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, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid