Hadley plays down threat of North nuclear test

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Hadley plays down threat of North nuclear test


Stephen Hadley and Han Seung-joo

As speculation grows of a possible third nuclear test by North Korea, the former national security adviser to the George W. Bush administration said that the regime will neither cause fear nor earn reward with an additional provocation.


Stephen Hadley, who replaced Condoleezza Rice during Bush’s second term, held an interview with the JoongAng Media Network members, including the JoongAng Ilbo, JTBC and the Korea JoongAng Daily in Seoul, where he is attending the annual JoongAng Ilbo-CSIS Forum through today.

Han Seung-joo, the former South Korean foreign minister, was also present and spoke during the interview.

Regarding discussion over bringing back U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea, Hadley said it is not a better option compared to Seoul enhancing its own conventional defense capability.

Hadley also spoke against exaggerating a conflict between China by becoming increasingly assertive in the South and East China seas and the U.S. relocating its military resources to Asia.

Han said that Seoul’s increasing economic relations with Beijing, such as the bilateral free trade agreement, will help enhance the security of the Korean Peninsula.

The JoongAng Ilbo’s editor-at-large Kim Young-hie asked the questions during the interview.

Q. Is denuclearizing North Korea still a priority policy for Washington?

Hadley: I think it is.

How do you achieve that? North Korea is prone to turn a deaf ear to international norms and doesn’t abide by global principles. They would rather launch a satellite. They may conduct their third nuclear weapon test. How do we get this denuclearization done?

Hadley: This is a very difficult regime. It’s one that has failed to provide a good economic life to its people. It oppresses its people. Over the Clinton and Bush administrations, we tried the negotiating track. We participated in the six-party talks, and while they resolved a commitment for North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons, we have been unable to get North Korea to implement that commitment. It’s a particularly difficult time now, because there are going through succession from Kim Jong-il to Kim Jong-un. It’s going to take some time for them to do. I think what has been useful in the last five years or so is that we have tried all of us together to send a message to North Korea that their efforts at intimidation through missile tests and nuclear weapon tests will not work. We are neither going to be intimidated by them nor will we rush to try to bribe them or reward them for their bad behavior.

George W. Bush once floated the idea of signing a peace treaty among two Koreas, the U.S. and China. And North Korea is craving a peace treaty and normalized relations with the U.S. What do you think about resurrecting this idea of a peace treaty as a key effort for denuclearization on the peninsula?

Hadley: That proposal was in contest of the September 2005 agreement which would have led to denuclearization, restoration of relations and ultimately a peace arrangement. That is, I think, a fine idea in that context. The problem is getting back to a conversation with the North Korean regime, which suggested that is feasible, and I think probably we will have to wait until there is some clarity and stability in the transition that is underway in North Korea, so we know we are dealing with a government that speaks for the whole system, and can enforce what it decides. We just had a situation where the United States and North Korea reached an agreement on humanitarian assistance for no nuclear test and no missile test and then two weeks later there was a missile test. And that suggests the North Korean government is not fully in control of itself.

There are arguments in Korea among politicians and some academic pundits for the United States to redeploy tactical nuclear missiles to Korea. Is that acceptable to public opinion, to the administration to the congress of the United States?

Hadley: It is a hard issue. I think, though, what is more important is for South Korea to make clear in a measured and responsible way that it’s improving its conventional defenses. It shows that it is something that South Korea is doing itself to safeguard its sovereignty rather than just simply bringing in help from the outside in terms of the United States.

South Korea, a strong ally of the U.S., also needs China’s huge market. How do we reconcile this? Is this a dilemma for us?

Han: First of all, the relationship between China and the United States is not necessarily a zero-sum game relationship. There is a lot of positive sum aspect to it. I think it is a good thing that we have a free trade agreement with the U.S. and it is a very good thing that China is very eager to conclude a free trade agreement with Korea. It’s not only for economic reasons. I think certainly it is for political, diplomatic and security reasons. And ultimately, it will help make China see that the unification of Koreas under South Korean leadership is not necessarily against their interest.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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