KBS World Radio 2019 New Year Special Roundtable
Recording time: 11:00 a.m. on Fri., Jan 4th (KST)
Recording venue: KBS main HQ RS-13
Broadcast time: 19:10 p.m. on Fri., Jan 4th (KST)
Producer: Kim Bum-soo, Hong Suh-ryung / Editor: Daum Daria Kim
Host: Kim Bum-soo
Amb. Han Sung-joo (Former S. Korean Foreign Minister/Ambassador to the U.S.)
Amb. Choi Young-jin (Former S. Korean Vice Foreign Minister/Ambassador to the UN)
Amb. Robert Gallucci (Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs)
Dr. Bruce Bennett – Senior researcher, RAND Corporation
안녕하십니까, Thank you for tuning into KBS world radio New Year Special Roundtable. Well, last year was a turning point in inter-Korean relations and denuclearization of North Korea. Many events took place: the two Koreas took part in the Pyeongchang winter Olympics together, inter-Korean and US-North Korea summits were held and last month the two Koreas launched a symbolic project to relink severed roads and railways across the border.
Now looking ahead, 2019 may go down as another monumental year on the Korean peninsula as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in his new year's speech, renewed his commitment to complete denuclearization and express his willingness to meet US president Donald Trump for a second time.
But there are still many unanswered questions and the future remains far from certain. To help answer some of these questions and explore one of the most pressing foreign policies to win the world we're now joined by a highly esteemed panel of experts. Let's now begin KBS World service’s New Year Special Roundtable.
Joining us in our studio in Seoul, former south Korean foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S. Dr. Han Sung-joo and former South Korean vice foreign minister ambassador Choi Young-jin. He also served as Seoul's ambassador to the United Nations. Thank you gentlemen for coming and joining us on the phone from the U. S., former US Assistant Secretary of State Ambassador Robert Gallucci is now a professor of diplomacy at Georgetown University. Senior researcher at the RAND Corporation Dr. Bruce Bennett is with us. Thank you gentlemen for joining us, and happy new year to everyone.
Happy new year to you.
Thank you and I am Kim Bum-soo, hosting this round table as the chief editor of KBS world English service. It is my honor to speak to you today and let's get it started.
Q: Well, we would like to start, to first hear from our panelist what they think about the current status of North Korean nuclear issue. I would like to start with you doctor Han and doctor Gallucci. First with you, Dr. Han, in the 90s you and your counterparts resolved the so-called “first north Korean nuclear crisis.” With your experience dealing with the north and collaborating with the relevant parties, where are we standing right now in terms of (a) containing the immediate nuclear threat, and (b) in terms of the eventual aim of denuclearizing North Korea?
A: I think we are at an uphill situation as far as North Korean nuclear threat is concerned. North Korea has a crafty leader Kim Jong-un who talks about denuclearization, but who is trying to legitimize his nuclear weapons. We have US president Donald Trump who doesn't seem to be very strategically-minded or very thoughtful. He seems to place a higher priority on politics over policies. North Korea is continuing to develop and build up nuclear bombs and missiles. We don't know what kind of a deal Trump has in mind with Kim Jong-un.
Q: Okay. Ambassador Gallucci, along with Dr. Han, you are one of the few people who derived the Geneva agreed framework with North Korea in 1994. You were the chief US negotiator. So doctor Gallucci, what’s your evaluation of the overall North Korea situation and are there any issues left unattended by Seoul and Washington as they move towards denuclearization so far?
A: Two questions there; the first is sort of where are we now. And it seems to me that, if we can believe what the press reports, is actually what's happening between the DPRK and USA, then we are at a stalemate. The US position appears to be that we, the U.S., will provide no rewards for North Korea's tentative moves until they actually denuclearize themselves as we define that process, which is really to give up nuclear weapons without material, capability to produce, along with ballistic missiles. And it's going to be no reciprocity on our side until that is completed. That is, as I understand it, the declared US position.
Not surprisingly, the North Korean position is that reciprocity is essential and that sanctions relief and steps to move in the direction of normalization are necessary on the US side, if the north is going to make any more move as they see it in the direction of the denuclearization. So, as I said, I don't know whether these are real positions, particularly in a part of the United States, but that seems to be where we are. And I don't see in the Chairman Kim's New Year’s message anything but the expectation that the US is going to have to change position if there is going to be progress.
As to the denuclearization question, it gets another matter of what's really hard to know. It's hard to know what the North Koreans really mean by denuclearization. They may mean something as simple as a freeze in which they stop where they are with tens of nuclear weapons and maybe at thermonuclear level and ballistic missiles with a range that can reach the continental United States, but maybe no more production. Maybe that's what they mean. Or maybe they mean more than that. Or they could possibly mean what the United States means, which is really to have a situation in which is verification of the dismantlement of the capability of North Korea that produces nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles of extended range. What we don't know here far exceeds what we do know. And the issue though seems, in terms of movement, the requirement for reciprocity.
Q: Apparently, some critics say that Kim Jong-un has now moved from research and development on to mass production of nuclear weapons. Let's now focus on the New Year-end first. Why don't we try to assess the situation from North Korea's point of view? Dr. Bennett, what do you sense from Kim Jong-un’s New Year's speech: Is Kim recommitting himself to denuclearization?
A: Well, key in the New Year’s speech, Kim did say that he promised not to produce any more nuclear weapons. As Ambassador and Ambassador Gallucci have said, he's doing it he is producing more nuclear weapons. If we can believe the media reports, he's increased the production in 2018 and he’s doing it with more dangerous weapons, much larger nuclear weapons, so that his actual destructive potential may have grown 70% in 2018. That's a huge change. So if he’s promising to not produce any nuclear weapons that's excellent, but on the other hand, given his history, talk is cheap and action is really what's required here in order to confirm that he really is saying he's going to not produce anymore and do what he committed to an April 27th when he said it can he'd fully implement all previous agreements including the 92 denuclearization declaration, he's got to be prepared to allow for verification to confirm that indeed he is no longer producing weapons. If he's prepared to do that, I think the U.S. is prepared to reward him. Maybe not in exactly what he wants, but I think from what I hear people are prepared to take action in the US government. But if he's not, if he's not sincere and he's just practicing deception again, then we're in trouble. You know, denuclearization, technically, we got a clear definition of it from the SALT and the START arms negotiations. Yet met reducing the nuclear threats reducing warheads reducing delivery systems, not only is Kim not doing that, he's increasing both. And that's the opposite of denuclearization in terms of where we are today.
OK. A lot of the experts agree with you Dr. Bennett.
Q. They say North Korea could have around one hundred warheads by 2020 if they produce more heads at the current rate and that's almost half the size of the UK has in stock. That now leads to our next question. Ambassador Choi, what should we expect from a second Trump-Kim summit? Do you think another meeting will take place soon? Because Trump has been saying he wants to meet Kim this month or next month. Is it feasible?
A: It depends. But I think we have to analyze the actual situation. Last June, June last year, they met in Singapore. They produced what they wanted. In other words, freeze for freeze. Kim Jong-un promised he will not renew the testing of nuclear weapons, missiles. That is the promise he gave to. Donald Trump gave to Kim Jong-un that there will be no joint military exercise of US and South Korea. So that was a freeze for freeze, suspension for suspension. That is what they wanted. After June last year, there is a complete stalemate between the two because they entered to the phase of actual denuclearization. What Kim Jong-un wants is lifting of sanction by the security council of United Nations, which Donald Trump will have difficulty to give because a lifting of sanctions will make North Korea a Nuclear State, which the U.S. would like to avoid. So lifting of sanctions will not easily to come as North Korea wanted it to be.
On the other hand, Kim Jong-un is forced to start the first step of denuclearization, which Kim Jong-un will have difficulty to make. So there’s a complete stalemate between the two. And the actual second summit meeting depends on breakthrough of this stalemate. If it does not happen, I don’t see how the two leaders will meet and avow that they have no production from the meeting. The reason why Donald Trump keeps saying that he would like to meet Kim Jong-un and keep praising Kim Jong-un is because he got what he wanted. In other words, Donald Trump wants to protect the North America from North Korea's attack. In other words, there will be no further missile tests or nuclear test. North Korea's no ability capability to attack North America. So that’s what Kim Jong-un wants, and Donald Trump wants to assure that I have what I wanted and based on that, he wanted to have a second meeting but actual meeting will depend on the breakthrough of the stalemate between the two entities.
Q: It seems like both the Trump administration and the North Korean regime are tough negotiators. And in the meantime they're not they're probably not the best at keeping their promises: the US scraped the Iran nuclear deal, the North broke promises of the Geneva agreed framework and the six party talks collapsed. So it seems each side taking incremental steps would be difficult this year as well. Ambassador Han so I'd like to know what should we expect from a second Trump-Kim summit and what’s your predictions for president Trump's North Korea policy in 2019?
A: Kim Jong-un obviously thinks it’s easier and more useful to deal with President Trump in a face-to-face meeting. The Singapore meeting last year showed that Kim can persuade, outsmart and manipulate his counterpart. All Kim has to do is to give Mr. Trump something that is not quite substantive, and whatever it is, President Trump will claim it to be a great catch and big progress.
Q: Dr. Bennett, what do you think US-North Korea relations will look like in the coming year? What will be the major roadblocks in dealing with North Korea in the year ahead?
A: Well I think there are a couple of possibilities. One possibility is: Kim Jong-un decides to fully apply his promise not to produce nuclear weapons. He goes into a nuclear weapon production freeze and maybe even decides to surrender a few nuclear weapons to do real denuclearization. If he does that I think that you'll have pretty good relations between the US and North Korea. Well, the U. S. is not promised any specific rewards for taking such actions. My sense is that the US is prepared to reward that kind of behavior; maybe not in the sanctions relief but in other ways. The alternative is, if Kim is not prepared to take those kinds of actions on denuclearization, it won’t cost him very much because he's not really giving up any of his existing capability or any significant part of it. But if he refuses to do that then I think we have a very rocky period and I think the US will try to increase sanctions and increase pressure on the regime and use what we really haven't used very much in the past, which is information operations against the North Korean regime.
Q: Kim Jong-un during his speech said that ending the Korean War should be discussed at multilateral talks, apparently involving China. And this came as Washington and Beijing are going through a trade war, Ambassador Gallucci, how does China come into the equation?
A: Two important ways. First, I think the impact of sanctions on the North really depends upon how Beijing decides to implement sanctions. And they can either make it more or less painful for the DPRK and thus make sanctions more or less of a leaver, increasing or decreasing the leverage that the US and the international community gets from applying sanctions to the North and impacting their economy. So first I think we look to the Chinese to be on board with sanctions in order to move the North to a more useful negotiating posture. Second, the question is, I think, the extent to which the North will carry “Chinese order” in a sense as it moves, if it does, to vary its steps in the process of normalization. In other words, we have been hearing that the North is more or less interested in the US reducing its profile in Northeast Asia, particularly its military and naval profile that is looking for the US to move major assets maybe reduce troop presence, do other things which might be in North Korea’s interest but really might most importantly be in China’s interest. And there’s another view that’s been around for quite some time actually since the 90s that the North really isn’t that interested in having the United States withdraw and that it finds the US something of a balancer against an ally, Beijing, which is sort of an overwhelming presence for North Korea.
So this is a matter of geo-strategy, it’s a matter of how the North seeks to move its relations with the United States, if serious negotiations ever get to the point of important substantive steps in normalization, but if it does get to that point, I expect China will be present, China will be pressing North to take steps which are in Chinese interests as it sees it in northeast Asia and that will be important to a process of resolving the issues between the DPRK and the USA.
Q: Sure. Now ambassador Choi, what should we expect from a potential visit to South Korea by Kim Jong-un in 2019? Kim, during his new year's speech, discussed reopening the Gaesong industrial complex and resuming the South Korean tours to the North’s mountain Geumgang. It looks like Kim Jong-un is pressing Seoul to find the breakthrough for his regime to ride out the sanctions.
A: On this score, Seoul should not entertain the vision that it has leverage on economic sanctions. It does not have. So, it’s necessary Seoul to accept this fact. It depends on the U.S. and the United Nations as a whole.
Q: Right. You're suggesting that the South Korea's sanction measures are not very, it's not being effective it has no effect.
A: We don’t have leverage. So, what will happen on the tourism to Mt. Geumgang or the industrial complex in Gaesong, what will take place this year can be assessed like this: there may be preliminary preparation and survey. This can happen. But actual opening of both sites cannot take place because that means the sanctions lifting by United Nations and the United States, which will not happen because it tantamount to making North Korea a nuclear state.
And at the current state, the United States cannot make North Korea a nuclear state like Pakistan or India. So what we can expect is preliminary survey but not actual opening those two sites. The visit of Kim Jong-un to South Korea can be assessed in two aspects: one, on the inter-Korean relationship, which I think there will be positive aspect, if he visits, it will be good for inter-Korean tensions reduction, but second aspect is, what can you expect from sanctions lifting and opening up these two industrial sites and tourism? If that cannot happen, that can act as impediment to his visit. So actual visit may depend on several factors and we have to pay attention to these aspects.
Q: So what you're suggesting is that now it looks like Kim might not even come to the South if the environment is not very conducive for him to restart suspended inter-Korean projects because he can’t go back to Pyongyang once come to the South empty-handed, right? And so much seems to be on depending on if the US and the UN are you going to lift to exempt from some of the sanctions. Ambassador Choi, I have another question for you. Some critics have argued that improvement in inter-Korean ties in 2018 outpaced the progress in nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang. How do you evaluate this notion?
A: The improvement of inter-Korean relationships is good because we have to think about the war of words between Pyongyang and Washington last summer. It was dangerous, even, at the time. And now inter-Korean relationship, improvement of it, made this war of words disappear, and there's a reduction of tension which is good. But beyond that, the actual point, the difference between approach toward North Korea, South Korea and America how to react. There is a discrepancy between the two countries we have to accept it and South Korea in advance and US is reluctant. And on this score, there are many many worries because in terms of inter-Korean military agreement, that can actually improve the relationship further, so it can act as an appeasement. And this is concession on the part of South Korea. It’s too early to tell but we have to think the effect from both sides and on this score, I have to think about how Seoul could react in reaching olive bench to North Korea. On this, I would like to compare the characters of Roh Moo-hyun and President Moon Jae-in. Roh Moo-hyun was very much impulsive and in a way proactive. He might have in a way act to reopen the industrial complex or the industrial complex not only Mt. Geumgang project. But Moon Jae-in is rather consensus-building, he does not I think like Roh Moo-hyun would act in an impulsive way. So on that score, I think there is a limit regarding the discrepancy between Seoul and Washington towards North Korea.
Q: So, it looks like the North could drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington over sanctions an inter-Korean project. Dr. Gallucci, the dilemma is, how do we make sure inter-Korean relations continue to improve absent comparable advancement in U.S.-North Korea relations? It seems there are disagreements between Seoul and Washington in dealing with the North and this could cause some stress to the South Korea-US alliance.
A: Yes it can and I think that it is proper to take account of that. The situation now, which is good in a way, is a manifestation of what we have been talking about for decades. The desire of the North presumably to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington. That is something that is a presumably of interest to Beijing as well as to Pyongyang and the importance therefore of both the leadership in Seoul and the leadership in Washington to take account of the other party’s need. For the United States, that means understanding that there is quite a division, as I think we all know in in public opinion in the Republic of Korea with those having greater enthusiasm for movement to reducing of tensions between North and South, even at some risk to the lines and those who would do nothing to disturb the alliance with the United States as being essential to the security of the Republic of Korea.
And I think the obvious thing to say is that an intelligent policy on the part of United States would take account of the pressures on the leadership, particularly President Moon in this case, and not put in the position where he has to make a choice between alliance relations and reducing tensions in the possibility of war with the North. That's not where we want him to be, and we need channels of communication and we need consultation and we need no surprises. It is not a good idea for example for the President of the United States, if true, to have publicly informed both his own Secretary of Defense and the President of South Korea of his intention to diminish significant military joint operations with the Republic of Korea. That should have been the result of a consultative process. Similarly though, it's important for the Republic of Korea leadership to understand that the relationship with the United States, particularly the nuclear umbrella, particularly extended deterrence, has a lot to do with the US position on denuclearization.
The United States tolerated, if that’s the right word, the acquisition of nuclear weapons by the DPRK and in the middle of 2000 and 2006, the first detonation and then the development of extended range ballistic missiles. But we went into a crisis in 2017 because of the announced intent to produce a weapon that could reach continental United States. And one could say that United States was up until that point prepared to tolerate North Korean nuclear weapons but not if the United States itself became vulnerable. There is another way to look at that, and that is that South Korean security, Japanese security is enhanced by U. S. position on denuclearization that must be generalized. And that the ballistic missile capability of the North must be limited if we're going to maintain an unambiguous credibility to that nuclear umbrella, which we, the United States, extend over both Japan and the Republic of Korea. So all this means that both in Seoul and in Washington, there's got to be sensitivity to the position of the other side is taking, in order that our interests and our allies’ interests are all advanced but the alliances are also protected.
Q: Sure. Dr. Han, it looks like the South Korean President Moon Jae-in has to be under a lot of pressure right now. Do you think President Moon will again mediate between Washington and Pyongyang and will also be able to persuade the US to catch up with the speed of inter-Korean rapprochement?
A: I think South Korea the President Moon Jae-in thinks his so-called “mediating role” as being useful and appreciated, usable to the United States and appreciated by the United States. South Korea will be happy to continue to relay North Korean messages to the United States it will advise Pyongyang regarding how to deal and handle the United States. South Korea wants to expand cooperation with North Korea and Seoul will continue to seek ways of making such cooperation acceptable to the United States. In the meantime, Seoul will push as far as possible under the circumstances on this front.
Q: I also want to hear from you how do we make sure inter-Korean relations continue to improve and manage peace on the Korean peninsula absent comparable advancement in the US-North Korea relations.
A: In fact, I think President Moon and South Korea have been doing just that and there will be some opening here and there, some exceptions regarding the international sanctions regime. And in a way there are arguments made, excuses made of the Olympics for example. Thre favor that South Korea is presumably doing to the United States and connecting it with North Korea and so even without the corresponding advancement in US-North Korean relations, I think South Korea will seek ways of making possibilities and opportunities to expand these relationships.
Q: Dr. Bennett, same question to you. What do you, how do we ensure our inter-Korean relations improve smoothly while the US believes sanctions are needed to keep North Korea at least at the dialogue table?
A: Well I think President Moon has to take a somewhat different approach than what he's taken. From all that we can tell externally, he has yet to go to Kim Jong-un and tell him, “Look. Be serious if you want the Americans to have any credibility in you to believe it all in what you're saying, you need to do something. You need to stop producing nuclear weapons the Americans are going to look at that and say you're lying through your teeth. So President Moon needs to help Chairman Kim understand the American perspective to understand that he has to take some concrete actions that actually lower the threat and not just stop tests or whatever which are truly important but aren’t real denuclearization. The denuclearizations are reducing the number of weapons, and Kim is going in the opposite direction. If he can convince Kim to demonstrate that kind of sincerity, which Kim promised in part in his new year's address, then I think the United States will start reciprocating and start taking positive actions and then we will make progress. But otherwise I think we're stuck in this freeze that we're in right now, because quite truthfully, almost any of the American experts I've heard think that Kim is not being terribly sincere and he’s really not going to give up its nuclear weapons. Maybe not even give up part of them. And that leaves the US no basis for negotiation because for the U. S., reducing the nuclear threat is the key in the relationship. That's the reason why president Trump agreed to meet in a summit meeting with Kim Jong-un and Kim Jong-un knew that. He promised to negotiate the reduction in nuclear forces and didn't do that really in June and sooner or later president trump is going to push him on that.
Q: Dr. Bennett, what do you think is the worst case scenario in 2019? For example if the US does not lift any of the sanctions and if American satellites continue to capture images of North Korean nuclear and missile facilities still being active and what do you think would be the worst case scenario that we can expect in 2019?
A: Well I think the worst case would be some kind of military action by the U. S. but I don't find that very credible. I don't think that's at all probably could happen but I think that's a low probability. I think the more likely action is that the United States starts turning. Kim Jong-un has been using psychological operations against South Korea against the U. S. very heavily. If the US were suddenly to move into that direction Kim I think would be very upset that the U. S. starts pointing out that North Korea lies about the start (…) The north Koreans who were invaded they were the ones invading start pointing out other facts that are different from the North Korean perspective that will upset Kim because that will penetrate to his, through to his people. He's already taking every effort he can to stop South Korean soap operas from influencing the perspective of his people, South Korean popular music. Real information about what's really going on in the world is very dangerous to Kim and if the US takes that kind of approach it's going to be problematic for him.
Q: Ambassador Gallucci, I would like to ask you the same question. What could be the worst case scenario this year and what should we do to prevent that happening?
A: The worst cast is that we end up back in 2017. We had a year I think which many of us thought we were quite close to the use of military force. North Korean leader made quite clear that his objective was to have a thermonuclear deliverable on U. S. soil by inter-continental ballistic missile and the American President made it quite clear that that was not going to happen. And as the north tested both advanced design nuclear weapons probably to the thermonuclear scale and missiles which at range rather than altitude would reach the United States, I think the question was on the table for many of us, at least as analysts looking at this whether the United States would act to interdict the further development of this capability. And then we came on to 2018 rather aggressive diplomacy by president Moon, which turned out to be quite successful, I think, in defusing the urgency of the situation. It hasn't changed the situation though, so the worst case it seems to me is that, we end up back on that escalator that we were on in 2017 and I hope Dr. Bennett is correct that it's unlikely that we’ll end up with the exercise of military force. But I think if we don’t defuse the situation and if we don’t move away from stalemate, if we fail in fact to get some substantive moves out of the North for which the United States can respond with some actions whether it be sanctions relief or moves towards normalization, in other words, some process of negotiation and continued engagement in which the substance involved, not just declarations, then I think it’s going to be very dangerous year and I would say that you know, one way to look at this is if there is a use of military forces then someone is going to say, “Well I'm shocked and surprised. How did this happen?” I don't think so. I think we can all see how easily this can happen. And it really behooves those involved in this to look for ways to make substantive progress.
Q: So Ambassador Gallucci, to make the current nuclear negotiations run more smoothly, during your previous appearance on our show you suggested that North Korea should be recognized as a “recessed nuclear state,” right? Would you care to elaborate on this view one more time?
A: I'm actually enthusiastic about elaborating on that view because I believe it may have been misconstrued. By “recessed nuclear state” I mean that, and this phrase is not mine. It’s been used by others, a country that is on the threshold of being able to deploy nuclear weapons. And what I'm really saying here is that we should be realistic about what's possible. North Korea is a state with nuclear weapons. We might not want to call it a nuclear weapon state in the jury terms because we reserve that for the five regional states under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But, North Korea has nuclear weapons and if they truly denuclearize, truly by a U. S. definition so then in the verifiable way they give up all their capability to produce fissile material, to produce nuclear weapons to give up that the fissile they have in the nuclear weapons they have and they do the same with respect to extended range ballistic missiles, then that will be wonderful and exactly what we want. But at the end of the day, no matter how good our verification, if there is a baseball of fissile material someplace in North Korea that's enough plutonium in the volume in order to make a weapon roughly the size of the one that destroyed Nagasaki. So we need to realize that we cannot as a matter of to the level of being certain that there is no fissile material left in North Korea no matter how good our verification is.
Second, North Korea has built nuclear weapons, advanced nuclear weapons and that understanding in capability to do that cannot be undone, in all the language about getting to a place where the North Korean capability is irreversibly destroyed is, in a technical sense, nonsense. The people who will be there can do again what they did before we need to understand that. And we should not try to delude our parliaments are congress or anyone else about what's possible here. We should do everything that physically possible to get North Korea to a position where they can re-enter the nuclear nonproliferation treaty honestly and sincerely and have no nuclear weapons capability, and we should go beyond that and insist that they had no fissile material production capability. No reprocessing and no enrichment. So, a “recessed nuclear state” right now I would say Japan. And this has been used in a recess nuclear weapons state in the sense that it is a very sophisticated state with a lot of fissile material it would be a very short amount of time from a political decision to acquire nuclear weapons for Japan to have nuclear weapons. The same will always be true of North Korea. Once it denuclearizes it could go back. We need to understand that.
Q: Dr Gallucci, correct me if I'm wrong. What you're suggesting is that the bar of the CVID or FFVD has been set so high and I guess you're saying that we should be more realistic in a way that we will pursue denuclearization but maybe the notion of a irreversible denuclearization should be reconsidered, Dr. Gallucci?
I think the word “irreversible” should never have been used. You can’t dis-invent this technology. So I am an enthusiast for very rigorous inspections. And I had the experience of doing inspections in Iraq after the first Gulf War and I know what a rigorous inspection regime looks like. And I would like one to be affixed to any process of denuclearizing North Korea so that we do everything that physically possible to make sure that a nuclear weapons capability does not exist there anymore. But I say again, we should not delude ourselves or our political leaders or our populations about what's possible in a given period of time. The Iranian case, the standard was time to weapon. How long would it take a country from a political decision to acquire nuclear weapons to actually get them, that's a technical question. And the same technical question could be asked of North Korea. And all I'm saying is that having produced nuclear weapons and having produced fissile material production capability, they can do it again. We should understand that but that does not and should not stop us from pursuing is very rigorous inspection regime connected with the denuclearization process.
Q: Now Ambassador Han, would you like to respond to Mr. Gallucci's proposal? What's your advice for the US and South Korean governments in dealing with North Korea this year as well?
A: Well I think Mr. Gallucci’s thoughts are quite reasonable. The only caveat I would use is that that does mean that we will give up the idea of complete denuclearization of North Korea. Eventually, it may take a long time but we should maintain that as a goal. The real question is whatever objective we seek, whether to freeze at the current level or just discourage further production and development of nuclear weapons. The real question is how to actually get there. It requires more than vague agreements at the summit level. They need more than simple wishful statements or political trophies. They need to specify concrete steps and timeline.
A: Looking back, 2017 was not a good year for Korea and Northeast Asia. There were wars of words and the Korean peninsula and the United States were threatened, in a way, by North Korea. And there is a retaliatory threat from America on North Korea, very bad year. Compared to this, 2018 was not bad at all. At least North Korea tried to suspend their new test and missile and nuclear weapons, which is good. And protecting North America, Donald Trump promised a suspension of joint military exercise. In 2019, we have to keep where we achieved. We have to keep the reduction of tension on North Korea. And we have to have patience. In other words, we have to accept the difference between America and North Korea regarding the denuclearization. In other words, we may remain a prisoner of our concept. We have to accept it. To my mind, North Korea will not accept American approach in terms of CVID, complete verifiable, irreversible dismantlement. These kinds of deductive approach, North could not accept. The same with the FFVD, Final Fully Verifiable Denuclearization. Deductive method, North Korea will not accept because it will endanger the security of the regime.
On the other hand, North Korea tends to think that Donald Trump promises something with regard to lifting of sanctions of United Nations, it will not happen, because lifting of sanctions will make North Korea a nuclear state. So both sides, Pyongyang and Washington, have to accept the difference in their concepts. And it will take time to make a compromise between the two. And in our mind, we have to keep our eyes in the past. We gained in 2018 and take stock where we are and relax for the moment and wait to see. On the other hand, Seoul, we can see there is a urgency in Seoul’s approach to North Korea and denuclearization. And the war, which will not happen, last year it did not happen. It is not going to happen this year. So such an urgent desire to resolve the issue right away, this must be relaxed in 2019 and they have to think about management of the situation rather than resolution.
Q: Okay Dr. Bennett, same question. How would you advise negotiators in Seoul and Washington?
A: I think the key is that if I'm right that in 2018 it looks like North Korea increase the destructive potential of its nuclear forces by about 70%. I would say that's totally unacceptable that Kim Jong-un created by his peace initiative an environment where he could actually continue building nuclear weapons without being put under such substantial pressure beyond the existing sanctions. So I think at this stage we have to somehow convince him that it's time to take action. It's time to stop his production as a very first step: real freeze for freeze isn't just the trade-off of exercises for missile tests and nuclear tests. A real freeze for freeze would be let's stop the production of nuclear weapons. That gets us to a plateau where we certainly aren't anywhere close to going to zero, but at least we're not having him build the capability that would allow him to go to war at some point in time if he feels desperate. So first step would be getting him to stop and I think that is where President Moon and President Trump need to impress upon him. He's lost the credibility of most American experts in most American people. By taking the action of continuing to build weapons, people aren't believing what he said. His words of lost meaning and he's got to act to demonstrate that he's sincere. He doesn't have to give up a lot, he has to do something, though, for the Americans to credibly believe him and that's the threshold I think we need to get Kim across. We can go beyond that, further. I totally agree with my colleagues that this will never be irreversible. Ambassador Gallucci is exactly right. We have to be prepared to identify permanent incentives for North Korea to stop them from wanting to broadly develop nuclear weapons even if they go to zero or some small number. Though ideally, they could go to a much more number than where they currently are and have all of the deterrent capability that they want. So I think that’s the kind of message that we need to be delivering to Kim Jong-un.
Q: Okay this is going to be our last question today. Ambassador Han, what does the road ahead look like? If we meet again same time next year, how much progress do you think Seoul, Washington and Pyongyang will have made?
A: It is almost impossible to draw up a road map for long term or short term. There is or there can be no crystal ball. The real rob in this process is President Trump. Mr Trump's political predicament is likely to become more desperate as months go by. He will try to make a deal with North Korea which he can claim as a great achievement. If I have the prognosis, if I have to make one, it is possible that some piecemeal steps or partial deals can be made by the two sides. A sweeping deal is neither possible nor likely. North Korea always insists on reciprocal measures, step by step, word to word, action to action as our colleague Bob Gallucci is well aware. North Korea may take some steps toward denuclearization. The United States may take partial measures in economy, security and peace regime. South Korea will use it as an opportunity to take larger steps toward cooperation with North Korea.
Host : Well, I would love to extend this discussion for another hour but we are running out of time and we have to wrap up to show. I'd like to thank Dr. Han Sung-joo and Ambassador Choi Young-jin in our studio in Seoul right now and Dr. Gallucci and Dr. Bennett, thank you very much for joining us on the phone from the US.
And as the situation continues to evolve, we look forward to hearing your insights again in the future. We're closing KBS World Radio’s special: New Year Round Table. Career 24 will be back on Monday. My name Bum-soo Kim, 감사합니다. Thank you.