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

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid