EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference 2016 Special Session 7
Chair: Benjamin Hautecouverture, Senior Research Fellow, FRS 
Alexander Vorontsov, Adviser, Center for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS); Head, Department for Korean and Mongolian Studies, Institute of the Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences 
Duyeon Kim, Non-resident Fellow, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University 
Cheng Xiaohe, Associate Professor, School of International Studies, Renmin University of China

Provisional Transcript:

Benjamin Hautecouverture, Senior Research Fellow, FRS

Our session number seven on the security of the Korean Peninsula is open. We have one and a half hours to address this particularly timely and difficult issue. I am Benjamin Hautecouverture. I am a Senior Research Fellow at the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique in Paris.

The support of effective multilateralism and the fact to address proliferation crisis directly are two main pillars that were highlighted this morning by High Representative Federica Mogherini when explaining the EU approach towards international security issues. She said, quoting her words this morning, ‘We have to deal with new crisis exactly as we did with Iran,’ and she added, ‘Only multilateral diplomacy can stop Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.’ Could it mean a future direct involvement of the EU into a new group of talks in the region of Northeast Asia? I think that this is a question to be asked.

But whatever the means, this is the canvas, the backdrop, of the EU involvement. And as to our EU Non-Proliferation Consortium, we have been very much involved recently since we organised with the collaboration with the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs a track 1.5 seminar on DPRK ballistic and nuclear dimensions of the crisis in the peninsula last week in Seoul, bringing together some 60 participants, including many Korean officials, dealing days and nights – according to them – with their northern neighbours and worrisome ambitions. And I think that a real sense of urgency was shared among all the participants, the panellists – everyone – which means that this is not an issue to be dealt with by scholars just as an interesting proliferation case study – which it is, by the way. A very interesting one. But this is for real. This is the real world in Northeast Asia. Smart solutions have to be found, which means realistic and responsible solutions, neither literature nor political instrumentalisation is needed. We within the Consortium understand our task in that spirit.

Having said that, it is my pleasure to give the floor to our three speakers this afternoon. The three of them come from the region. Their countries are key stakeholders: the Republic of Korea, China and Russia. And the entire involvement of China and Russia, of course, mean, to some extent, allies to the DPRK against the WMD programmes of Pyongyang is a core issue in the current deadlock, and it must be addressed along with other issues.

So, I will first ask Alexander Vorontsov from the Russian Academy of Sciences to take the floor. Then, Cheng Xiaohe from Renmin University of China, and Duyeon Kim, who participated in our talks in Seoul last week. So please, Alexander you have ten minutes, then ten and ten and we will open the floor. Thank you.

Alexander Vorontsov, Adviser, Center for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS); Head, Department for Korean and Mongolian Studies, Institute of the Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences

Thank you very much, Mr Chair, thank you very much organiser of the conference. This is extremely important to have a representative forum. And really grateful to Mr Chair that you started reminding us today, Madame Mogherini’s idea. I also wanted to concentrate attention to her assessments, because now we can see that very recently the number of people, number of voices who understand that their quite long period of very one-sided policy towards North Korea, which was concentrated on the sanctions, pressure, increasing isolation. Such policy did not work, and we have heard for a long time that pressure, only pressure. Sanctions do not work only because sanctions are not enough – we should increase sanctions. Let’s stop any kind of talks. We should wait when sanctions imposed by the recent UN Security Council resolution on March of this year will be resulted, and let the sanction work, and so on, etc. And it was difficult to explain to my colleagues in many countries that I was surprised how it is not possible not to see very clearly, very simply, reality. Very strong mutual independence of two realities. To be short, more sanctions, more pressure against North Korea means only more nukes and more missiles inside of North Korea. It’s strong correlation. Sanctions means more nukes.

And just now, many people said, of course I was happy to hear today of Madame Mogherini’s expression and of course such knowledgeable and well-informed people like Mr James Clapper’s assessment very recently, which was discussed today also, and many others in South Korea and the United States and Europe. More and more understand that only sanctions, only sticks without carrot does not work. And the engagement and the negotiations restarting is necessary, and I agree with Madame Mogherini that only multilateral diplomacy can stop nuclear programmes.

And I think it is reasonable to hear what North Korean peoples are speaking. Of course they are grave, they are awful violators of Security Council resolutions. They must – they must – improve. They must stop. They must disarm. But not to hear what they are speaking. We can strongly disagree with their position, with their arguments, but not to hear and neglect or totally ignore their way of thinking and assessments of situations. I think is also unreasonable and not rational.

And what are they saying? I visit North Korea, this year two times, and the last time was two weeks ago. Foreign Ministry people are speaking when I ask them about the possibility of negotiations, for example, with United States. Maybe I am mistaken, but my in perception – the widespread perception in the Western countries is that talk with North Korea is some kind of gift to North Korea. They will not talk very much with the United States first of all, of course. And talk is some kind of a gift for them, but North Korean diplomats in the Foreign Ministry, for example, which are dealing with relations between the United States and North Korea. Yes, American guys are speaking. We do not want to have talk for talk. In regards to the [inaudible] study, it is their position – we understand this position, but our position is we do not have talk for our capitulation. It is our position. And these two lines are very different lines. We cannot see any kind of changes in these lines. What does it mean? It means that the United States will follow their own lines, such as increasing sanctions, increasing military pressure, isolation. Okay, let them do it. But we will follow our lines, increase our military capability, and first of all nuclear capability. It is our line – it is our choice. And they are doing it. Not only speaking, they are doing it.

What does it mean? It is a result of the lack of any dialogue and negotiations. And from my point of view, the situation is [inaudible], and it is more dangerous that one year ago, two years ago, or five years ago because the intolerance from both sides is increasing, and the position of the Republic of Korea government is also quite intolerable. They cut all lines of communication with North Korea purposefully, and they are sure that collapse of North Korea is imminent and will be very, very soon. But people who are visiting North Korea can see the improvement of the economy of North Korea. I can see I am visiting every year, since the beginning of 2000, and yes, the second half of the 1990s was very deep, very painful economic crisis inside of North Korea. But since 2000, very gradual but steady economic improvement started, and last two or three years this improvement became much more accelerated. So, I do not know why, I do not know by what means – I can only guess – but it is of course, for me, very surprising, but at least for today, Kim Jong-un succeeded to fulfil his promise to Kim Jong Il-sung to develop simultaneously single economy, to improve living standards of populations, and to increase nuclear arsenal.

It is real threat. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but until now, these two lines are developing, and civil economy and living standards of the population are very gradually increasing. They started more decisively economic reform, market-oriented economic reform, and of course it is one of the sources of their economic successful development. So the real picture of North Korea is not hopeless. They are becoming more self-confident, not only inwards but their economy is better, defence capability is also better. And to my mind, in this situation, when intolerance and decisiveness from both sides are increasing, when, in Seoul, more and more frequently are speaking about decapitated preventative strike on North Korea, and North Korea response also quite aggressively. For example, for the last time two weeks ago, the Foreign Ministry told me – and I listened for the first time – ‘that if the United States or South Korea’s alliance would really attack us, very limited, or do something practical against us in a military way, our first goal will be to destroy Guam. Guam island will be destroyed, and will disappear underwater’ – to speak what they told me.

Of course, a very unhappy situation. And if it will continue, I can see only two ways out of the situation: all out war to eliminate North Korea – but it will be, as we can understand, an awful scenario for all Korean Peninsula, South Korea will also be destroyed very, very greatly – or negotiations, or engaging in the way Madame Mogherini emphasised today. And what kind of negotiations? Of course it is very difficult to say. We do remember the approach of the United States and their alliance to the Six-Party Talks, pre-condition, first steps as my perception is negotiations is some kind of gift for North Korea. But North Korea’s position is that negotiations can be maybe successful only if the United States will change their mindset. And to my mind, all of us, we should all correct our perception a little bit of the real situation today, and maybe to correct our previous approaches – to some extent, maybe change our mindset. But for North Korea to change its mindset means that the United States first of all, and all countries involved, should accept and recognise their nuclear status. Of course it is unacceptable, but what is, from my point of view, more acceptable and maybe really important is to accept, not only the words but in our practical deals, the equal right of North Korea in the course of negotiations. To respect their equal rights and respect their sovereignty. It is very crucially important for North Korea. They are very, very sensitive to this.

Just now they answered that all kind of talk, conduct, with the previous administration was impossible. Why? Because they included, personally, Kim Jong-il in the repression or sanction list – they personally included the leader of the state. It is a huge humiliation for him. They told me the United States crossed red line, and we stopped all additional contact with the United States, only tried to conferences and conferences and [inaudible]. So to restart negotiations, I think we should start from relatively simple, modest, but realistic goals. We should create some kind of mutually acceptable agenda from all party roles. Maybe it will be Six-Party talks, maybe some other form but mutually acceptable agenda, and we should put forward to achieve very modest goals for the first step. And to freeze the nuclear programme, if we will achieve it in the first or second stage, it will be a very important result. Some people may say that it is not so important, it is not enough – it must be disarmament. But we should understand that for the time being, and at least in the short-term prospect, it is impossible. We should something that is actually possible. Thank you.

Cheng Xiaohe, Associate Professor, School of International Studies, Renmin University of China 
Thank you, Chairman, and also thank you to the organisers for inviting me here, particularly IISS. And I would like to see the situations on the Korean Peninsula in this way. So the situation is very volatile, and very dangerous in a way that we have not seen in the past two or three decades.

It is volatile because a lot of things remain unsettled. For example, the DPRK will continue to test its missiles and possible six nuclear detonations. And to the old [inaudible], the political situation the South Koreas see becomes one of the international attractions. And also, in addition to the DPRK’s nuclear missile provocations, we find China and Russia on one side, and the United States and South Korea on the other side, and have been locked in a dispute regarding Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD). So our senses see interacting with each other, and makes the situation on the Korean Peninsula much more volatile.

It is more dangerous because in the past year since the DPRK has conducted two nuclear tests, it has also tested missiles, according to my account, about 26 times. The United States and the South Koreans have heightened their preparedness for a possible mutual conflict with the DPRK, engaging in mutual exercises and rotating showing of strategic weapons by the United States, in addition to rumours spreading that the United States and South Koreans may take pre-emptive actions against the DPRK’s leaders. The situation has therefore become much more dangerous.

So the surrounding regions could contribute to this situation as the DPRK’s nuclear missiles have been one of the major sources of tension in the region. We come over here not to celebrate the ultimate solutions of DPRK’s nuclear missile dispute. We come over here – particularly me – to discuss the DPRK’s nuclear issues – issues that remain unsettled for more than nearly three decades. And the United States and the DPRK framework that attempted to settle the DPRK’s nuclear issues has failed. China hosted and chaired the Six-Party talks in an attempt in another attempt to settle the DPRK’s nuclear issues, and so far it has also failed.

DPRK’s nuclear issues still remain on the table, still irritating and dividing the international community. The DPRK’s nuclear missile programmes have further entered a very critical period of time, and this country is crossing a technology threshold of combining nuclear warheads and various missiles. It is possible that the DPRK is planning to deploy nuclear weapons that could be used against South Koreans, the United States, Japan, and possibly China.

We also witness that the public opinion is divided with regard to the DPRK’s nuclear programme’s future. As my colleague mentioned, the United States National Intelligence Director, James Clapper, publicly mentioned the United States’ efforts to seek denuclearisation of the DPRK is seemingly a lost cause. But on the other hand, the United States Deputy Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, still maintained that the United States’ objective to pursue denuclearisation of the DPRK government is unchanged. And some Chinese scholars also believe that it is impossible to persuade the DPRK or to force the DPRK to abandon its nuclear programmes. Yet some still maintain if work hard and pressure these companies harder, then maybe the regime in Pyongyang will make a choice between regime survival and abandonment of the nuclear programmes.

Nonetheless, I believe so far that the international efforts to put pressure to persuade the DPRK to abandon its nuclear programme have failed, but I am not sure whether or not the efforts will continue to fail in the future. There are a number of factors that have contributed to the failures of the international efforts. Number one is that the DPRK is determined to press ahead with nuclear missile development. If this country ignore the costs it may pay for its nuclear programmes, and defies international denouncement and the United Nations Security Council resolutions, then this country will do that. And nobody can stop it. I think that is the fundamental reason.

The second is the absence of the leadership in the international communities. Particularly the United States and China, the two most important countries and key stakeholders on this issue refuse to assume leadership. The United States adopted strategic patience strategies, and the Chinese adopted – according to some South Korean characterisations – China’s own version of strategic patience. But once and for sure, China and the United States are the two countries which had the capacity to exercise their leadership in the past year have no political way to do so. And the absence of leadership here leads to a number of dismaying consequences. Number one: the lack of coordination among key members of the Six-Party Talks. And the other five members of the Six-Party Talks could not speak in one voice, and cannot take actions in concert, even though they share the same positions against the DPRK’s nuclear programmes. Also, the absence of leadership leads to the absence of an effective proposal that could help settle the DPRK’s nuclear issues.

In the past years, there are a lot of proposals spread among the key members of the Six-Party Talks, but to me, none of them were effective and efficient.

So I have to finish it up, I only have about one or two minutes. So in order to address the DPRK’s nuclear missile provocations, I would like to suggest, number one, that China and the United States need to stand up and turn their zero-sum game into a plus-sum game, because in the past years, these two countries played a zero-sum game on the Korean Peninsula. I think they need to turn such a game into a win-win situation and exercise leadership. Certainly, such a kind of leadership could not exclude other key members such as South Korean, Russia, Japan and North Korean. But China and the United States need to assume more responsibilities. Second, China and the United States need to change their out-dated policies, to take a proactive approach to seek solutions to the DPRK’s nuclear issues. Third, all of the key stakeholders need to avoid taking unilateral actions that may cause suspicions and divisions among other members, and also avoid finger pointing at one another the way China and the United States have done in the past years. Last but not least, to cope with the DPRK’s nuclear provocations, it is not a single country’s mission but is a collective endeavour. So other members, China and the United States, South Korea and Japan, need to synchronise their policies, hopefully early next year, after the new United States president is elected and assumes the presidency. I will stop here. Thank you.

Duyeon Kim, Non-resident Fellow, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University 

Well, first I would like to thank Mark and Benjamin and the organisers of this very important and timely conference. I, as Benjamin just said, will jump right into the way forward. I will give you my barebones bottom lines, and perhaps during the Q&A I can unpack some of the context behind what I am about to say.

First, it is difficult to find or expect a new silver bullet idea that will magically just solve this problem, because we are dealing with generally the same demands from each party. In terms of the vision and end states, we need a grand design for a stable and prosperous Northeast Asia. This includes a nuclear weapons-free North Korea – or some would argue Korean Peninsula – it includes a region that coexists peacefully with North Korea eventually integrated into the community, and it involves and includes an end to the Korean War, establishment of a peace regime and, eventually, reunification of the peninsula.

A holistic, comprehensive policy towards North Korea is imperative. A simple, narrow, non-proliferation approach only addressing Pyongyang’s nuclear missile programmes will not solve the North Korea problem or its intertwined regional challenges. Now, there is a lot of talk and a lot of frustration about the lack of talks between the US and North Korea, and involved parties. However, currently the US and North Korea each domestically lack the political space to engage in serious negotiations. But when the time is ripe, negotiations of course are the primary way to find a way forward.

Now, the objective of negotiations, as a interim goal always has been and should continue to be, a verified freeze. But this should not be the ultimate objective. The longer-term and ultimate object must be complete and verifiable denuclearisation, regardless of how difficult or unrealistic this may appear today, or else the region will face bigger nuclear challenges and will deal a grave blow to the non-proliferation regime if we do not make sure that the end goal is complete denuclearisation

The other objective of negotiations – sure, it involves a peace treaty, but a peace treaty discussion that is too soon will hold nuclear talks hostage to peace treaty talks and so this should not commence too soon. There was clear understanding during the Six-Party Talks process that discussion for peace treaty or peace regimes would occur once the relevant parties were able to draw up a blueprint for what the third and final stage of dismantlement might look like. So North Korea knows this, and agreed to this. It has not – and should not – forget that history.

Well, how do we get there? In terms of methodology, I believe we must retain the Six-Party Talks agreements, and its framework and its process with necessary upgrades to meet today’s challenges. This six-party process serves critical political and functional purposes, and it addresses all parties’ concerns, including and especially Pyongyang’s security concerns. It has already established a pathway to the vision of end states I mentioned above, and it ensures buy-in and assistance from necessary countries like Japan and Russia that are needed to implement the deals in its entirety. And within this framework, various geometric configurations of negations can convene freely within the six-party framework without having to reinvent the wheel for negotiations.

Now, going forward, the next Clinton administration should employ a toughness and readiness approach. Now, I did not coin this concept. It was actually coined by a brilliant colleague of mine. The next administration should begin a comprehensive policy review up and down, all around, bottom-up, top-down and review during the transition, but of course in earnest in the first 100 days of office. The reviews and tests are traditional and bold new thinking across the entire spectrum of pressure and engagement.

Now, the elements for this toughness and diplomatic readiness approach – I believe there are some pillars that are included. The first is effective and credible pressure to enable diplomacy to work effectively. Now, this approach is because of where we are today in the security situation, and having dealt with this and having had so much experience with this in negotiations for over 20 years. It includes a priority to US alliances and alliance coordination, it includes strengthened defence, deterrence, and military readiness to deal with future North Korean provocations and any October surprises, it includes pressure and engagement with China, where necessary and needed, and it includes a readiness to negotiate a reasonable deal with North Korea when the time comes. Finally, China also has the responsibility to try newer and bolder measures going forward. Thank you.

Benjamin Hautecouverture, Senior Research Fellow, FRS

Thank you very much Duyeon; thank you very much the three of you. I note that none of you addressed the question of an EU leverage.

Duyeon Kim, Non-resident Fellow, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University

We spend the whole week. Last week was all about that.

Benjamin Hautecouverture, Senior Research Fellow, FRS

I know, but we are in Brussels. We are not in Seoul anymore.

Alexander Vorontsov, Adviser, Center for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS); Head, Department for Korean and Mongolian Studies, Institute of the Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences

You have a history of engagement.

Benjamin Hautecouverture, Senior Research Fellow, FRS

I know, absolutely. But this is the point, and this is the reason why maybe the EU has become so shy about this after the collapse of the [inaudible]. We all know this story. But still, be gentle. We are in Brussels. Do you think there is a leverage for the EU in the future years to come? Is the EU being a global player on non-proliferation disarmament matters? And if it is so, what leverage is – well, I am talking about the EU of course. I am talking about the member states of the EU, and we all know of the disagreements with the member states within the EU on the DPRK issue of course.

Thank you very much for all of this. The floor is open. I am sure we have – yes, we have so many people. We will try to maybe have three or four rounds of questions.

Dr Charlotte Beaucillon Assistant Professor, the Sorbonne Law School, Panthéon-Sorbonne University

Thank you very much. Duyeon, I am very glad to see you. So, Benjamin, I am very glad you picked up on the question of the EU role, so I will spare you asking this. I was curious to know from the panellists whether you have views on the way to bring North Korea to abide by its undertakings? We know from the past that this is not a problem for North Korea to undertake new obligations, but very quickly, these are violated again. So do you see new means or techniques to build confidence and to accompany the implementation of future undertakings? Thank you.

Professor Maurizio Martellini Secretary General, Landau Network-Fondazione Volta

Congratulations. I appreciate very much the intervention of Mr Cheng. I have visited Pyongyang many times. My comment is very short. The philosophy of the EU non-proliferation is not only multilateral, but it is also a concrete cooperative mechanism, like for instance, medical diplomacy, scientist engagement and other things like we have done in the past, after the Cold War.

So I guess that I fully agree that it is almost impossible to see a solution to this conundrum without a real comprehensive package and the EU must play – and your question is crucial – a more central role in terms of cooperative engagement, even if North Korea is a sort of totalitarian state – I never believe in this kind of language. So this is very important because in all of my visits there, there is a mistrust. So why not instead make generic scientific policy discussion about multilateralism? Why not apply the mechanism that we used in the past vis-à-vis countries in transition?


Thank you, Mr Chairman. My first question goes to Ms Kim. Is North Korea a rational or irrational state in managing the nuclear crisis? And second question to Mr Cheng, to what extent does China have leverage on North Korea in solving the nuclear crisis? Thank you.

Benjamin Hautecouverture, Senior Research Fellow, FRS

Ambassador Trezza has just written a very interesting piece on the DPRK, which is published on the website of the Consortium.

Carlo Trezza Outgoing Chairman, Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)

Indeed, to respond to your role, Mr Chairman, about the possible role of the EU, this is not a particularly propitious time for negotiations, not only because of the present tension, but also because the United States and the Republic of Korea are going into separate presidential elections. So it will take time, in any case, to establish a new policy.

But having said that, the EU has certain credentials, not only from a historical point of view but also more recently because of its constructive role in the solving of the uranium nuclear crisis. This morning Federica Mogherini called for innovative suggestions and innovative solutions to this issue, and indeed, the precedent of the way in which Europe overcame the Cold War, especially through the establishment of the OSCE and the whole process of Helsinki, of confidence-building measure and so on, is, let’s say, a precedent which has been studied very closely by the two Korean sides, not necessarily to follow exactly the same pattern, but nonetheless. But if we want to go into more detail, there is also the precedent of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which in the 1980s was an instrument to overcome the Cold War. In that occasion, to respond to the deployment in the Soviet Union of certain types of missiles, NATO countries made a so-called double decision, on the one hand to deploy a new missile equivalent to the Russian deployment and, on the other side, to propose a negotiation to eliminate them.

A similar situation is now taking place in the Korean Peninsula, where the United States and Republic of Korea intend to deploy missile defence terminal – the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile, which is an initiatives that is hated by China and Russia. So, indeed there could be a similarity even if this deployment that will take place will become a kind of bargaining chip to convince the DPRK to get rid of its nuclear programme in exchange for the non-deployment or the withdrawal of these missile defence systems in South Korea.

This is an idea which I put to the panel. Of course it deserves a lot of thinking, but, in any case, I would like to have some preliminary reactions. Thank you.

Robert Einhorn Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution

Thank you. Alexander, I agree with you and High Representative Mogherini that pressure alone is not going to resolve this problem. I think no matter how much pressure, North Korea will continue on its current course. Diplomacy and negotiations will be essential to get North Korea to freeze and rollback its programme. But diplomacy without sufficient leverage is not going to work, either. And I think it is worth looking back to the Iran case. Negotiations with Iran proceeded for three or four years, with Iran under sanctions, but not terribly strong sanctions, and Iran was not serious about negotiations during that period. But then during the 2012-2013 period, sanctions really ratcheted up, and in part because China played a major role. It cut back its imports of Iranian crude oil by over 50%. Now, China had its own way of doing that. It never admitted it. It published on some obscure Chinese website that it had decided to diversify its sources of crude oil. But nonetheless, it cut back and that sent a very powerful signal to Iran, and then negotiations began in earnest after that point.

I think the same will be true in the North Korea case, and at the present time, pressures against North Korea are not sufficient, and have to be ratcheted up. There is a framework and resolution 2270 to do that, and now there are discussion in New York on even stronger sanctions. But there are ways that Security Council members can create certain loopholes. I am thinking in particular about the import of North Korean coal, and other minerals. So my question is this: is there recognition – and I am speaking really to Mr Cheng and Mr Vorontsov – whether sanctions have to be strengthened quite a bit before the leverage will be there to get the kind of negotiated solution that you have all talked about?

And I think what you say, Alexander, about starting with a freeze en route to eventual denuclearisation is the right way to go, but at the present time, I do not think there is sufficient leverage to get there.

Benjamin Hautecouverture, Senior Research Fellow, FRS

Thank you very much on those very, very specific comments. I am sure we all are impatient to hear your answers.

Duyeon Kim, Non-resident Fellow, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University

Sure. I was hoping to go last, but that is fine. On the question of the EU role – and I know we have had several extensive discussions last week in Seoul – but I guess my bottom line for now is, in practical terms I am not sure that would work. We have experience in the Six-Party Talks where it was difficult enough to align and come to consensus, and try to figure out a way to align all six different interests. And so to have another actor at the table, I am not sure how that would work practically and feasibly, although last week in Seoul, Charlotte did mention an idea of perhaps giving the EU a facilitator role and not a vote at the table, and that is something that we could probably examine. However, at the same time we have had – and I say this with all due respect to all of my Chinese colleagues – but in the past we have seen in the Six-Party Talks that, yes, China has been active and proactive, but it eventually came to a situation where China ended up playing more the bookkeeper of schedules and not an active facilitator. And so, these are some factors that we should consider realistically and practically going forward.

On the question of whether North Korea is a rational actor or not, I would say that North Korea is a rational actor – or Kim Jong-un and his predecessors are. And I say this because I am using the classical definition that we use in international relations – the Kims act in their national interest and they make calculations according to their national interest, and do not do anything that is suicidal for their regime. So in that sense, I say yes.

I agree with everything that Bob said, so I do not have to reiterate. There is something that we need to remember, and I know there are a lot of people, again, who are frustrated that there are not active discussion and negotiations or even just talks between the US and North Korea, but we do need to remember that during the Obama administration and up until very recently, North Korea has actually rejected the administration’s invitations for talks. So we are in a situation where it is even difficult to bring North Korea to the table and just talk. And there had been a point in very recent history where the Obama administration was openly open to having bilateral discussions without any preconditions, anytime, anywhere, but even then North Korea rejected that. And so we are in a situation where it is not just a matter of talking. It is a matter of trying to get them to the table. And I think part of this reason is the difficulty in getting North Korea to the table now is, first, they only want to resume discussions on their terms, but also I wonder if they – you know, we talked about leverage building for pressure on our side – I wonder if the North is in their process of trying to build their own leverage to enter into negotiations. And that leverage is first and foremost on the nuclear missile capabilities, but it is not just that. I think it is more comprehensive for them, to build their country into a more quote-unquote ‘powerful state’ before they can enter into these negotiations. So that is something to consider.

The comments on THAAD and other precedents – realistically I do not see the US or South Korea using THAAD as a bargaining chip at all. And the other precedents, the context is different. We are in a situation where the reality is that the US, South Korea and the international community will not recognise North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, and so we have to keep that context in mind when we are thinking of new ideas and how to incentivise or find practical solutions on this matter.

Cheng Xiaohe, Associate Professor, School of International Studies, Renmin University of China

A number of questions I have to address. Number one is whether or not it is a bargaining chip and I may disagree with you, Duyeon. It is a bargaining chip, and the United States made it very clear that South Korea and the United States are trying to deploy the THAAD system in attempt to not pressure China to turn against the DPRK. And that is the one move on the part of the United States and the South Koreans. But whether or not it is a bargaining chip could be exchanged, and again, for some things, I do not think so. That is the one.

The EU, though, I personally oppose the EU’s participations in the Six-Party Talks a few years ago. The South Koreans tried to invite the EU to attend the Six-Party Talks, and I made it clear that I oppose this on the grounds, number one, that I do not know whether or not the EU had strong motivations to attend because the EU struggled to deal with Russia and Ukraine, to deal with the financial crisis. Second, the member states of the Six-Party Talks, their relationships are quite complicated. The United States, Japan and South Koreans could conduct more consultations and could take united positions within the Six-Party Talks, and form a small block. And China and Russians work together, so the EU participations will complicate the positions of the Six-Party Talks, and tilt the balance of power within the Six-Party Talks towards the United States, South Korea and Japan. But recently, I changed my mind a little bit. I am quite open to flexible, multiple dialogues – trilateral dialogue, third-party dialogue, six-party dialogue – whatever as long as it keeps the dialogue going on.

And to the gentleman’s questions on China’s leverage on the DPRK, China has quite strong leverage over the DPRK since China is the DPRK’s immediate neighbour and number one trading partner. But the problem is whether or not China has the political will to use the leverage they have. There are two factors that I think have more impact on China’s thinking, whether or not to use this leverage to achieve its political objectives. The first is whether or not the DPRK deserves it. Since China now possesses a number of strong, heavy weapons. If China uses the weapons it possesses, they can be used to kill the regime in Pyongyang.

Second, Pyongyang has been a traditional strategic asset, and although more and more Chinese believe the DPRK is no longer a strategic asset, but is rather a strategic burden. But most Chinese regardless still believe the DPRK holds some value as a strategic asset. It is not time for China to abandon the asset so lightly. If China needs to change its mind to use the strong weapon against the DPRK, China and the United States need to cut big deals, to build trust with one another, and turn the zero-sum game into a kind of plus-sum game. If that game cannot be changed, then I do not think that China will abandon the DPRK. So that then has more to do with the grand relationship between China and the United States, particularly the competition between the two countries has been heightened, so it is hard to handle the DPRK’s nuclear provocation. It is something to do with the on-going development of the relationship between China and the United States. I will stop here.

Duyeon Kim, Non-resident Fellow, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University

To briefly continue the debate between Cheng Xiaohe and me on THAAD, there is a difference between a bargaining chip versus political card. THAAD is there because of the threat posed by North Korea’s short and mid-range missiles, however yes, South Korea has begun to realise that there is political utility in having THAAD, in terms of trying to persuade China to be more proactive and to make a more decisive decision on North Korea. At the same time, I still, again, cannot see a scenario where the US and South Korea would use it to bargain away THAAD under certain circumstances. Now, the political use of it to persuade China has been that we do not need THAAD if we did not have the North Korean missile problem, and as an incentive and as a persuasion point for China.

