Starr Forum: North Korea

Starr Forum: North Korea


JOHN TIRMAN: I’m John
Tirman from the Center for International
Studies, and welcome on behalf of the Center and
the Security Studies Program. Before we begin, I want to and
will announce upcoming events. A couple of particular
interest, one is the Starr Forum on Syria. We’re having the last
US representative– sorry, the last US
Ambassador, Robert Ford, and a National Security
Adviser on the Middle East, Steven Simon, when he was in the
Obama Administration discussing Syria. And I think they
don’t agree on Syria. So it should be interesting. It’s on Thursday, October 19th,
at 4:30, in Building Three, Room 270. That’s the 19th of October. We also have what we call
a Dissident Speaker Series, a film, Nemtsov, about a Russian
dissident who was assassinated. And the filmmaker,
Vladimir Kara-Murza, will be here to speak. That’s on October 25th, in
Building Six, Room 120, at 4:30 in the afternoon. And then finally, a
Starr Forum featuring Richard Clarke, the former– I don’t know what– was he
referred to Terrorism Czar. I’m not quite sure, that
doesn’t sound quite right. But he was National Security
Advisor on terrorism in the Clinton and
Bush administrations, and an MIT grad, will
be here with our own Joel Brenner, who is a former
Head of Counterintelligence for the National
Security Directorate. And that is on
Wednesday, November 1st, 4:30, Building 10, Room 250– 10-250 on the 1st of November. So today we have a familiar
cast, familiar to us, all MIT professors,
to discuss Korea. And they will all go about 15
minutes each approximately. And then at the end
of their remarks there will be an
opportunity to ask questions from these two microphones. So at the end of the
remarks, please line up at those microphones, and
we’ll have time for discussion. The three are– and I’ll
just briefly introduce them, because they’re easy
to find and figure out what they’re up to today. But they’re all in the
Security Studies Program in the Department of
Political Science. They are Associate
Professor Vipin Narang, who will go first. Jim Walsh, who’s a researcher,
Senior Research Associate in the Security Studies Program. And Taylor Fravel, who
is Associate Professor in Political Science and
Acting Director of the Center for International Studies. So first, please
welcome Vipin Narang. VIPIN NARANG: Thanks John,
thanks everybody for coming. Is this– can everyone hear me? I thought what I’d do is set
the stage by talking about what was a very exciting
and disturbing summer in the North Korean
nuclear program. I’m going to walk
through basically why this summer was so
significant from North Korea’s nuclear development program
and their nuclear strategy. I’m going to say, we’ll save
the tweets and the bluster for question and answer. I don’t want to focus on– it’s too easy to focus on
President Trump’s tweets over the weekends. But you know, it’s
a weekly affair, between President Trump
and Kim, it’s been a busy summer on North Korea. So I’ll walk through the
capabilities and the strategy, the nuclear strategy that
North Korea has been signaling for a while, and some
of the achievements that we saw this summer. There’s some bad
news and good news in terms of how to deal with
North Korea going forward. And that should hopefully set
the stage for Jim and Taylor. So North Korea’s
Summer of Hwasong, which is a very bad pun for
those who get it– apparently not, OK. Very quickly, my talk will cover
the three D’s of the summer with DPRK. First point– Damn,
this program is real. They’ve made a lot of progress
in a very short amount of time. An ICBM capability,
going from a fission to thermonuclear device, or a
purported thermonuclear device. We have to believe it’s
a thermonuclear device. The bad news is that
denuclearization is probably now a fantasy. Denuclearization,
either it’s unlikely that Kim is going to willingly
give up his nuclear weapons, and denuclearization by
force is an experiment I don’t think we want to run. And I can talk a
little bit about that. The good news, that I’ll close
with, is deterrence can work. We know how to do and
practice deterrence. And there’s no
evidence as of yet that North Korea wants
anything besides regime insurance, insurance against
invasion and disarmament. And we know how to practice
and exercise deterrence with other states. We did it with China. We did it with the Soviet Union. All the things we
say about Kim now, that he’s crazy,
that we don’t want North Korea to have nuclear
weapons, we said about Mao. And we were able to successfully
establish a deterrent regime with China and the Soviet Union. And there’s no reason it
can’t work with North Korea. So I’ll close with that. So we started the summer with– when the summer started
it was the disco ball. This is an undated picture
of a mock-up of North Korea’s fission device. Now this is a device
they’re trying to signal is on the order of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, yields 15 to 20 kilotons,
a simple fission device. This picture was
released last year, but it’s an undated photo. So we don’t know when
the mock-up was, when the picture was actually taken. But when it was released,
it was North Korea’s attempt to signal that they have a
fission, a compact fission device. And that’s important
because they were trying to tell the
world that they could fit a simple fission device
inside a warhead that could be made a ballistic missile. When you start
seeing the pictures of the re-entry
vehicles, it was very clear they were trying
to signal that they had developed a compact device. And that was really
important because it was designed to signal that
they could deliver this fission device with some of
the missiles they had already
developed and tested. So that’s what we are
in April, May 2017. Then we start seeing a series
of tests of short range systems. This is a multi-rocket
launcher system that North Korea has
developed and tested. They have several
variants of these. There’s the North Korean
designation of the Hwasongs. And the US
Intelligence Community uses the CAN designation. There is a family of MRLSs
that are designated the CAN 19. This is not the CAN 19. But they started
developing and testing more short-range systems. Why? Because they wanted to be able
to hold targets in South Korea at risk, American
forces and bases along the Korean
peninsula, US ship assets. So there was a test of kind
of like a short-range cruise missile that was believed to be
their version of a ship killer. They did a variety
of Scud tests. The Scuds are probably
the most reliable missile in the North Korean inventory. They’re developing maneuverable
warheads for the Scuds, the idea being able
to specifically target US bases in the region. And then we started seeing
solid fuel tests, which suggests an advancing program. And the reason why North
Korea wants to test solid fuel missiles, anyone know? Why would you want to
test solid fuel missiles as opposed to liquid
fuel missiles? AUDIENCE: More maneuverable
and [INAUDIBLE] survive. VIPIN NARANG: Easier–
right, more survivable, more responsive. It takes two to three hours
to fuel liquid fuel missiles. And that generates signatures. Otherwise, you have to
fuel them horizontally in a shed, which is
not the greatest idea. Kim Jong-un smoking next
to a volatile liquid fuel. Clearly, literally
playing with fire. So we started seeing–
this is the Pukkuksong 2, which is the land-based
variant of the– they have a canisterized
SLBM that they’ve tested. They’re working on
another variant. I wouldn’t be surprised if
that test is coming up soon, this fall. But solid fuel systems,
which are hard. Casting solid fuel is not easy. So they’re trying to signal,
and work at the same time as they’re working. And they have these
liquid fuel variants for the short-range systems. They’re trying to develop
land and submarine-based, or ship-based solid fuel
missiles as well, to enhance survivability. It’s a small peninsula. They know we’re watching them. All of this enhances
responsiveness and survivability. This program is for real. Everyone know what this is? AUDIENCE: Hwasong 12. JOHN TIRMAN: 12– there
are two major developments in the intermediate
range and ICBM range class for North Korea’s
missile defense program. This is the Hwasong 12. They were playing around
with the Musudans earlier in the year, and seemed
to have chucked it in favor for the
Hwasong 12, which is liquid fuel, intermediate
range ballistic missile, which can target– what’s the most important
target for the Hwasong 12? AUDIENCE: Guam. JOHN TIRMAN: Guam, because
that’s where Anderson Air Force Base is. And Kim has signaled his
intention and irritation with the B1 bombers
that come out of Guam. He calls them the
air pirates of Guam. And so the Hwasong 12 is really
important to North Korean nuclear strategy because
it puts Guam within range. It’s becoming more reliable. The first stage
of the Hwasong 12 provides the basis
for the Hwason– AUDIENCE: 14. JOHN TIRMAN: –14,
which is the ICBM. The ICBM was tested twice, July
4th, happy Independence Day, and a couple of weeks
later on July 28th. The Hwasong 14 is believed
to be a two-stage system. First stage– and the engines
on the Hwasong 14 and 12 are believed to be
similar, if not the same. We can talk about the
design and maybe the help that they have gotten in
the past on design basis. It’s now believed they can
produce the engines themselves, as well as the fuel
themselves, which means the program is
becoming more diversified and indigenous. They can build the
missiles themselves. They can build the
nuclear weapons and manufacture the nuclear
weapons themselves, which means sanctions make it
very difficult to slow down the program. So the Hwasong 14 is
important because it can start putting the
US homeland at risk. At least– estimating the
range on the Hwasong 14 is difficult because it
depends on the payload. So depending on the weight
of the reentry vehicle, the range is– the upper limit on
the Hwasong 14 range, David Wright, here at
Cambridge, estimated to be somewhere around
10,500 kilometers, which would put at least
Chicago in range with 1,000 kilogram
warhead, a one-ton warhead. If they cannot deliver a
fission or thermonuclear device to the US homeland yet, we have
to assume that they soon will be. From a policy perspective, we
have to assume that they can. We don’t know for sure though. And then came September 3rd, 150
kilotons, universal language, seismic signature 6.2 I think
was the final Richter scale reading on the test. And it’s been notoriously
difficult to estimate the yield of the underground
test because of the geology of the Punggye-ri test site. But we know that
this was a big test. And there are going to
be debates about– we don’t know what they tested. On the day before–
the day of the test, they released this picture of
the mock-up what is clearly signalling– what
they’re trying to signal is a two-stage
thermonuclear device, with a the fission primary
igniting a secondary comprised of fusion fuel. But we don’t know if
this is what they tested. They could have tested a
boosted fission device. That could have tested a
compact thermonuclear device. Maybe they tested a
thermonuclear device that was much bigger. This is designed
to signal that it can fit in the re-entry
vehicle of a ballistic missile. But we don’t know what they
tested on September 3rd. But this is what they want
to signal that they did test. 150 kilotons, 200
kilotons, it could be consistent with a
boosted fission device. It could be consistent with a
two-stage thermonuclear device. So they’ll be
debates about this. And we weren’t able to, at
least in the open source, get radionuclides in the
air after the test to be able to distinguish
between the two. Maybe the intelligence
communities have been able to. But if they don’t have
a two-stage device now, we have to assume that
they will get there. Like most nuclear states,
it takes some time to get there, five to seven
years after you test a fission device. But this is important
because the larger the yield, the less accurate
the ICBM has to be. And this is clearly
for the Hwasong 14. And at 150 kilotons plus– you know, you can
jack up the yield by putting more fusion fuel in– but it really
doesn’t matter where the Hwasong 14 hits in a city. It’s just which half of the
city do you want to lose. So the bigger the
yield, the less accurate the missiles have to be. And this fits and completes
what North Korea has signaled is its nuclear strategy
from earlier this year, in previous years as well. And they sprinted in
the last several months to fill out their entire
nuclear strategy, which I’ve called in my own work
asymmetric escalation. And this looks very much like
NATO’s strategy during the Cold War, Pakistani strategy
now against India. The short-range
missiles are designed to hold targets in the
peninsula, Japan, Okinawa, Guam, which is
out here, at risk. And that’s what the short
and intermediate-range ballistic missiles are. The Hwasong 12 was
really important because it started
putting Guam in reach. The theory of survival
that Kim Jong-un has, the acquired nuclear
weapons to deter an American led invasion, or
a regime change. And the idea is he can’t survive
the conventional onslaught unless he degrades
allied ability to support the conventional
attack against him, which is why being able
Guam at risk is important. Being able to hold
American bases in Japan and South Korea are important. But then the question
is, how do you deter American nuclear retaliation? You’re a smaller force. How do you deter– use nuclear weapons
against Guam? America is going to
annihilate you, right? Well, that’s why the
ICBM is so important. The American deterrence
calculation changes– and these targets are– this
is from the– the map is from the Washington
Post, but it was based on the so-called map
of doom, that was released, that showed targets
on the US homeland after a North
Korean missile test. San Diego, which is important
because of the 7th Fleet. Whiteman Air Force Base,
Nebraska, Washington, DC, and then Barksdale
Air Force Base, these were the targets
that were indicated. But they have also shown
San Francisco in videos. They’ve also shown New York. Haven’t shown Boston yet, but
we go before New York I imagine. We have to assume that the bulk
of the American continental United States, and Hawaii,
are all potentially at risk to at least a fission device,
because it’s probably a lighter warhead and re-entry vehicle. And if not now,
probably someday, the nuclear device as well. So the North Korean
nuclear strategy is we have to degrade the
American ability to sustain the conventional attacks. We have to use nuclear
weapons to generate a pause in the conventional attack. They use a nuclear
weapon and the theory as the world comes
to a screeching halt, and the allies will stop
their attack on Kim Jong-un. And they deter American
nuclear retaliation by being able to hold
American cities at risk. So the ICBM is not designed
to be a first-use weapon, according to this theory. It is to be able to deter the
American nuclear retaliation against it. And so that’s why the ICBM is
so important in North Korean nuclear strategy. And it’s not irrational. I wrote an article in
the Washington Post saying that this is a rational
nuclear strategy because it’s exactly what we had
in the early Cold War. It’s exactly what Pakistan
has against India. It’s not irrational. It’s risky. But it’s not irrational. So the bad news is that given
how far North Korea has come, the estimates on the North
Korean nuclear inventory are upwards of 60
nuclear warheads, according to the Defense
Intelligence Agency. And that means or suggests
that they probably have blended pits and
a growing inventory of fission and potentially
thermonuclear devices. So denuclearization is probably
a fantasy at this point. The reason US nonproliferation
policy has spent so much time trying to stop states
like Iraq and Libya from acquiring
nuclear weapons is because once they
acquire them, it becomes very
difficult for states to convince states
to give them up. There’s only been one
state that’s willingly given up nuclear
weapons over which they had sovereign control. Anyone know which one? AUDIENCE: South Africa. VIPIN NARANG: South Africa. We can talk about
Ukraine, but South Africa is pretty much the only case. And South Africa was different
for a lot of reasons. So at this point, what
incentive does Kim have to give up nuclear weapons? He saw what happened to Gaddafi
and Saddam once they did. So convincing Kim to give
up nuclear weapons willingly seems like that horse
has left the barn. Denuclearization by force
is the other option. And this is what President
Trump has referred to and General Mattis,
at some point also, effectively a counter-force
strike against the North Korean nuclear arsenal. It’s small, but there’s
the intelligence problem. Can you get them all? Do you know how many they
have in the first place? Do you know where
they are in real time? Once you start going
after them, how do you avoid North Korea using
a nuclear weapon in the process? They probably designed
their command and control to account for this
possibility and to deter decapitation and counterforce
strikes against it. So we have to assume,
whether it’s true or not, but we have to assume, unless
you want South Korea, or Japan, or Guam to eat a nuclear
weapon, that they’ve designed their command
control to fail deadly and not fail safe. It would be irrational
for them to do that. Remember, North Korea
has a small arsenal. And new nuclear states
with small arsenals often have very itchy
trigger fingers, because they don’t know
how long their arsenal will survive in a conventional
counterforce attack against it. It’s what’s known
colloquially as they use it or lose it dilemma. North Korea has to use
its nuclear weapons before it loses them if it’s
their only hope of survival. So denuclearization, especially
in this phase, by force, is a very, very
risky proposition. And not experiment I would
suggest we try to run. So that’s the bad news. There is some good news. And then I’ll close. Deterrence can work. We know how to
practice deterrence. We are– the United States
is the most conventionally powerful state in the system. It has the most sophisticated,
and largest, and diverse nuclear arsenal, and responsive
nuclear arsenal in the world. We know how to
practice deterrence against new and emerging
nuclear states and established nuclear states, like the Soviet
Union, Russia, and China. There’s no reason it can’t
work with North Korea. There’s no evidence
that North Korea wants to reunify the
peninsula on its terms yet. North Korea acquired
nuclear weapons to deter an American or
allied attack against it. And the reality is, once a state
acquires a nuclear capability, it’s bought itself
that insurance. But we can still
practice deterrence. There’s the argument,
oh, Kim’s crazy. Nothing he’s done suggests
he’s not means-end rational. Everything he’s done
this summer suggests he’s means-end rational. And we said it about Mao. But we’re able to practice
deterrence with China. It’s not a perfect solution. There are always risks we run. But right now, Kim is actually–
we can talk about some of the clever deterrent
threats that Kim has made over the summer. I think the Guam enveloping
threat was really clever. He was very clearly signaling he
did not like the B1 bomber runs out of Anderson Air Force
Base, because they give him an itchy trigger finger. That’s going to be the– the B1 flights
are, he believes– they’re not nuclear capable,
he believes they are. They would be part of he
believes any potential surprise attack against him. And so when we run up
against the North Korean military airspace
with the B1 bombers, it makes North Korea really,
really itchy and wary of US intentions. And so there was a very
clever deterrent threat that he was trying to issue
with the Guam enveloping threat in August. And he’s done it again. The threat to shoot down B1
bombers or shoot at B1 bombers as they approach
North Korean airspace are very clearly trying
to signal that these irritate and scare North Korea. We, on the other hand, have
not been practicing deterrence particularly well. Because there is
a lot of confusion in the administration. There is not one voice. The advantage that Kim
has is his single voice. He’s not undermined
by his cabinet. Or in this case,
the cabinet is not undermined by the president. But deterrence requires
several features. I learned from the best,
Professor Scott Sagen. Here are the four Cs of deterrence. I didn’t get all of them
here, but capability– there are five. Capability, North Korea
has it, we have it. But clarity, consistency,
coherence, and communication. We have been unclear
about what precisely we are trying to deter
North Korea from doing. Are we trying to deter Kim
from making outlandish threats? Are we trying to deter
them from testing missiles? Are we trying to deter them
from testing nuclear weapons? Are we trying to deter them
from attacking South Korea? It is completely unclear. And at various points, the
president and the cabinet have said various things
that undermine each other. And it isn’t ambiguity. There’s an argument ambiguity
enhances deterrence. That’s true. But the enemy of
deterrence is confusion. And right now, we
have massive confusion among the administration. So we need to
tighten our message and be consistent, and
coherent, and clear about what it is we want. There’s also the issue
of communication. Deterrence requires credibly
communicating a threat, that if you do X I will
do Y. But we have– so Secretary
Tillerson says we have several channels open to
North Korea, which we do. And then at the same
time, President Trump says we shouldn’t be
negotiating with them. You always have to keep
channels of communication open in order to issue– and issue very clear
threats about what it is, and lines about what
it is, you don’t want your adversary doing. And we know how to do that. So deterrence requires
dialogue and communication. And to say we’re not going to
have any communication, just for crisis management
purposes also, to avoid miscalculation
and the risk of war by miscalculation, which is
right now I think probably the biggest risk of
conflict breaking out, we need to have
those channels open. And so we can do this. And we’re not doing a very
good job at the moment. But it doesn’t mean that
we can’t get the message right and a strategy. Secretaries Madison, Tillerson,
outlined a very clear, and I thought smart strategy
in the Wall Street Journal. But if the President isn’t
on board with that strategy, it’s just a proposal. Until the President
gets on board with the strategy of
deterrence and that you can– denuclearization
is off the table, but we can still
practice deterrence, then the cabinet is still,
I think, reaching for– we’re in a state of
confusion until they can convince the President
that this is a viable strategy. So I’ll stop there. And I’ll look for to questions. Now I’ll turn it over to Jim. JIM WALSH: Friends– oh let
me turn on the microphone. I probably don’t need a mic,
at least some people would say. Good afternoon. Thank you for taking time out. It’s the end of the day and
you’re still here to do more. I’m honored to be with my
distinguished colleagues and learn from them every day. And I expect I’ll learn from
you in question and answer. What I’ll be doing is looking
briefly at three things. One, sort of putting this
in a political context or historical context,
just very briefly. I’ll quickly review some
of the options, some that Vipin did not mention. And then, let’s
face it, most of you are here because you want
to address this question, are we going to have a war? Right? Is that not the most important
question that we face? And so I’ll spend a little
bit of time on that. But let’s begin– let’s see. Oh, dear– there we go– or not. Where should I point it. Maybe I should put it– I’m pushing the wrong one. How many of you are here
are from MIT or affiliate. Then you all know the big secret
that the rest of the world doesn’t know, is that
our technology sucks. You know that. So let’s start with some basics. We sort of are leaping into
what are the capabilities and what are the dangers. But we might also ask
ourself the question why is it that North Korea
behaves the way that it does. And maybe if we
understand our adversary, we would be able to
design better policies to deal with it. So let’s take a
history lesson here. People always talk about
North Korea and China, and there’s a lot
of talk about China. But who is North Korea’s
most important, historically speaking, most important ally? It’s Russia. It was Russia that founded
North Korea, not China. And other than the founding
of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the
second most important date in North Korean history is the
collapse of the Soviet Union. In breathtaking speed, they
lost their main economic ally, the one that gave them
aid, that gave them trade. There’s a lot of trade
between North Korea and the CoCom countries
of Eastern Europe. That all goes away. As well as the security
umbrella that the Soviets had supplied to them,
as you had this standoff off during the Cold War between
the US and the Soviet Union. And any time
something sort of rose to the level of
crisis– let’s say, if North Korea
attempts to assassinate a South Korean
president, or shoots down a civilian airliner,
those crises would be tamped down, because
neither superpower wanted to see them escalate to
the point of full blown global nuclear war. Well, that umbrella, in addition
to all the economic foundation for North Korea, goes
away very quickly. And of course,
North Korea quickly descends into famine in
the early and to mid-1990s. And while this is
happening, while you’ve lost your most important
ally, your erstwhile friends are cozying up to your
enemy, your sworn enemy. The Russians recognized
under Yeltsin, the Russians are
signing trade agreements with the South Koreans,
recognizing South Korea. The Chinese are doing the same. So you are sinking like
a rock and your friends are embracing your enemy. And then of course, that only
exacerbates– and by the way, this is a picture I took
when I was in the DPRK. And when I was there,
what they told me– what did the North Koreans tell me? They said, we are a mouse
surrounded by elephants. Japan is a great power. The US is a great power. Russia is a great power. China is a great power. And we are alone. We are alone and we are in it. So while nuclear
weapons would not have been the strategy
I would have advised to them at the time, it’s
not completely irrational, that if you think you’re
alone, that you can’t trust any great power, that
you think the Chinese and the US are
going to cut a deal and leave you to
hang out to dry, then you’re probably going
to look for alternatives. Let’s talk a little
bit about thesis. This is a bit outdated. But it’s CSI’s list of
missile and nuclear tests. And I put it up there because
I think it’s pretty striking, or at least two features
of it are striking. I just finished
talking about how do we situate North Korea in
a regional security context and what are the
problems they face. And so that’s really sort
of a structural explanation for why they behave. But it’s pretty
clear that as you go from one leader, to
the next, to the next, there is big variation here. And basically, with the arrival
of the young Chairman Kim, you see a dramatic increase in
missile and nuclear testing. And so I would say that
leads me to conclude that while the structural
features are important, leadership matters,
personalities matter, Kim matters. And we’ll have to see
if Mr. Trump matters. The other thing that strikes
me about this is this. What the hell is going on there? We got test, test, test, test,
test, test, and then that. That my friends, is
the agreed framework. That was a diplomatic agreement
in which the North Koreans agreed to dismantle
their plutonium reactor, and stop producing
bomb material, and to suspend
long-range missile tests. Not bad, if you ask me, to
get that for eight years. And I wouldn’t mind having a
little bit of that over here. But when people– and we’ll
get to this in a minute– when we talk about diplomacy you
often say, well it’s dismissed, because you can’t talk to them,
or they cheat, or whatever. I will say that we have
actual historical evidence that sometimes nonproliferation
agreements actually advance our security. So let me talk a few
minutes about options. Sanctions– this is America’s
favorite foreign policy tool, bar none. On Capitol Hill, but
everywhere, if you are Russians and you do bad
things, sanctions. If you’re Libya and you
do bad things, sanctions. For every conceivable
issue, that I don’t like you because you’re wearing orange
and I hate orange, sanctions. And I’m here to tell
you that while they are quite attractive for
a variety of reasons, they are not the
answer to our problem. First of all, as the
panel of experts, the UN panel of experts for North
Korea has amply documented, and documents every
year, North Korea is not the priority for us that
it is for some other countries. In some of these
countries, countries with modest infrastructure
or developing countries, really don’t put DPRK
enforcement of sanctions at their number one top
national security priority. And instead, they’re
sort of enforced by some and not enforced by others. In addition, I just think there
are some structural issues here. The US is a very,
very lucky place. We are bordered by two big
oceans and with apologies to Canadians and Mexicans in the
room, two big, friendly, weak neighbors. It’s a great deal. You know what’s not
a great deal, Poland. Poland is not a great
deal, where you’re stuck between Germany and Russia. Tibet, also not a
really great deal. But who comes in number two? I would say it’s North Korea. Because you have a
Stalinist sclerotic system, but you are smack-dab
sharing three provinces, 800 kilometers, with the biggest
growing economy in the world. You don’t have to
do a lot right just to benefit from
sitting next to China. And in a world in which
we have globalization, where production
is decentralized, and there are lines of
manufacturing logistics that go from one place
to another, that’s great if you want to beat sanctions. That’s an awesome,
awesome combination, being next to a really,
really rich growing country in a world of globalization. So I think we face
some structural issues. I also think there’s
a disconnect here. Yes, we can impose costs
on the North Koreans. We can do that, but the
question here is timing. I think they’ve demonstrated, as
that previous chart should have made clear, they
can build missiles and test nuclear weapons
faster than we can impose sanctions that would matter. We pass a sanction,
it worked, great. Well, they’ve already had four
tests since you’ve done that. And so we are losing that race. I don’t think that’s a
race we’re going to win. And I do worry. I worry, and my colleague
at Harvard, John Park, and I have written a study
about North Korea sanctions, where we interviewed North
Korean defectors who worked for state trading companies. These are the
businessmen and women whose job is to beat sanctions. And I worry that we can squeeze,
and we can cut off things, but at the end of the
day in this society, I think Chairman Kim
and the military, they’re going to get the
last gallon of gasoline. And they’re going to get
the last bowl or rice. And the people who are
going to lose it first are those women
and young children, not on the border provinces,
and not in Pyongyang, but who live in the countryside
that my humanitarian relief friends tell me live
in food insecurity. They will be the ones who
will pay the price first. And so I do think there’s
some ethical issues here that one has to struggle with. And then finally,
the North Koreans, the main takeaway from
our studies, the adversary gets a vote. This is an iterative game. The North Koreans,
we impose sanctions, the North Koreans just don’t
sit there and not do anything. They respond, they
do countermeasures. And we keep doing the same
thing over and over again, same song, different
verse, a little louder, and they innovate and get
around our preview sanctions. And so some of the
things they’ve done is, in the old days,
they used to send a North Korean businessperson
or official over across the border for
a day, sign some deals, come back to North Korea. They have now embedded in China. They’ve taken their families. Their children go
to Chinese schools. They’re like any expatriate
business community. They have embedded in China. And more importantly, who’s
doing the procurement? It’s not the North Koreans. It’s the Chinese firms they
pay to do the procurement. So if you’re a European
company with a manufacturing line in China, you
want to sell stuff, and a Chinese client
comes up and says, I want to buy X widgets,
you think you’re selling to a Chinese client. No, two days later, that’s
ending up in Pyongyang. So they have essentially
bought the services of traders who are far more
sophisticated than they did. We found that
actually what happened was, as we imposed sanctions,
the cost of doing business because of risk went up
for the North Koreans. They responded to that
risk by monetizing it. Paid fatter commission
fees, and as a result, drew more sophisticated
Chinese partners. They got better. So I’m not a big believer
that sanctions are going to solve this problem. I’m going to have to
get this to Vipin again. Tech man. You know, maybe I just
have to do it manually. Yeah, let’s talk a minute. And Vipin touched on this, so
I won’t spend too much time on it, preventive war. So I just want to
understand what you’re saying here when you’re
arguing for preventive war. We’re going to attack
a nuclear weapon state. We’re going to attack a country
that possesses nuclear weapons. Normally, that has not
what we have chosen to do. We’ve waged preventive
war, the Israelis have waged preventive
war, other states. But we have tended
to avoid attacking a country that already
has nuclear weapons for obvious reasons. And Vipin says, we don’t know if
we’re going to get everything. And certainly, the North Koreans
know we’re thinking about it. God knows, we talk
enough about it. I’m guessing that they’re
probably preparing for that. And they have thousands
of artillery tubes pointed at Seoul, a city of
20 million people. And let me jump a
little bit and remind you, you heard
Lindsey Graham say, well let’s fight them over here
rather than fighting them here. There are 30,000 US troops
and their families in Seoul, plus thousands more
American civilians. There are 80,000 troops
in Japan, thousands more. We are there. If that war happens, we’re not
fighting it in San Antonio, we’re not fighting
it in Seattle, but we’re fighting
it in Seoul, and we have lots of people at risk,
as well as the 13th largest economy, a treaty ally, a city
of more than 20 million people. So if we go after
them, I’m pretty sure those artillery
tubes, maybe they’re old, maybe they don’t
all work, maybe we can get to them with
counter-battery, but they’re going to drop a
lot of explosives on Seoul. And I do think that there’s
a question of ethics here. A preventive war
is a war of choice. It’s not a war of necessity. You’re deciding, well, I just
don’t like the capabilities that this sovereign
state has, so I’m going to kill a bunch
of people for it. And while international law
permits preemptive attacks if you think an attack
on you is eminent, it’s not so kindly about the
idea of just deciding to up and kill millions of
people because you don’t like the other
country’s capabilities. Let’s talk about diplomacy. I’m old school. I say hold your friends close
and your enemies closer. We should be constantly
talking to them, if only for intel reasons, if
only to get a better bead on what they’re thinking,
and how they’re feeling. But no, we don’t have
diplomatic relations. We don’t talk to
them very often. We think of diplomacy
as a reward. If you’re nice to us
we’ll talk to you. We didn’t have that view
towards the Soviet Union. We had diplomatic
relations with the country that had 20,000 nuclear
weapons aimed at our cities. Why? Because it was in our national
security interest, that’s why. That was the lesson of
the Cuban Missile Crisis. You better damn well
talk to those people who can do you harm. So I’m a proponent of diplomacy. And I think it’s
been successful. It got Otto Wambier
home, and as you know, I think the agreed
framework was a success. And it helps keep our
partners on board. You know the Chinese want us
to– we want the Chinese to do a bunch of things. Well, maybe we
should do some things that they’re interested
in to keep them on board. Now, there are difficulties. It takes two, or four,
or six, depending on what you’re talking about in
the Korean context, to tango. They did cheat on
the agreed framework. We did not keep all
our promises either. So the record there
is not perfect. And it’s a murderous regime. But again, the more murderous,
and the more dangerous, it seems to me, the more
reason to be talking. So the final question that
everyone is interested in– I need to get a
bit of water here– is there going to be a war? This is the dramatic
pause point. I want to start
with the good news. And Vipin pointed this out. No one wants a war, so
why would we get a war? The North Koreans know
they’re going to lose. They will absolutely lose. And it’s the end of their
regime if there’s a war. And if there’s one
thing the Kim’s want, it’s they want to
hold on to power. Certainly, China and
South Korea don’t want a war on their own backyard
with all the implications that has. I think the US
doesn’t want a war. I’m pretty sure about that. Big wars are rare. You know, we don’t fight the
Korean War, and World War I, and World War II every day. Big nasty, ugly, wars,
low probability event. We have someone in the audience
who has spent a lot of time on high consequence,
low probability events. This is one of them. And I would say inadvertent
war, when you get war even though no one wants
war, that’s even more rare than purposive war. So there’s the good news. But of course, you knew that
there was bad news, didn’t you? You knew that was coming. Because I think you can
get inadvertent war, you can get war even when
people don’t want war. As Vipin said, there’s lots
of bluster and bluffing, where people make
threats they don’t mean. So when you want to make
a threat that you do mean, is your adversary actually
going to know that you’re serious about it this time? We have contradictory
signalling, poor lines of communication,
inexperienced leadership, poor understanding
of the adversary. News reports are that
the North Koreans are trying to consult
with Republicans to try to understand Donald Trump. On the one hand,
good luck with that. And I support you on that. But two, that probably
means that they feel like they don’t
understand him, that’s what that
means, if that’s true. And the South Koreans have
an excalatory doctrine. Their military doctrine
is leaning forward. And they have a public
policy of decapitation. Now I’m all in favor, if
you’re a military person, you want options for everything. And yes, you probably want to
have a decapitation option. But you don’t want to put it
in your defense white paper and talk about it a lot, that
we have big, robust plans, we’re going to hit you
in a surprise attack, you, weaker adversary. And I worry about constraints. With Kim, there’s a
higher rate of purging than with his father. And you wonder if there’s
going to be a sort of Saddam before the Kuwait
