaded in 1950. China intervened to aid the North Koreans.

South Korea was not a signatory to the armistice and the two Koreas have never normalized relations, as both still claim the entire peninsula and they technically remain at war.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs