Moderator: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
At the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
Wednesday, May 7, 2003
Kimball: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to this morning's press conference of the Arms Control Association on the North Korean nuclear crisis. We are going to discuss what comes next. The Arms Control Association is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization devoted to supporting effective arms control, and educating the public and policymakers about arms control strategies to deal with weapons of mass destruction. We have organized this briefing this morning because this long-simmering crisis is now getting too close to the boiling point. Clearly the crisis is a problem for the international community, but the United States has a central role in solving the issue in a peaceful fashion. And many of us believe it's past time for the United States to put together a more effective diplomatic approach to verifiably dismantle North Korea's nuclear capabilities as well as its missile programs.
We are seeking here at the Arms Control Association to offer a range of views on this subject. And I would just like to point out that in our May issue of our journal of Arms Control Today, we have five articles providing different perspectives, a wide range of perspectives, including analysis on Chinese, South Korean, and Japanese perspectives. And there are preprinted copies outside, and it's also available on our website, www.armscontrol.org.
Before we introduce our panelists, I wanted to make a couple of brief points on the situation. First of all, it should be obvious to everyone that we believe that the North Korean government is clearly responsible for its own provocative and dangerous actions. But it should also be obvious that by now the administration's "axis of evil" approach has not produced the right kinds of results. Since the administration has come into office, we have seen a deterioration of this situation with regard to North Korea.
Second, as the United States and its allies consider next steps, they must be careful not to make statements or pursue actions at this stage that cause further harm, such as threatening economic sanctions or openly discussing military options. That could worsen the situation, undermining the prospects for a peaceful resolution.
Third, while the resumption of talks last month in Beijing was positive, this cannot be and should not be the end. This was just the second direct meeting between high-level U.S. and North Korean officials since the Bush administration came to office. And each time substantive proposals to resolving the crisis for denuclearizing North Korea have been withheld or overshadowed by dramatic accusations and threats. And as Ambassador Gallucci can tell us, diplomacy still requires a realistic negotiating strategy.
Currently the administration is demanding that Pyongyang dismantle all of its nuclear capabilities before agreeing to substantive negotiations on achieving that very goal. That approach does not seem to me to be very practical or effective.
And then finally as we look toward the visit of the South Korean president next week, I'd just like to point out that a truly multilateral approach, as the administration has said it wants to pursue, means, I think, from time to time that the United States needs to follow the advice of our allies. And while our friends and allies in the region clearly agree with us that a nuclear-armed North Korea is unacceptable, the administration has for the most part spurned the advice and suggestions of our allies, China and South Korea in particular, about how to achieve that result. And it's also important that when President Roh arrives here in Washington next week that we don't see the kind of open disagreement that we saw when President Kim Dae Jung visited Washington in 2001.
So we are pleased this morning to have three distinguished and expert speakers on this topic, to help us dissect the issues, outline the choices that are before the United States and the international community, and to offer their ideas about some solutions to this crisis.
First, we are very honored to have Ambassador Bob Gallucci here with us. He is the dean of the Georgetown University's Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service. He is going to speak on the prospects and difficulties of negotiating with North Korea, based on his firsthand experience from the 1993-94 crisis. Those talks eventually led to the  Agreed Framework. We also have with us Dr. Larry Scheinman, who is with the Monterey Center for Non-Proliferation Studies, and former assistant director for non-proliferation and regional arms control at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He will address how this crisis affects regional security, and he will describe the perspectives of North Korea's neighbors on how this crisis should be resolved.
And finally we'll hear from David Albright, who is president of the Institute for Science and International Security. He's an author of numerous books and articles on North Korea's nuclear program. David will speak on the subject of the mechanisms and methods that would be necessary to verify with confidence that North Korea has dismantled its nuclear programs.
We will hear from each of them and then we'll take your questions. Bob, we'll start with you. Thanks for being here. The floor is yours.
Gallucci: Thanks very much, Daryl. Good morning, everyone. It's almost irresistible, therefore I won't resist saying that when we look at the North Korea case it is deja vu all over again. Ten years ago-I mean, literally a decade ago this month-we were in a process that looks spookily like this one. North Korea is caught cheating on a safeguards agreement, apparently cheating on a safeguards agreement. The IAEA reported the matter to the Security Council of the United Nations. The North Koreans pull out of the NPT at the threat of sanctions and inspectors are thrown out of North Korea.
Ten years later the North Koreans get caught cheating again. The first time it was on their safeguards agreement negotiated with the IAEA, pursuant to their obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). This time you could argue it's the same agreement, but you could also add the Agreed Framework that was negotiated to deal with the problem last time. Again, inspectors are thrown out. Again, IAEA reports the matter to the Security Council of the United Nations. Again sanctions are discussed. Again, North Korea pulls out of the NPT.
Now, of course last time they didn't actually pull out. They announced their intention, and then withdrew their intention. This time having announced their intention before, they said they didn't have to wait the three months' time. But the overall context, the structure of the crisis, looks remarkably similar to what we went through 10 years ago. But of course 10 years ago that led the United States into what was essentially 16 months of on-again/off-again, mostly off-again initially, negotiations with the North Koreans that resulted in the Agreed Framework.
That framework agreement was not perfect, but it did stop the program we were concerned about a decade ago, a program aimed at the production of plutonium. There are lots of estimates of how much plutonium North Korea would have had the framework not been negotiated. But I would say it is not unreasonable to estimate that North Korea would now have a hundred or so nuclear weapons had that program been allowed to proceed apace. We knew at the time that the framework was not perfect; there were areas in which we did not have the capacity to monitor or verify North Korean compliance. We said it at the time. We'd have to rely on national technical means. And, as it turned out, those national technical means caught the North Koreans cheating. But the world is a better place because the Agreed Framework was negotiated, and those 100 nuclear weapons were not manufactured.
That was then, and this is now. This administration has been, I think it's fair to say, less enthusiastic about engaging the North Koreans in negotiations. That may be an understatement, but I think that is at least accurate.
There are other things that are different now from the situation a decade ago. North Korea has announced that it has nuclear weapons. It did not say that 10 years ago. I don't know that that's a new situation on the ground. In fact, I would submit to you it is not a new situation on the ground. If North Korea does have nuclear weapons now and they are telling the truth, it is likely in fact-as they say in the intelligence community, more likely than not-that North Korea has one or two nuclear weapons. That's a judgment that's a decade old. So they are the same one or two and maybe three or four, but in that range, nuclear weapons would have been built in the early '90s, or would have been built from plutonium separated around 1990-1991. So that's nothing new. But the declaration by the North Koreans that they have the weapons is new.
It is also true that they, the North Koreans, may have begun reprocessing. Again, I don't know that we know they have begun reprocessing any of the 8,000 [spent fuel] rods, but we have heard from the North Koreans that they have. We have also heard that they haven't, but they may. We have various indications, we are told in the press, that they might be doing something. I would say we don't know whether that situation is changed and whether they've separated more plutonium. We don't know for sure. But it's possible. Certainly they do have a secret uranium enrichment program, which is what we caught them at. They did not have that in 1994. We don't think that program has produced any enriched uranium as yet, as best I can tell from reports.
It is also true, I think, fair to say, that North Korea's ballistic missile program, wherever it was a decade ago, it's further along now. Not only in the Nodongs being deployed, but in the development of the Taepo Dong series I, II, and III-that is to say a greater capability for North Korea to reach the United States, whatever that precise capability may be at the moment.
Politically the situation is greatly changed with respect to our ally in Seoul. South Koreans a decade ago, I think it is fair to say, would have supported the United States and worked with us if we needed to move down the road to pressure the North Koreans with the use of force. They would not have been enthusiastic about the use of force, I am sure. But I think there was less reluctance to embrace that as an option than we see now. I think it is also fair to say that the popular perception in South Korea is that there is indeed a threat from the North, but there is also in a sense a threat from Washington, coming from the way Washington has dealt with the North Korean threat.
Finally, it seems to me one of the most critical differences is the North Koreans have given explicit substance to the fear that we have had that North Korea might some day transfer fissile material or nuclear weapons. They included that in a series of comments they made, undoubtedly intended to raise the stakes and get the attention of the United States and the international community. But that at least from my perspective is a qualitatively different kind of threat to the United States and the international community. The idea that the North Koreans would transfer fissile material and nuclear weapons to the highest bidder creates a prospect of a threat which the United States would have great difficulty defending against or deterring if that transfer would be to a terrorist group, such as al Qaeda. So I would like to put a line under that possibility as a new element with the North Koreans pointing to it.
The question always comes after one reviews where we are of what we ought to do next, and I do want to say something about that. One can desegregate these options any number of ways. I'll do it the following way. One of the first options one thinks of now, as we did then, was the possibility of United Nations sanctions. Sanctions are almost always appealing, because they are doing something, but they are usually not thought to be quite as provocative as actual military action. So one gets to do something with a slightly or significantly less risk than the use of military force. One gets to do it multilaterally if one is successful at the United Nations. And one usually feels good when one is doing something like that. The problem with sanctions is that I think now, as then, we could not have confidence that they would indeed end up solving the problem. If the problem is a nuclear weapons program in North Korea, sanctions would have to bring the North Koreans to their knees, and I don't know anyone in 1994 who thought they would produce that outcome, and I wonder if many think they would now, particularly if China did not fully support sanctions. And there is reason to believe they would not. The Chinese would wish to avoid a collapse, an implosion of North Korea, which would cause enormous difficulties for China in a variety of different ways. So I question whether sanctions would be effective.
I think a variation on sanctions, which you can find in today's Washington Post, which is a strategy of encirclement and cutting off the North Koreans from the money they gain from selling drugs and through counterfeit activity is one that you could not argue with. Those are things that they should not be allowed to do, and if we could stop them from doing them, I think, that would be a good idea. But it is an enormous leap to go from that good idea to that being the strategy to deal with the North Korean nuclear weapons program. And I don't understand exactly how that leap could be made.
A second option is the military option. The military option usually comes in two varieties. One is the airstrike, sometimes called the surgical airstrike, intended, in a sense, to do a nuclear- weapons-program-ectomy from North Korea by picking out those facilities and striking them. There are a couple of problems with this. The first is of course now that there is an [uranium] enrichment program, and I don't know that we know where that enrichment program is. A second problem is of course that it would have to be a significant airstrike and one could not be confident that it would not result in a large-scale North Korean reaction. There is no question that the known buildings associated with the plutonium program could be targeted. Secretary [of Defense William] Perry testified as much in 1995.
The second variation of the military option is regime change, and I do believe that some in this administration find that the only plausible long-term solution to the North Korean problem. I would suggest that once again we confront the prospect of a war on the Korean Peninsula. Such a war would not be the Gulf War again. Such a war would be the Korean War again, and that would be one that would involve, by anybody's estimates, enormous casualties-not tens of thousands, but more likely hundreds of thousands or even possibly more. Many of those would be Americans. Many of them would be South Koreans, and of course North Koreans as well. So this is not an option that one would elect quickly because of the loss of human life, but also because the South Korean government and people are unlikely to be brought to a point of being able to support such an action. One would have to contemplate the fracturing of the alliance.
It is however, the military option, always an option. The assertion that it is going to be taken off the table I find to be nonplausible. Even when we wish to take it off the table, it is always on the table. We have the capacity to project force in a unique way in the international community, and everybody knows that. That can be a useful thing in negotiations, I thought, in 1993 and 1994, and it can be useful again. It doesn't mean we have to talk about it. It is just there.
A third option is what you might call the "free lunch option"-very attractive. There are two varieties of the free lunch option. One is let China do it. And there's great enthusiasm of late for this option. I like it myself, if it were to work. The idea is that China would be stimulated out of a fear of the implications of the North Korean threat-the North Korean threat either leading to an American military response and the Chinese finding America on its doorstep with that enormous military capacity we have or, even worse, the North Korean threat leading the Japanese to reassess their non-nuclear weapons status and thus threatening the Chinese. Either one of these leading the Chinese to decide they must take a much more active role in pressuring Pyongyang. That's one version of the free lunch where we don't have to do anything, but we get the outcome we want anyway.
Another version would have the North Koreans respond with shock and awe at our success in Iraq, as the president I think suggested when the Beijing meeting was being scheduled, that the North Koreans had learned something from our victory over the Iraqis. And that also is appealing, because it allows us without firing a shot to take advantage of our capacity to project force and, in a sense, to intimidate the North Koreans into doing what they ought to do and abide by agreements, and caving to the pressure that comes from the threat of the use of American military force. That is also appealing.
I don't find either of these options to be options we could depend upon. Moreover, they will take a long time to test. I see instead the risk of a slow-motion failure. If we wait for the Chinese or wait for the North Koreans ultimately to be intimidated into the concessions we require, I worry that we don't have the time to wait for the free lunch options to work out. Time is not on our side. We see reports daily about how the situation in North Korea may be deteriorating further and their capabilities in the nuclear weapons area increasing. I am concerned.
If one of these options were to work, I would like everyone else, I suspect, embrace it. I'd much rather get the North Koreans to comply without giving them anything. I just don't see this as a strategy we can count upon.
Fourth, there is the contain-and-manage option. This can be combined with sanctions and a free lunch. The contain-and-manage option accepts the North Korean nuclear weapons programs. And we have heard that some in the administration believe this is the way to go, that we draw a red line someplace else, perhaps at transfer. But we accept the North Koreans having nuclear weapons, developing nuclear weapons, mating them to extended-range ballistic missiles, and we seek to contain them with our sanctions, U.N. or otherwise, cutting off the drugs and the counterfeit money, but we just don't let them do anything.
There are a couple of problems with this that make it an unacceptable option to me. The first and most obvious is this is not an outcome that South Korea or Japan can live with over the long term. What I am concerned about, what I think others are concerned about, is if you accept North Korea building a substantial nuclear weapons arsenal mated with ballistic missiles, then ultimately South Korea will find it necessary to move out of the Nonproliferation Treaty. Ultimately, Japan will decide to move out of the Nonproliferation Treaty because North Korea presents too much of a threat to rely upon the deterrent umbrella of the United States. So I see an unraveling of the nonproliferation regime beginning in Northeast Asia-not a happy prospect to contemplate.
Even worse though, even worse, is the idea that the North Korean program would be generating-just the plutonium program-would be generating 150 kilograms of plutonium a year. That estimate is conservative. At 150 kilograms, we are talking roughly about 30 nuclear weapons a year. That's a very large program. Add to that the uranium enrichment program, and add to that a starving North Korea, which we would have decided to starve and encircle, and ask yourself how we would stop North Korea from selling this material. If you would like to draw the red line there, I ask you how will you know when they cross it? How will you know for sure that material is being transferred? You know that the amount of material for, the amount of plutonium for a simple fission device can be the size of a baseball. Is it plausible we would have such trigger? I worry about this more than anything else, that's why I underline the threat or risk of transfer.
Finally, there's the option of negotiating. Unfortunately, there's a view that's been expressed by the administration that we can embrace diplomacy but flatly reject negotiation. I don't frankly understand that. I am told over and again, over and again, we are for diplomacy, but we shan't negotiate. We certainly won't give them anything. I think the North Koreans have told us in more than one way at different times that this program is on the table…for negotiation. They are prepared to give in order to get. I believe we should test that proposition and see whether what we are prepared to give will get us what we want. We should be prepared to test. And I don't think you can test without engagement. You can have a standard of only multilateral talks. You can have a standard of we will only talk after you make all the concessions required for us. But it doesn't seem to me that that is a prudent way to proceed.
Last time we did this we were concerned about negotiating with a gun to our head. We didn't like the idea of the North Koreans having thrown the inspectors out, and perhaps reprocessing their spent fuel. So we told them in that first meeting, the series I had in New York in 1993, that we would continue to negotiate, provided we had inspectors there to assure -- and the phrase was "continuity of safeguards." We couldn't settle a problem of the past, but we had to make sure we didn't create new problems while we were talking. No gun to our heads, we'll keep talking.
In 1994 we raised the bar just slightly, and we said you also couldn't produce plutonium while we are talking. So you couldn't run your 5-megawatt reactor while we are talking. You know, that seems to me a very reasonable proposition now. While we are talking, you have to turn off that 5-megawatt reactor. You have to get inspectors in there. We have to make sure you are not making the situation worse.
But to try to reach out and achieve all our objectives before we start talking to them sounds to me not like negotiation but a recipe for avoiding negotiation.
So, I conclude with the proposition that none of these options are ideal. Either they are not ideal because they sound terrific but they don't work, or they might work but they are painful, such as negotiations. And I am looking for something that works. And so I would suggest we explore the idea of negotiation, have very minimal prior conditions. The kind of conditions we had a decade ago seem to me to be reasonable.
In Q and A we can talk about what an outcome might be like. I 'd be happy to do that. I am sure others would as well. Thank you very much.
Kimball: Thank you, Bob. Larry, we'll turn to you.
But something Bob said at the very end is something I'd like to begin with. On the deja vu point that he mentioned a couple of times during his presentation, I think there's another aspect to this that he didn't bring out as much as might be, which is an attitude in this administration that whatever [the Clinton administration] did before we don't do it again. Don't repeat what was done in 1994, because in our view it didn't work and, as Bob said, we don't negotiate, even though we carry out diplomacy.
There's another aspect to this, however, and that is, what about more for more? If more for the same is not a very good idea, as something that Bob has already alluded to, but more for more might be a different thing. Enlarging the basket of things to be dealt with and then to go from there to get more out of this from North Korea, and at the same time to provide to the North Koreans some of the things that they seek.
My task here is supposed to be to talk about some of the attitudes and the concerns of the states in the region, namely South Korea, China, and Japan. Let me begin with Japan. I will make a couple of comments. I hope that they'll hold together. We'll have to wait and see.
Japan is not terribly much unlike the United States. Within the administration in Tokyo there are differences on how to proceed with the North Korean case. For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Asia-Pacific Bureau, they prefer the talks, while others in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are prepared to do whatever the United States thinks is best. And that may not be further talks; that may be playing hardball.
For the Japanese generally the goals are three in number. First of all, to prevent a military conflict, if it is at all possible. Secondly, to sustain the U.S.-Japan and the South Korean-U.S. alliances. And, thirdly, to prevent the emergence of North Korea as a nuclear-weapon state. If you look at the Japanese agenda it's actually much broader than ours. First of all, as I say, avoid military conflict on the Korean Peninsula if at all possible; secondly to terminate the nuclear weapons program. But beyond the nuclear weapons program there is also the question of the missile program because the missiles that are being produced in North Korea have a direct potential impact on Japan. In other words, getting to the Nodong missile question.
Then there's the big issue, which is not to mention it here, but for the Japanese is very big, which is dealing with the abduction question. And if you look at the way that the Japanese public has kind of weighed the importance of the North Korean nuclear challenge on the one hand and the abduction question on the other, the abduction question gets a lot more attention. One of my responsibilities is chairing the U.S.-Japan Arms Control and Nonproliferation dialogue. We have this dialogue twice a year. We had one in March in Japan. We met with 10 key members of the Diet, and they kept on telling us during the course of this discussion, "Yes, yes, the nuclear question is very, very important. We are going to have to deal with it. But that abduction question, we have to be responsible to our voters. Our voters are concerned about resolving this abduction question, getting answers to all the questions which remain at this point unanswered and that's where we need to put our effort and attention among other things with respect to North Korea."
Then there's been the problem of spy ships, including in Japanese territorial waters; spy ships coming out of North Korea. And then there's been of course, as Bob has mentioned, narcotics trafficking and counterfeiting, which is also on the Japanese agenda. So from the Japanese point of view, there is a whole range of things that need to be taken into consideration, and that's one of the reasons why the Japanese would like to be involved as part of a multilateral dialogue, while at the same time encouraging the United States to of course go ahead and talk face-to-face, to communicate with the North Koreans.
Japan is also concerned about the sustainability and the credibility of the nonproliferation regime. They would hate to see an outcome here that undermined that regime and led them, forced them to think about going in the direction that Bob mentioned of possibly having to find alternative ways of dealing with their own security, other than relying upon a U.S. nuclear deterrent or an effective nonproliferation regime, which has proven to be ineffective, and the like.
They're also concerned to avoid China or Russia having a dominate influence over the entire Korean Peninsula, because the Japanese see this as also potentially running averse to their interests.
There's been a lot of discussion about what happens if? And this has been mentioned as one of Bob's alternatives, you know, maybe the Japanese or the South Koreans go nuclear as an alternative to finding other ways to dealing with their security.
There's a very good article in Arms Control Today by Kamiya. And he makes this comment: "There's talk outside of Japan that in Japan, resurgence of a North Korean weapons program could cause Japan to reconsider the decision to forgo nuclear weapons"-and here I underscore-"but despite such speculation, only a small number of extremists have taken that stance."
And that is consistent with what I have found. There's a lot of discussion about what might have to be done with respect to the existence of a North Korea that is nuclear-armed. The nuclear option is not sitting there on the table as the primary outcome that Japan ought to be thinking about, although it's also the case that it's not entirely off the table. Things can go from bad to worse, and as they roll down the hill, it's altogether possible that the Japanese will give more and more consideration to the possibility of a nuclear alternative.
But what they are thinking about more directly at this point is missile defense: increasing the role of missile defense; looking at consequence management in the event of a CBW attack launched against Japan; looking at ways in which they could increase their deterrent capability without necessarily doing that through a nuclear means. For example, acquiring tomahawk missiles that might be used to strike at Nodong sites that might be the source of missiles being fired against Japan at some point in the future. The [August 1998] Taepo Dong experience has led, of course, to a deepened interest in missile defense in Japan, and they are going to acquire a PAC-3 and probably will be acquiring other capabilities, as well.
These all fall short of the nuclear option or nuclear response on the part of Japan, but it demonstrates that they are concerned about their security. They are concerned about how they are going to be able to respond to the situation that confronts them with respect to North Korea at this time and they are an important player in this process.
Secondly, South Korea. They want to focus on a peaceful resolution through dialogue, through diplomacy, and through persuasion. Their basic principle is that there must be dialogue, meaning that the United States has to step up and engage in negotiation, as well as talking, as Bob said. There's a need to develop trust and reciprocity in this dialogue and there needs to be international cooperation, which includes an element of Korean initiatives, and not just initiatives coming from the outside.
The South Koreans are not focused on regime change in the way that some in the United States may be. They would not countenance the launching of an attack from South Korean territory on North Korean sites. And an attack by the United States that did not have the approval of the Seoul government could put the U.S.-South Korean alliance at risk.
Going beyond this, however, they want to come to a conclusion in which there will be zero tolerance for and zero presence of nuclear weapons in North Korea, that there will be a peaceful resolution, and that South Korea will play an active role in bringing about this conclusion in the final analysis. It has a major stake in a peninsula-wide approach to this problem, bridging the gap between the North and the South. And it will, I believe, resist policies that lead to divisiveness, add to tensions, or that will enlarge the existing gaps that exist on the peninsula.
The third party that's important here, of course, is China. China, as Bob said, has taken on a more active role. Again, there's a very good article by Bates Gill and [Andrew Thompson] in Arms Control Today, which points out that China has taken a more comprehensive and strategic approach, given the fact that North Korea is right next door and that what happens on that peninsula can have some very unpleasant consequences for the Chinese that they would like to avoid. They don't want to have a violent situation on the peninsula that would result in a massive flow of refugees across the border into China, as they have had in the past.
Their basic positions are:
Peace and stability on the peninsula should be preserved.
The peninsula should remain nuclear-free. The Chinese are dedicated achieving the outcome of denuclearization of the peninsula.
And that the dispute that now exists should be settled through diplomacy and through a political approach.
China took the initiative to join the IAEA board of governors' resolution, which sent the North Korea case to the Security Council. But once it got to the Security Council-this has to do with the violation of the safeguards and NPT obligations of North Korea-the Chinese ended up saying, "Well, we're not going to go for a sanctions approach to this," because that would lead to unanticipated consequences that hopefully could be avoided.
From the Chinese point of view, a nuclear North Korea is bad news for at least three reasons. First of all, there's a potential for it leading to a totally nuclearized Northeast Asia in the longer run. In other words, North Korea, then eventually South Korea, and eventually Japan, and that can't possibly serve China's core security interests in the region.
Secondly, that ballistic missile testing and development by the North Koreans could also cause instability and lead the United States to step up theater missile defense, as well as lead Japan to take more steps in this direction, which also could become a concern for China and have some impact on the Chinese [military] modernization program insofar as their own weapons capabilities and security are concerned.
And thirdly, a military confrontation that leads to the demise of the North Korean regime would mean a loss of a strategic buffer that now exists with China, and they could suddenly end up-I think Bob made the comment here as well-the United States, with all of its power, could be right there on its doorstep because the peninsula then would no longer be a North and South Korean peninsula, but a Korean peninsula with an American presence and an American involvement.
So, China sees pressure on North Korea as not being very much of a promising way to approach things, potentially escalating problems and making things worse.
Now, there is the additional question that was raised at the end about North Korea not necessarily nuclearizing and threatening people all around the neighborhood, but passing on the fissile material or actually selling nuclear weapons to third parties. And that, indeed, is kind of another level of problem, as Bob suggested, but it's a very, very serious problem and one which probably can be even less tolerated in certain respects by the international community because it would have not just a regional, but a global implication if fissile material or weapons were being sent out to any and all customers willing to pay the price. Under those circumstances, I think that the nuclear nonproliferation regime probably would become unraveled, and at that stage we would be into a totally different kind of a framework which would not be an easy one for us to manage, and which would serve in no way, shape, or form the national interests or the security interests of the United States, the regional countries in Asia, or the world at large.
Kimball: Thank you, Larry, for that overview. David Albright from the Institute for Science and International Security.
Albright:An important implication of the current crisis with North Korea is that verification arrangements must be more central to the implementation of any nuclear agreement with North Korea. And in addition, during any negotiations that may take place with North Korea, the United States and its allies are going to have to scrutinize much more carefully any proposed agreements with respect to their impact on achieving effective verification. In a sense, this is the idea that we really don't want to have to do this again, and whatever is done has to be done more carefully.
And one immediate implication of that is what I'd call the verifiers must play a central role in the negotiations. And this would refer not just to the U.S. side to people who are expert in verification, but also the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). And that typically has not been the pattern.
The ultimate goal of any negotiations with North Korea is to ensure that North Korea's free of nuclear weapons or banned nuclear activities and North Korea's in compliance with its safeguards agreements with the NPT. But the verification arrangements will need to be implemented simultaneously with other aspects of any agreement. I think one of the things that made the 1994 agreement work so well was that a lot of these intrusive verification arrangements could be kicked down the road. And unfortunately, I don't think we can do that any more.
What I'd like to do is briefly discuss sort of the main verification tasks facing any negotiations. I'll mention these in a step-wise fashion, although in no particular order. But I would like to make the point that you don't have to verify everything at once. I think there is a view that North Korea needs to make an overarching commitment to come into compliance with its safeguards agreement to commit to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, but that you could in practice achieve that in a step-wise manner. Let me just mention four tasks.
One is-and it's been mentioned by Bob and Larry-that there's a need to re-establish the freeze at Yongbyon. I don't think the freeze can be re-established by just sending inspectors there. Unfortunately, the extent of what will define the freeze will really depend on how much plutonium North Korea has separated from the spent fuel. And I don't want to go into the details of that. But over some period of time-and I would agree with Bob that it shouldn't be a precondition-but over some period of time North Korea's going to have to provide a lot more information than it typically has done about any activities at its reprocessing plant and allow the inspectors to actually do much more. And then in the end of that you would re-establish the freeze. And, in a sense, you would know the fate of the spent fuel that was once previously stored in its spent fuel pond. And you'd have confidence that if North Korea did separate plutonium, that you would know how much.
The next item is-and the administration has talked about this often-is verifiably dismantling parts of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. And there's two main parts to that. One is to verifiably dismantle the gas centrifuge program, the uranium enrichment program that North Korea apparently has. And the other is to verifiably dismantle what I would call the nuclear weaponization program, where they actually develop, test, and build nuclear weapons. And that program may actually involve nuclear weapons.
The third is a traditional one: resolving past issues raised by the International Atomic Energy Agency in the early 1990s about how much plutonium North Korea has separated at Yongbyon.
And the last one is the IAEA goal to ensure that all activities are under safeguards. And what that means in an operational sense is that you need to develop confidence that North Korea doesn't have undeclared nuclear activities. I use the word "confidence" in a technical sense, that there is a whole series of steps you go through that are of a very technical nature, and in some cases very intrusive, to test the theory that North Korea doesn't have any undeclared nuclear activities. And over time you develop confidence that those activities aren't there. You can never be 100 percent certain because North Korea has, according to the U.S., cheated. Extra steps will be needed to ensure confidence.
Key to all of this will be North Korean cooperation and transparency. And if I could just say a few words about the dismantlement of the gas centrifuge and the nuclear weapons program I could illustrate this.
Most people, when they are confronted with an intrusive verification system, their first reaction is it's not possible to do. And I would say that that's not true. It's been done in South Africa, it's been done in Ukraine, it's actually been done in Iraq. Not all of [Iraq's] WMD programs were dismantled in a strip search form. There were actually programs dismantled cooperatively with the Iraqis, and those experiences have been quite valuable in trying to understand how you would design a cooperative verification system.
But I think all those experiences show, though, that the North Koreans, in order to be transparent, are going to have to do three or four basic things. One is they're going to have to allow the inspectors access anywhere and any time. They're going to have to provide detailed information about their nuclear activities defined in a broad sense. They're going to have to allow access to the people who are in the program. And they're going to have to permit environmental monitoring. And believe it or not, North Korea at one stage or another has agreed to all these conditions, and that it's a question of them living up to them. And they understand this. There have been discussions with the North Koreans. So they clearly understand that these are the kinds of issues at stake.
There's always a question of who does it. Traditionally we always think of the International Atomic Energy Agency doing this kind of verification. In terms of dismantlement, you at least are going to need to supplement the IAEA with experts on gas centrifuges, with experts on nuclear weapons. And you could actually design a verified dismantlement scheme where you don't involve the IAEA at all. It's not very hard to design a system where the United States and North Korea could sit down and agree to dismantle verifiably, let's say, a declared, North Korean-declared gas centrifuge program. You don't particularly want to use that model more broadly than a specific dismantlement goal, but you can do it. And if you're talking about nuclear weapons, you may want to, particularly if North Korea does have nuclear weapons, think beyond using just the IAEA. I think there will be a lot of resistance to that, and I think both from the IAEA's point of view they wouldn't support it, but even from the U.S. point of view they may not want to take the risk or the responsibility for this kind of situation. In a cynical way, if the IAEA does it, you can always blame them for missing something and then hide behind that in designing successive actions. But if it is a finite program declared and you're just seeking to do that, seeking to just accomplish that, then it could actually work and facilitate the process.
Another thing is that the dismantlement must be irreversible. And typically, what that means is things are going to have to be destroyed. If there are centrifuges, they have to be destroyed. If there's equipment or machine tools to make centrifuge parts, those have to be destroyed. You don't need to destroy buildings, but you do need to destroy a lot of items. You would also want to-at least for no other reason than to perhaps better understand the program-you'd like to collect and destroy all the documents, just burn them.
You also need to have ongoing monitoring, and the monitoring applies to non-nuclear activities. It could be dual-use machine tools that were part of centrifuge manufacturing. They could be used again for centrifuge manufacturing. So you do want to be able to verify that. And for these kind of activities, certainly the IAEA is the best choice. And then traditional activities on nuclear material would have to be brought in play. Let's say North Korea has enriched uranium-we don't actually know if any's been enriched-but that material would be subject to IAEA inspection.
Also, I just want to make a point that if you're designing a system to verifiably dismantle nuclear weapons, it really doesn't matter if there's one or five, it's essentially the same. It certainly matters if there's zero or one, but if it's a few, you essentially would do the same thing. And again, there's, particularly because of South Africa, there's a considerable amount of experience with that, and there's also a lot of cooperative attitudes among people who design verification and then people who have actually participated in nuclear weapons programs in countries like South Africa. And now with Iraq, I mean the Iraqis are making it very clear that they want to cooperate.
Let me close with just what I imagine will be a question, which is plutonium separation activities at Yongbyon. And I'd like to just give you sort of our own assessment at ISIS. And Mary Sigh (ph), who's in the back, has been doing some of this work.
We've more or less concluded, and I think it's fairly obvious, that reprocessing activities have probably restarted. I mean, North Korea always said it would, and I think the indications are that it's done something. We don't know if it's hot testing or if it's separating a significant amount of plutonium.
And with that in mind, I'd like to just add more confusion to North Korea's statement that it has nuclear weapons. If we accept it at face value that it does, what we've been seeing is that we can't actually tell if North Korea has had nuclear weapons for years or days. And let me just end it there.
And just before we go to Q's and A's. We've focused a lot here on nuclear weapons, nuclear material. We haven't talked a lot about missiles. And one other aspect of the administration's approach here that I think is lacking and worth noting because of some recent statements of Ari Fleischer on the subject of missile defense. The administration has pointed out that the United States is pursuing missile defenses to deal with the North Korean missile program. But of course this, while it may have some marginal benefits down the road, does not provide us with any reliable fashion of dealing with North Korean missile threats, short-range existing threat or a future long-range threat, and it does nothing to deal with the nuclear material trade and proliferation problem. So again here, the first priority really needs to be to get at the source through negotiations leading to a verifiable end of that program.
So with that, let me open the floor to questions to any of our panelists. Please identify yourself before you ask your question. Yes, sir, in the front row.
Q. Al Milletin (ph), Washington Independent Writers. Is there reason to believe the United States will be more patient with North Korean arms inspections than with Iraq? And why should North Korea believe that its ultimate fate will be any better than the fate of the axis powers of World War II, Germany, Italy, and Japan? And hasn't North Korea shown themselves increasingly and emphatically to be not with the United States in the war on terrorism, but against it? And is it possible for the United States to be blackmailed or intimidated?
Kimball: That's several questions there, sir.
(To panelist.) Do you want to take a stab maybe at one of the first ones from the list?
Gallucci: I normally feel bad when I don't remember the second part of a two-part question, but there's no chance on this one.
Look, first of all, I think the enthusiasm everybody seemed to have for months to, I think, needle the administration over "how come you're not dealing with North Korea the way you're dealing with Iraq"-I mean, there's a short answer to that. It's because there are big differences between the two. There's history that's different between the two. And right now that kind of observation that the contexts are different, the politics are different, capabilities are different, the allied situation is different, all that is useful, I think, to go to the first part of your question and say-and turn it around and say the North Koreans-we're always concerned about lessons, but it would be the wrong lesson if they concluded that were the United States to make a deal, that the United States would not abide by the terms of the deal.
We abided by the terms of the deal that we made in 1994, in my view. I know some people have a different view, but I think we did. And I think if we made another one, we would, and the North Koreans should believe that. That is to say, if they accept inspections as part of, as Larry used a phrase, "give more and get more" kind of deal, it'll stick.
The Iraq situation was one in which there was never, in my view, a clear standard for what the inspectors needed to find, or the level of cooperation. And ultimately the United States, together with the U.K. and some other states, decided the inspection process was not going to adequately address the problem. There's no reason, I think, to transport this situation up to Northeast Asia. I just don't see it.
If I was going to cherry-pick from a few other of your questions, one of my favorite is always, "Will the United States be blackmailed?" I really like that one.
I think that you can turn any negotiation into a morality play, if that's what you wish to do. What I wish to do is try to figure out the best way to protect this nation's security, at the least cost in the loss of human life. And when we do a negotiation that stops a nuclear weapons program, which I think is what we did-stop the plutonium program in 1994-and someone says that we submitted to blackmail or suggests that this was appeasement, those are heavy, morally laden terms. And I don't think they help much. They don't help much to clarify what's happening.
Is there a threat from North Korea? You bet. All right? Would we be dealing with North Korea or have this press conference otherwise for a small, poor country? No, there are a lot of small, poor countries in the world. We're having this press conference because there is a threat. The question is how do you deal with it? I don't find anything immoral about negotiating with North Korea. I find something immoral about skipping negotiation because you don't like the image of that and going directly to the use of force or accepting the implications of the vulnerability of the United States because you won't negotiate. Now, that's immoral. So, please don't give me the blackmail and appeasement question again. Thanks.
Albright:Can I add one quick thing?
Albright: I think one lesson of the Iraq case is that the United States has to work harder on its intelligence to make sure that it doesn't create a bunch of phantom nuclear weapons in North Korea that don't exist and then expect the inspectors to find them. So, I think looking back at the Iraq case, the inspections actually didn't work too bad in the sense of containing the program, making it hard to break out, pushing it into the margins. And I think that in North Korea, that the inspection process could be extremely powerful.
Kimball: Okay, thanks. Yes, sir?
Q. (Name inaudible) with Radio Free Asia. My question is for Dean Gallucci. You said regarding the military option, it's not that effective of an option in terms of addressing, dismantling North Korean nuclear weapons program, and also, it's a very risky option. And you also said we still need to have that option on the table. So I was wondering exactly what you are suggesting here by saying that?
And also, this is the point, if my understanding is correct, where South Korea and the U.S. side has disagreement, whether we have to have military option on the table. So, I'd appreciate it if you can give me thoughts on that.
Gallucci: Sure. I don't think I said-and if I did say it, I misspoke-that the military option was ineffective. If the measure of effectiveness is the ability to destroy facilities so that they don't produce fissile material, I think the known facilities, and they are the ones that (are) known-these are facilities we've known about for a long time, principally the five- or 25-, depending on how you rate it, megawatt reactor reprocessing facility, the 15- to 20-megawatt reactors under construction-the secretary of Defense said in the last administration that we could target them and we could destroy them. So if that is your measure of effectiveness, it would be effective.
There are now some other problems. There is a uranium enrichment program, and from what I understand from the press, we do not know where that program is located, where the facilities are, facility or facilities. So that makes it hard for the airstrike to be executed, because you don't know where to go.
The second problem is-if the North Koreans have nuclear weapons or have separated additional plutonium-I don't know that we know where they are. So we don't solve that problem. There are these limits, therefore, on the surgical strike.
What about a regime change? What about a strategy of the kind we adopted to deal with another point on the axis of evil, Iraq? Okay? Would we win another Korean War? I think the answer to that is yes. I don't know anybody who says that a war against North Korea would be cheap in terms of human life. I think everybody is prepared to stipulate that that is a very high cost, it's not just high risk, it's high cost. The cost is what you fully expect to pay; the risk is what you may pay, that you hope not to have to. But the cost is high. You don't have to go to risk. We know that.
So it's not an option that you would want to embrace quickly or first or even second. You'd want to try other things, it would seem to me. You would only do it in extremis.
What would lead you to contemplate such an option? For me, the thing that I think about certainly is if the North Koreans seem to be making good on their threat ultimately of transferring fissile material or nuclear weapons to the highest bidder.
As an American, I find it unacceptable just in terms of the national security of this country to contemplate al Qaeda with nuclear weapons. I don't know how we defend against an unconventional threat on this country. I don't know how we deter those who would die for their cause. So I believe under those circumstances the use of military force would be a very plausible option to elect if we saw that as an outcome that was coming. As I observed before, we might not see that coming, though; that's why we ought to be looking for other ways to deal with the problem long before it gets to the point of the North Koreans considering that they would actually transfer this material.
There is now, as I've understood it, no support in South Korea on the part of the government or largely on the part of the population for the use of force to deal with this threat from the North. That should also condition American thinking about the viability, the political viability, of the option, as well as the other costs associated with it.
I don't believe you can ever take the military option off the table. I think even when you say we're not contemplating the use of force, and I believe that to be true about the administration. I certainly hope that when President Roh comes here and meets with President Bush that the conversation goes to other ways of dealing with the problem and that they might well say that the military option is not being considered. I think that's fair enough. What I submit to you is that, in logical terms, everybody knows of the capability the United States has. Everybody knows there could be a point, a red line, even if it isn't announced, that we would not allow North Korea to cross without the use of force in response. I think it is always a backdrop.
And I also believe that it was true in 1994 that it was a backdrop to the negotiations, and I believe it helped. I believe those negotiations benefited from the concern the North Koreans needed to have that the United States would perhaps at some point decide that the North Koreans had gone farther than they could be allowed to go in the interests of international security and the relationship we have with our allies in Japan and South Korea. That is always a backdrop.
I hope that helps.
Kimball: Yes, sir?
Q. Thank you. Massimo Calabresi from TIME magazine. In most of your remarks, it seems to have been taken as a given that the North Koreans might be willing not to develop a nuclear arsenal. I would like to ask all of the panelists how confident they are that North Korea is not in fact determined to get and maintain a nuclear weapons arsenal and, if they're not confident of that, what they think the policy implications for the U.S. are.
Kimball: Who's that question directed to?
Q. Any of the panelists.
Kimball: Any of the panelists. Larry Scheinman.
Scheinman: Okay. Why the North Koreans might be seeking to have nuclear weapons could be answered in two different ways. One could be that they've read the Bush statements. They've seen that they're on the "axis of evil." They've seen what happened to the first country that was on the axis and fear that they are basically next in line, no matter what, so they need to have this as a deterrent, and that they therefore will have to continue to develop this to whatever point is necessary, until such time as they've reached an acceptable outcome in a negotiation, which gives them all the things that they're seeking or most of the things that they're seeking from the United States.
Another possibility is that it's not for deterrence out of weakness, they're perceived self-weakness, that they're trying to develop the nuclear capability, but rather that they have an agenda, and that agenda is to remain as a nuclear-weapon state in the region, not simply for deterrent purposes but perhaps also to be able to continue their so-called lifestyle for as long as they possibly can without fear that they're going to be interdicted. So, there are two possibilities.
Q. (Off mike.)
Scheinman: That's a good question. Can we live with a nuclear North Korea? There have been suggestions made by some members of the administration that we may have to live with it for some indeterminate period of time.
But what do you mean by living with a nuclear North Korea? Does it mean accepting them into the club, welcoming them with a handshake? Absolutely not. What it would it mean would be de facto recognition of we've got a problem that we're going to have to continually try to address. What is the source of the North Korean interest in having a nuclear capability? What can we do to bring change about? And I don't think this is something that the United States would be alone in. I think that China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States would all share a common concern about the continuation of that kind of a situation so that North Korea would find itself under pressure from five sides rather than from just one and that efforts to try to accommodate legitimate concerns that the North Koreans have would eventually be put on the table and the North Koreans would have to back away from their nuclear capability in order to reap the benefits of what's being offered.
Kimball: What do we do about it? I think in simple terms, Bob might want to jump in here also, is that it's important for the United States to correct North Korea's misperception that it is next on the axis of evil list after Iraq [and] that it is more secure with nuclear weapons. Instead, we need to very clearly and forthrightly communicate that its pursuit of nuclear weapons is going to lessen its security over the long term; [and] that if it also does not pursue nuclear weapons, there is the possibility of engaging not just with the United States, but with the international community and becoming a full partner in the international community, and that its security is not threatened. That's a general answer, but I think it gets to one of the fundamental issues here.
Scheinman: Could I just add one point? Taking off from what Daryl just said, go back to the Ukraine situation. The Ukrainians found themselves instantly in charge of a lot of nuclear weapons at the time of the break-up of the Soviet Union. They were persuaded, among other reasons, because they were on our target list as long as they had those weapons, that their security was not going to be benefited by having those weapons, but, in fact, they would be at greater risk. But if the weapons were gone, then they could get a security assurance, such as we negotiated with them, our negative security assurance that we negotiated with them along with the British, and took them off our target list. And I think that the same message could be given to the North Koreans: as long as you've got these, you're on our target list; you get rid of them, and the situation changes.
Gallucci: I'm just going to pile on a little bit.
I don't know that we know whether or not the North Koreans are unalterably committed to acquiring nuclear weapons. I think we know the program's a couple of decades old. We certainly know they gave up in '94 some significant capability in the freeze, in the commitment to dismantle. We also know, then, they started this enrichment program. We can all try to figure out why.
But the insight of the Perry process-and by the way, before there was a Perry process, there was a process at the National Defense University that Rich Armitage, now the deputy secretary of State that essentially went in the same direction. When you don't know, you really don't know what the North Koreans' strategy is, one reasonable, rational approach is to test it. And the North Koreans have said they are prepared to give up this program. Now, you don't have to accept their terms right now, which is you give us everything, then, when you're done giving us everything, we'll give up our program, which is kind of like, you know, you give up everything, then we'll start talking about normal relations. This is how negotiations begin. That's how we began in 1993 and 1994. You state a most extreme position.
The idea is you test them with negotiation. You see whether you can construct an arrangement that's acceptable to you to test them. And David went quite a bit down the line to say, okay, what kind of stuff do we need in the verification side of this to test them? Because we had some last time on the plutonium side; we didn't have any on the enrichment side. And so we need certain things now, you know? We've got a list here: no plutonium production, dismantlement of the facilities that was envisioned in the framework a little sooner, shipment of the spent fuel out, shipment of any separated plutonium out. We have special inspections as a matter of course so that you have an ability to use the agency anywhere that you're concerned about; dismantlement of, as David said, weapons if there are weapons; the facilities to fabricate the weapons, if you can get them; end of ballistic missile tests and exports; all kinds of things. And you make this list, you know, and it struck me when I was listening to David, it sound a little bit like the kind of list you have when you've just beaten a country at war, which is what we did, you know, with [UN Security Council Resolution] 687 in Iraq. Well, we haven't done that. And so this may be a little bit demanding as a list for negotiation. But then, of course, we did catch the North Koreans at cheating, so we have an argument that we need a little more transparency or a lot more transparency then we had before.
So all I'm saying to you in answer to your question here is that a logical way of dealing with the uncertainty over the strategic objectives of North Korea is to test them with a negotiation in which you have as a negotiating objective a specific set of requirements which would indeed test what they're doing.
Q. If I could follow up?
Kimball: Very quickly.
Q. Yeah, whether you call it testing or accepting their assumptions, it still means following the path of negotiation. And your argument, Mr. Kimball, was that, one, if they were determined to have nuclear weapons it was -- (inaudible) -- to convince them that they shouldn't have them for security. So it seems to me that negotiations may not be at this point the best way to convince them that they shouldn't have them.
Gallucci: No, wait. No, wait, look, let's slow down a bit here. (Laughs.) You and I can probably agree that we don't know what North Koreans are thinking right now, okay? Alright?
Q. Mmm hmm.
Gallucci: We don't know whether they are unalterably committed to acquiring nuclear weapons or that, if they can strike the right deal, they would give them up. Alright? So I'm saying let's test them with a negotiation. Now, suppose they are unalterably committed to acquiring nuclear weapons? You can then ask, okay, the negotiations should fail, if it's properly constructed, and then we're confronted with that problem. And then you can ask me, suppose they are? What would you do, Bob? Okay, well, first-this is not a trivial point-first, since I don't know, I don't want to leap to that, thank you very much. I want to test them.
What do we have now in the United States of America over North Korea policy? We have an argument. We have an argument over those people who want to negotiate and those people who don't. And I'm telling you there's a very rational reason for wanting to negotiate first before you push me to say, well suppose they're unalterably committed? Then what would you do? Okay, well, the last administration held out the prospect of the use of military force to even stop reprocessing and separation of plutonium. Now, I don't know what President Clinton would have done. President Clinton can say, and I think he has, that he would have used force. But, you know, that was then and this is now. We really can't redo history. But there is a thought that we might have used force then.
I'm not now saying at what point I think we ought to use force. I am saying clearly that I wouldn't take force absolutely off the table. You've got to have your eyes wide open about the costs associated with it. And under those circumstances, you ought to negotiate first.
I am saying that one thing that is absolutely unacceptable is the transfer of this material. And if you ask me and push me now would I use force to stop that? You bet.
Kimball: Yes, ma'am?
Q. I'd like to come back to Dr. Albright's point about the need to improve intelligence. And it also bears on Dean Gallucci's point about the proposition of testing them. We're told that U.S. intelligence on North Korea is far worse than it is on Iraq. And given the fact that we've had…
Albright:Not sure about that.
Q. Whether that's true or not, that's the first question. But I do have a question. Why can't we say conclusively, given how much intelligence resources must, we presume, is devoted to this problem, whether or not they've reprocessed? You just said you think that they are. People said last night, including the CIA, that the conclusion is they're not.
Albright:They said they're not reprocessing?
Albright:They said that with assurance, they could tell they're not reprocessing?
Q. They said they don't think…
Kimball: Wait a minute; who's "they"?
Albright:I thought there was a report in The Washington Post today that said they thought they may be.
Q. We can quibble about that. It's very messy. And I guess my question to you is, why is it so messy? Why don't we know? And if we don't know, what does that mean about our ability to verify all of the other steps on your list, which sound great, but how capable is the U.S. of verifying that they're not going to cheat again? And if there's a significant amount of doubt, then how do we test them if we can't really measure whether they're cheating or not?
Albright:Okay. Well, the first answer is that the reason you use inspectors on the ground who have considerable inspection rights is because we recognize that intelligence is such a poor tool. That was proven over and over again in Iraq in the 1980s, the 1990s, and now. And so you have to have the intrusive inspections on the ground to gain confidence that there isn't cheating going on. And then you'll never know for sure that there's not something, but you'll gain confidence that it's at the margins or that you'll have confidence that you'll detect it quickly if there's a breakout.
I think that's enough on that. The inspections are to compensate for the lack of intelligence. If the U.S. could look into a country and know everything, then they'd know where to bomb, they'd know how to intervene, and they can't. And it's just a very poor tool.
On the question of reprocessing, you're using essentially distant means: Satellite imagery to first order, praying for defector information, but not finding any, to look at a facility that's large, and you're looking for indications. There's a steam plant that produces process steam for the radiochemical laboratory operating and it's been (inaudible) and there's also a lot of cloud cover that's been over North Korea for the last couple months. You're looking for kind of a brownish smoke coming off the radiochemical laboratory, to show that fuel's been -- or that nitric acid has dissolved something and emitted these fumes. It's not a very large plume.
You're hoping that if North Korea really is separating plutonium, and there's going to be radioactive material emitted, namely, krypton- 85, which is inert and travels a long way. For 50 years, we've used that as a technique to detect reprocessing, and so you can be guaranteed that there's embassies in Pyongyang with krypton detectors, stuff in China, there may be stuff on ships, there's stuff in Japan, there's stuff at the demilitarized zone. I don't know; these are highly classified facts, but you would have (seen it ?) in other cases where they'll be looking for krypton-85.
I would say all this collectively would say it's kind of -- they haven't separated much plutonium. The lack of indicators would say they haven't separated much plutonium. On the other side, we do know there were a lot of activities at the plant in March. [ISIS] didn't get the satellite images ourselves, but we know people who did that tell us that. We know that there's been recent activity at the plant. And it could be that they're reprocessing very old, low-burn-up fuel, and that we just would miss it. And so, I would say that our uncertainty would say that they could get enough for a bomb from that kind of fuel and there wouldn't be krypton-85 emissions that would be detected. And so, they would just slip through. But eventually, it will show up that reprocessing is going on. It just has to. You can't hide it.
The other possibility, which you can't dismiss, is that they have another reprocessing plant and that we don't know where it is. There's a huge tunnel complex not far from the radiochemical laboratory. Inspectors were in it in the early 1990s, taken on a tour of it as a weekend visit when they used to be there more regularly. Perhaps there is another facility.
But again, all this would argue for accepting the limitations of intelligence and understand that the only way to know is to have people on the ground who have considerable rights to investigate what's going on.
Kimball: And to get those people on the ground, negotiations are necessary to work out the agreement that allows the details for that verification regime.
Albright:Yeah. I don't know what the U.S. government thinks, but I think a stepwise approach makes sense. And part of testing, to me, is that North Korea would allow what I would call a proper refreezing of Yongbyon, or take the step of dismantling verifiably its gas centrifuge program. Maybe it wouldn't give up its nuclearization program right away, but there does need to be something up-front, from my point of view, that really tests them in a concrete way that they are willing to make these commitments to transparency.
Kimball: Yes, sir. Right here on the left. Thank you.
Q. Do any of the panelists see any link between the North Korean situation and the situation in Iran in dealing with, for instance, engaging Russia, perhaps, in helping us in North Korea, given their activities in Iran?
Kimball: Anyone? Comparisons between the Iranian…
Gallucci: I'll make one observation, and that is that one of the critiques of the Agreed Framework with North Korea used to be that the wrong lessons would be learned; that Iran would learn the wrong lesson. You could say right now if we did a deal with North Korea, what lesson would Iran learn? And I kind of like the lesson Iran might learn. Given that Iran is proceeding as it is with uranium enrichment, heavy-water production, presumably for a heavy-water reactor, if they learn that a negotiation was possible and these programs could be turned off and a relationship could be struck with the United States, I think that would be a terrific lesson.
Kimball: Next question. Yes, sir?
Q. David McGlinchey from the Global Security Newswire. You're talking about the differences between Iraq and North Korea. State Department officials have said recently that if current negotiations fail, they want to take the situation to the U.N., even though after and during the Iraq situation a lot of U.S. officials were bad-mouthing the U.N. saying it wasn't getting the job done. What's the difference? Why would the United States want to go to the U.N. this time? How would it be more effective in dealing with North Korea than with Iraq?
Kimball: You're talking about through the Security Council?
Q. Yes. Yes.
Gallucci: Let me just take a shot at this. I can imagine there being a political advantage at some point in going to the United Nations, taking the North Korea situation to the United Nations, because I believe the administration is correct; this is not a bilateral issue only between the United States and North Korea. The North Koreans are acting inconsistent with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, as well as the Agreed Framework. They're a threat to the United States, to Japan, South Korea, and the international community. So it is appropriate for the administration to wish to multilateralize this in the negotiations and also at the U.N.
My concern about the multilateralization of the negotiation is that I don't know that I would wait for that. I think it's a desirable objective, but I see a certain urgency to the current situation.
With respect to the U.N., there is an issue, of course, and I think it has impacted the administration's assessment of when it's a good idea to have the U.N. take up the issue and consider sanctions, and that is-as the North Koreans once pointed out to me-the U.N. is not a neutral international organization to them. The U.N. was the belligerent in the Korean War and the armistice is with the United Nations. And so an act by the U.N. of adoption of sanctions would be regarded, they told me a decade ago, as a violation of the armistice and an act of war.
Now the North Koreans are capable of extraordinary hyperbole, and this may be part of it. But I don't think that you would move to sanctions lightly. You would want that to be a deliberate step in a strategy. And I don't know what the administration's plans are with respect to the overall approach to North Korea, so I don't know where this would fit. But at some point, it would make sense.
And again, I would caution you not to sort of transpose, you know, North Korea on top of what you think you may have learned from the Iraqi experience. I think they're really quite different. And indeed, as time passes, that was then and this is now.
Kimball: Part of the reality of a multilateral approach is also what do the other members of the Security Council think. One of the key members, China, does not support going to the Security Council specifically to pass a resolution that might impose or threaten sanctions on North Korea at this stage.
I think we just have time for one or two more questions. And before we do, I wanted to ask you, Bob, to touch upon your reading of the current tea leaves, what a negotiation might lead to, what would some of the elements be that might provide an appropriate solution from the United States' perspective? Is this within reach, or is this out of reach?
Gallucci: Yeah, I'll do this briefly, and I know Larry wanted to make a point.
I would continue to do what we've done in the past with North Korea, which is, in the first instance, focus on the nuclear issue. I don't mean to the exclusion of ballistic missiles, to the exclusion of the conventional force deployment issues, but I would deal with the issue that has the sharpest cutting edge, and that is the threat posed by the North Korean nuclear weapons program. I'd make that the centerpiece and see how much of the other issues were in fact open to negotiation with North Korea. If a big deal was possible, I think that would be preferable, but better to have a small deal and a narrowly focused one than no deal at all because you failed to get the big deal. That is the first point about what it looks like.
Second, I would look for everything we achieved in the framework and then a lot more is one way to put it. That is to say not only the freezing of the plutonium program but the dismantlement, which is envisioned in the Agreed Framework, sooner, rather than later; the special inspections that are envisioned in the framework, sooner, rather than later; the shipment of the spent fuel, so that is not a gun to our head, assuming it has not been reprocessed, sooner, rather than later.
And we have the new elements that have to be factored in. The enrichment program has to be dismantled. Now we have a declaration that they have weapons. Well, they're NPT parties. You want them back in the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon state. We have the South African case as an example for dismantlement under inspection. David will give you the details of what all that looks like.
So on the nuclear side, you want to do all that, and then you want to get the inspection process and the transparency, to make sure they're not cheating on the deal. I mean, there are other elements, but that's on the nuclear side.
I don't know that we can really stop there, though I would think that would be a success if we achieve that. Given our concerns about the ballistic missile transfers, I think we need to get to ballistic missile testing and transfers-the testing, which so antagonizes Japan, and the transfers, which bother us and a lot of countries in the Middle East that are impacted by those transfers.
The forward deployment of forces would come next on my list. And I think the thing that would come last would be, except in a rhetorical way, concern about the human rights abuses of North Korea. That's not because I am not troubled, concerned, find outrageous the way North Korea treats its own people, but I think we have a security issue to deal with, and I think if we are moving in to make those kinds of changes a condition of an arrangement, we may make the deal that we need to make on security grounds difficult to impossible.
On the plus side, I think we should be certainly willing to resume the construction of those lightwater reactors, which may or may not have been stopped; I really don't know. And if they were prepared to switch out conventional plants for one or two of those reactors, it would be far preferable. If they're not, I think we should be prepared to complete the reactors as we indicated we would; delivery of the heavy fuel oil, food aid, normalized relations, and if nonaggression language or an arrangement of some kind, including some formal arrangement, with respect to nonaggression commitment was desired, I'd be prepared to go there, as well, provided we got all of the other things that we wanted. That's kind of the outline.
Kimball: Okay, thanks. Larry, did you have a comment on the previous question?
Scheinman: Well, just on the Security Council. You can take something to the Security Council without ending up with a resolution that implies sanctions, but which demonstrates on two sides to the target state that, gee, all these people are together on this point. This is what happened when the IAEA reported noncompliance with the safeguards business to the Security Council just about a month and a half ago. China went along with getting that to the Security Council, but did not go along with the idea of getting a resolution on sanctions. But it was a signal that everybody was willing to take at least one step, and that there was a consolidation potential here with regard to an issue that the Security Council could deal with as one.
It's also an indication that the United States, as the lead state, is willing to use a multilateral institution to try to make it work to get a common consensus approach to a particular problem, rather than just going out on its own. We have to send messages not only to the North Koreans, we have to send messages to our friends and allies that we are prepared to work together to achieve certain outcomes.
Kimball: All right. I think we have time for one very quick question and…
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