Now, that said, one variable in this equation really is the fate of THAAD, meaning whether THAAD will complete its deployment within this South Korean presidential term, and who is the next South Korean president. If we have a progressive South Korean president, that might make this equation a little bit different, but we will have to see how that unfolds going forward, in the months to come.

Cheng Xiaohe, Associate Professor, School of International Studies, Renmin University of China

A quick response – very quick. I still maintain it is a bargaining chip, but the problem is the bargaining chip is too huge, and China so far does not want to make a deal to change anything with it.

Alexander Vorontsov, Adviser, Center for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS); Head, Department for Korean and Mongolian Studies, Institute of the Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences

Thank you very much for the nice questions, and in the first question a lady asked about is it possible to create some new tools or instruments to force North Korea to fulfil their obligation. I think it is, maybe, to some extent a widespread misperception that only North Korea violates their obligations, or that all other parties in the world are strongly committed to their obligation, and only North Korea. I do remember when I was in the Brookings Institution, as usual, I had a lot of meetings and conferences in Washington, DC. And in one conference dealing with North Korea, a very famous and very experienced American expat, Mr Segal[?] created some kind of table and he closed one column of the table and showed another one. And then this part, in detail, pointed to all the agreements that North Korea violated – when and in which point they violated many, many agreements and obligations. And all people in the floor agreed, yes, we do remember these agreements, we do remember their violations. After, he opened the second half of the table, and in this part pointed out where the United States violated their obligations. And the picture became an absolute mirror – the same. The same obligations were violated by both sides. Who was the first, who was the second? That is another question.

So we do remember when North Korea feel that they are engaged in some agreement, for example, like the agreed framework of 1994. They abided for quite a long time to these obligations. When they were sure that the Six-Party Talks were developed seriously, they also did not violate their obligations. By the way, in 2009, when Six-Party Talks stopped, not only North Korea violated their obligations. And South Korea also did not completely fulfil their obligations, dealing with the second stage of the denuclearisation, etc. And this is an important question because when the arms control, arms reductions, non-proliferation agenda only is the central topic, North Korea is ready to cooperate. But when they begin to feel that there is a hidden agenda and a regime change, and non-proliferation agreements are being used as a cover to put forward this hidden agenda, they begin to say that they are not interested in such negotiations. So it is also important to take this into consideration. But this question, of course, is very, very important. We have to find some mechanism to provide the fulfilment of obligations, but this concerns not only North Korea but all parties involved. Russia, for example, a long time ago proposed that cross[?] obligation for all parties involved, for example. Everybody look to each other, ‘Have you fulfilled your obligation?’

And Mr Einhorn, of course I agree with your picture, and of course I agree that in the case of Iran the really painful sanctions, the last stage of sanction policy, are the ones that worked. And there are many attempts to compare the Iran situation to the North Korean situation, but there are many differences, yes, as you know – better than me. Iran economy was incomparably much more deeply and widely an involved and engaged in the world economy. It was more easy to find and to implement very sensitive sanctions against the economy of Iran. North Korea engagement and interdependence is with the world much is much less.

The second important difference is that in that period of time of sanctions, Iran did not produce nuclear weapons ,North Korea already is producing them. If sanctions continue to increase and increase, undoubtedly – at least to me – they will continue to produce nukes and missiles programmes. Just now they reached their stage of their long-term nuclear missile programmes, yes? But now they reached the stage where they have succeeded to produce more sophisticated and advanced kinds of weapons and missiles. So if we will continue the present policy and will wait when sanctions will produce results, they will succeed to produce a few more nuclear tests, missile tests, and will reach more high levels of their nuclear arsenal. And when negotiations will start, it will be more difficult to reduce every step ahead in the development of their nuclear programme. It will become more difficult to force the country to disarm or to make steps backwards. So we should also take into consideration this reality.

Finally, his picture is nice, but in the real world, when the, for example, Six-Party Talks participants’ interests are not equal, not the same. Every country has its own interests objectively. For example, the United States is placed far from the Korean Peninsula. China and Russia has a joint border with North Korea. Objectively, we maybe more than you, are sensitive in order to prevent all-out war in Korea, because it will affect us directly and strongly. So China and Russia objectively will define and fulfil sanctions measures more carefully. In a practical way, for example, Russia has 17 kilometres of joint border with North Korea. China, 1,300 kilometres. How can we totally close this border in a practical way? Is it achievable? For example, even the United States with their most advanced and sophisticated technical, military, etc., means have difficulties to totally close or control strictly their border with Mexico.


Trump is going to take care of that.

Alexander Vorontsov, Adviser, Center for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS); Head, Department for Korean and Mongolian Studies, Institute of the Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences

Maybe, maybe. But there were attempts – not only voices to attempt – to create a wall along the border with Mexico. And China also should create wall on the border with North Korea. Practically, it is not easy. So I think we should calculate carefully all pros and cons in this scenario.

Benjamin Hautecouverture, Senior Research Fellow, FRS

Well, I think we can all agree on the fact that unfortunately the DPRK is not part of our globalised world. The reason why is that most of the trade of the country is made with China and Russia, which, of course, is a basis for leverage, if I may.

We have a second round of questions.

Professor Erwin Häckel Associate Fellow, German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)

Starting from the fact that everyone agrees that the Six-Party Talks are stuck and we are encouraged to have more imagination and to seek more smart multilateralism, now I am going to let my imagination run, and forget about multilateralism. I invite you to a thought experiment, not along the lines of multilateralism, but bilateralism. Let us assume that North and South Korea come together to seek unification. Everyone will agree, very unlikely. Let’s just assume it. Let’s assume that conditions, for whatever reasons, are appropriate for such a development. North and South Korea seek unification – and remember, I come from Germany, and I have the memory of that 30 years ago. It was impossible to imagine that the two German states could come together to form a unified sovereign state.

Now, let us assume in this course of unification, North Korea would not renounce its nuclear weapons, and to inject an element of reality, let us assume that the two countries would not come together like the two German states in one stroke to form one sovereign state. But let us assume these states, as an intermediate stage, agree to form some confederation. One party of this confederation is still a nuclear armed country. Well, what happens then? It is not unclear in terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and it is not clear how the world community would react. Probably the world community, the Security Council, would step in if it is one sovereign country with nuclear weapons. My invitation is to simply consider this possibility: what would it mean for non-proliferation?

Cristina Varriale, Research Analyst, Royal United Services Institute

I have two short comments, but I will keep them both brief. When you mentioned about your trips to North Korea and you mentioned the economy is looking prosperous, do you think that is authentic, and how far do you think that actually spreads beyond what you see as a visitor? And do you think that is sustainable? If not, what, then, happens to the security on the peninsula if that economic prosperity that you witnessed is not long term?

And secondly, for Ms Kim, how do you think the domestic political situation in South Korea at the moment is going to hinder any prospect of making headway with the North Korean nuclear issue? I think the mots recent polls I saw this morning were Parks’ ratings were down something like 9% in approval. If that then impacts how the relationship which she had managed to build up with Japan in terms of the comfort women deal, if that then does not go ahead and that impacts broader relations with Japan, how does that impact the way the region can move forward cohesively?

Mark Fitzpatrick Director, Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Policy Programme, IISS; Executive Director, IISS-US; Co- Founder, EU Non-Proliferation Consortium

When we talk about the EU role, it is usually engagement and it is usually how can we engagement more, but the engagement dial is not just in one direction. It can be turned in the other direction. Seven EU states have embassies in Pyongyang with ambassadors. South Korea’s government policy is to try to isolate North Korea. The mood in Seoul when we were at the conference was one of this is no longer business as usual. Things have gotten so dire with North Korea’s escalation of nuclear and missile testing that real pressure has to be put on North Korea. So what other ways can the EU put pressure on? I think this is something that also has to be considered. Visas can be denied, travel bans can be imposed, the travel warning not to go to North Korea could be enforced. North Korean moneymen who somehow accumulate money in European countries and send them back to Kim Jong-un, this pressure could be put on to stop this. I think there are ways that European countries might be asked in the next couple of years what more they can do to add to the pressure. And I am not advocating it right now, but this is something that will need to be on the policy agenda.

Adérito Vicente Portugal PhD Researcher, Department of Political and Social Sciences (SPS), European University Institute (EUI)

I have two questions – short ones, I believe. The first one is about if we consider that North Korea is actually a rational actor, then we have to think about why they have nuclear weapons. And one of the two reasons I think about is protection of the regime and also territorial integrity. And so if you believe in this, what kind of assurances could P5 or other important states give to North Korea for them to disarm their nuclear weapons? And take into account that, for instance, the 1994 Budapest memorandum did not actually work on making those assurances.

The second is on the European Union. One of the biggest assumptions of the EU in terms of foreign policy is that they are a trade power, and actually most of the negotiations with other countries are making sure that these trade relations are important for the European Union having some outcomes. So do you think that one of the solutions for this deadlock could actually be to progressively – not totally excluding the sanctions, because I believe the sanctions are actually not working – but rather making sure that if North Korea is willing to negotiate, that you might increase their trade relations, and therefore might be incentive for them to give up their nuclear ambitions?

Speaker, Political Minister, Korean Mission, Brussels

Thank you for the very informative and extensive presentations from the panel. I think we need to start to think in terms of past histories and experiences when we address North Korea’s nuclear problem. North Korea repeatedly violated its commitment. That is the main cause of the lack of dialogue and the failure of dialogue. Dialogue per se does not solve the problem – it does not guarantee the solution. I think we need to have credible commitment from the North Korean side. Now is the time to increase pressure, and I fully subscribe to the view expressed by Secretary Einhorn. We need to ratchet up the pressure so that North Korea eventually change their strategic thinking.

Having said this, I would like to emphasise the role of the European Union. The backdrop of their policy vis-à-vis North Korea has a combination of two elements: critical and engagement. And now is the time to ratchet up the critical part of this equation. We look forward to stronger measures building on the UN Security Council Resolution 2270, filling up any possible loopholes. And we had certain discussions about that system. This is purely a difference of nature. We made this very clear so far. And we do not want to have any disagreement with our neighbours, but this is a decision that we really need to make to safeguard the lives and safety of our people. Thank you, Mr Chair.

Alexander Vorontsov, Adviser, Center for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS); Head, Department for Korean and Mongolian Studies, Institute of the Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences

From my point of view, yes, I said that I visit every year. I think that during the last 15 or 16 years, they have steady gradual improvement of their economic situation. In the last few years, by the way, under Kim Jong-un, this positive development accelerated. One of the reasons I mentioned this, of course, is that economic reform has become more decisive. For example, in May 2015 we visited North Korea and there was a lack of water. They told us there was a long-term interruption of the water supply in the hotel, explaining that it was a result of the bigger lack of water due to insufficient snow during the winter. Everybody expected that the harvest in the autumn would subsequently be very poor, but this did not happen. The harvest was not as bad as expected. We asked why the harvest was possible, avoiding the bad result that was expected. They told us that it was because for the peasants there was a real incentive to have 40-50% of harvest remain in their own disposal. They tried to find water everywhere it was possible and to bring this water to the [inaudible] and they succeeded. That was one of the results.

Some people inside South Korea are saying that nuclear weapons are cheaper than conventional weapons, and when they succeeded with visible and understandable results for themselves in their nuclear programme, they considerably reduced their expenses for the conventional weapons and put additional resources.

So, of course, sanctions affect their economic development, but until now they have succeeded to adjust to sanctions regimes and they have said that living under sanctions during the 40-year period – from the beginning of the Republic’s creation, maybe more than 40 years – they succeeded to find some mechanisms to adjust the sanctions impact. So I cannot predict how much it will continue under the very strong sanctions, but until now, what we can see, they have succeeded to find the opportunity and find some resources for positive economic development. And it has continued for quite a long period of time.

They succeeded to find, finally, their own style of economic reform. For a long time they learned from the experience of China, Vietnam, Russia, other countries’ market-oriented economic reform. It seems to be that just now, they succeeded to adjust it for their peculiarities, for their specific conditions. So once again, I cannot predict what will happen, but it is possible that their positive trend of economic development will continue.

What about more and tougher sanctions? I do not know. It should be defined by the participants of the Security Council. And once again, I repeat, I cannot predict, I do not know, simply, and I cannot know, but all countries have their own interests. China has its own business with North Korea that it is trying to protect. Russia also has its own business with North Korea and is trying to save it. That was the case with resolution 2270, was it not? So they are objective elements that cannot be neglected, and yes, the European Union representatives are doing successful business in North Korea.

Benjamin Hautecouverture, Senior Research Fellow, FRS

Approximately €30 million; ten years before it was €300 million. It has been decreased by 90%. It is nothing.

Alexander Vorontsov, Adviser, Center for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS); Head, Department for Korean and Mongolian Studies, Institute of the Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences

But North Korea has succeeded in producing excellent goat cheese, and definitely some European guy helped them do it, despite sanctions and isolation. We do remember that during the period of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun’s presidency in South Korea, South Korea was the main trade partner of North Korea. About $6 billion dollars. And South Korea invested considerable amount of money in North Korea. As I know, some economic specialists in South Korea hoped that this would become some kind of linkage or some kind of leverage over North Korea. Just now, inter-Korean trade is zero, no investments, no contact. But North Korea demonstrated that they can live without South Korea’s assistance, they can live and develop themselves. So when we speak about sanctions, yes, in Iran’s case it has worked. But in North Korea there are more peculiarities. Thank you.

Duyeon Kim, Non-resident Fellow, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University

On the comment about reunification with a nuclear armed North Korea, a thought of mine is that I cannot see a scenario in which we would use that term one sovereign state with the north having nuclear weapons. We would have to call it something very different – perhaps a two-state situation. So I cannot imagine that scenario at all, with nuclear weapons in the North, practically speaking.

The question about the South Korean scandal that is happening right now. I can go on for hours speaking about this, but as it stands today, my sense is that this scandal has not affected policymakers who work on North Korea and foreign policy. And my sense is that the current plan is to continue with existing approaches and policies. Now, while that is still in place – and my sense is that the chain of command is still in place for that issue – but going forward, even the policymakers themselves do not seem to know what exactly will happen to their chain of command and portfolio, and who is in the control tower should President Park be forced to step down. Now, there are different scenarios about what could happen to her fate, but so far, even with this scandal, we are seeing the administration continue with plans. She has ordered her people to try to, by year’s end, complete the [inaudible], which is the intelligence sharing with Japan. And so we currently can expect the South Korean administration to continue with that deployment. But again, the fate of that depends on what happens if she is forced to step down, if they form a neural cabinet where she may not have the power to exercise foreign policy. We will have to see that.

The other variable here is, again, who is elected as the next South Korean president. Whether those elections occur ahead of schedule, because of this situation, or whether they happen on time in December next year. Because if we see a progressive South Korean president, the progressives would be more inclined to engage in proactive engagement versus principled engagement, which is the current policy for the conservatives.

In terms of what assurances can we give North Korea, well, the simple answer there is security assurances. And they know that. All six parties know what is on the table and they all know what we are dealing with. Now, North Korea is surely concerned – and they do not trust the US – that their fate may be the same as Libya’s. Maybe once they give up their nuclear weapons, perhaps the US might invade them. So in that sense, there would have to be a firm commitment that the US would not – and I cannot imagine a scenario where the US would do this, but there would have to be a commitment that Washington would not invade the north once the north gave up its nuclear programmes.

And just as a side note, in terms of the byungjin dual military and economic development strategic line that they are employing, byungjin has been a decades-old strategic line. It is nothing new. But Kim Jong-un has revived it. Kim Jong-il did not, he focused on the military first, but Kim Jong-un has revived it and he has given his tweak to it. So it is economic and military development, but he has given the tweak of putting in nuclear development in the military track, and Alexander would probably know this better than I, but my interlocutors tell me that they are embarking on the economic development with as much fervour as the nuclear development track. And I hear that they are even moving some of their military personnel to engage in economic development, so that is how fiercely they are trying to achieve both. Now, whether that will be sustainable or not, we are not sure, but again as someone already said, the North is good at adapting to sanctions. And their attitude and their comments clearly make it sound they are saying, ‘Bring it on. Bring on all the sanctions you want, we are still going on our course.’ And so that currently is a dilemma. The sanctions that are in place now and the sanctions that we are envisioning going forward really is to try to convince them to come to the negotiating table and to curb their new nuclear weapons programmes. And we have seen a precedence, we have seen that with BDA back in 2005.

In terms of what Mark mentioned about the EU and South Korean desires for isolation, yes, and we can – they are courting the EU and the EU states to help with the sanctions to help further isolate the north, and this can be understood as their way of trying to build credible pressure and leverage. Now, it may not seem like it on the surface, but the ROK is still firmly committed to diplomacy and engagement, but of course there are lots of preconditions. The north ahs to show signs that it is serous about denuclearisation. But this is the ROK’s way, and they would not want to see holes in the international community’s unified front towards this end, so that is why we will see this. Again, a big variable here is who is going to win the next South Korean presidential election, so that is when we would need to be prepared. Of course Washington would also have to be prepared in coordinating and syncing its coordination with the new South Korean president.

Cheng Xiaohe, Associate Professor, School of International Studies, Renmin University of China

I do not have questions, but I just want to make one observation. The DPRK is a rational actor that always makes wrong calculations.

Benjamin Hautecouverture, Senior Research Fellow, FRS

Very good. Thank you very much. This is very interesting because these are endless discussions. They are endless discussions because the problem with the DPRK is that for some countries, the DPRK is a strategic issue, a card to play. For other countries, it is a security issue, a programme to be contained. And that is, I would say, the core of our problem. Thank you very much for this, and have a good reception. 

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Brussels, 3-4 November 2016

EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference 2016