war thing, where with a lot of purging, who
is it in the room that’s going to tell Chairman
Kim that what he just said is a bad idea? Who’s going to raise
his hand and say, boss, I think you’re wrong? I think that’s a permissive
environment for mistakes. And one might say, based
on some things that have happened in
the administration, for example, having a
speech vetted before the UN and then changing
it the day after, after it’s all been approved,
and inserting lots of language you were warned by the CIA and
your national security advisor not to include, there might
be some issues there too. And of course, the
personalities of the leaders. So those are conditions. Those don’t give
you probabilities, but I would say that
that’s a cause, that’s a whole lot of them
all in one place. But Jim, if Kim knows he’s going
to lose, why would he fight? And I would say
there’s a difference between general deterrence
and crisis stability. If we finally find
ourselves in a crisis, where one or both of the parties think
now that the likelihood of war has increased, they think
something might actually happen, then the
incentives begin to shift. If Kim thinks that an attack
is imminent, he does have, as Vipin has said, I
think, could conceivably believe that he has an
incentive to strike first. He’s overmatched. He knows it. The clock is ticking when he
thinks something has started, maybe they’re coming
after me, I’ve got five minutes, half
an hour to decide, or I might lose my
military assets. So that puts a lot
of time pressure on a guy who already
might be thinking that we’re coming after him. And they can’t fight a
long war, so they really would need to escalate with the
hope of sort of cutting it off before things got
really, really bad. Now, why would Kim think
we would attack him? Because we keep saying
that over and over again. And because South Korea has
a policy of decapitation. And those flights
that Vipin referenced, we had stealthy flights, which
I’m guessing the North Koreans did not see, but read
about in the paper. So what’s their conclusion? We can’t see them. They want to come and hit us. We don’t know when
it’s going to come. There’s a crisis. I hear– there’s a report
that something’s happened, itchy trigger finger. Oh, I went too fast. Again, though, the
fundamentals here are big wars don’t
happen very often, inadvertent wars are
even less likely. At the end of the day, I think
we can take solace that this is still an unlikely event. It’s still unlikely,
because people don’t want to commit suicide. But I would remind you that
improbable events do happen, they just happen less often. And certainly, you could say
that about an election that was held last year. But for those of you who
are from Massachusetts, there is probably a
more salient example, that the Patriots in game
probability of losing the Super Bowl with two
minutes left was 92%. In social science,
that’s considered truth. 92%, and yet they won. So I think a lot of us think,
oh, 90% chance of something isn’t going to happen,
that means it’s impossible. No, it doesn’t. It is possible. It happens one out of 10 times. So the big picture, I’ve
spent most of my career, or good part of my career,
battling threat hypers. People exaggerate threats
saying the US faces all sorts of things. And it’s particularly
the ones that do it out of ideology or
possibly for financial gain. I think in general, we’re
a very safe country. And sometimes our worst
enemy is ourselves. Often our worst
enemy is ourselves as the most powerful
country on the planet. But I am more worried
than I have been before. And I don’t know what
the probability is. I could not assign
a number to it. The Thing about the Patriots
game, we had tons of data. We had film on every
player, film on every game, film on every coach. The betting markets
had a tremendous amount of information. There were huge amounts,
millions of dollars were at stake. People worked this hard and
that was still the outcome. We don’t know anything. And that uncertainty
gnaws at me. And it makes me more nervous. And so I think this– I can think of no
point in my lifetime, maybe since the mid-1990s,
that war with Korea seemed more likely. But of course in
1994, North Korea didn’t have nuclear weapons. So do I think it’s
going to happen? No. Am I worried? Yes. So I’ll stop there. TAYLOR FRAVEL: Unlike
my dear colleagues, I won’t be using
any PowerPoints. There will be no technological
failures before we get started. JIM WALSH: You were smart. TAYLOR FRAVEL: But I am
going to set a timer, because I realize
some of you probably will want to ask questions. I’ll try to be brief. My purpose here today is
to talk about China’s role. And there’s sort
of a fourth option, I guess, that Jim and
Vipin didn’t talk about for dealing with
North Korea, which is, China, you deal with it. Right? That seems to be the
President’s initial reaction, or is probably the
consensus in Washington, that if only the Chinese
would step up and do more than the problem would be solved. So I want to go through three
questions about China’s role. Why is China not doing more? What is it in fact doing? And will it change? So let me start with the first
question, why China’s not doing more, either to
halt the pace of testing, or to achieve denuclearization. I think there are
four main reasons. The first is geostrategic. When China looks out at
the problem in North Korea, it sees it through the geography
of the Korean peninsula. There are three sort
of stylized features. The peninsula could be
reunified under Seoul, and remain allied with
the United States, with US troops on the
peninsula, adjacent to China. It could be unified, but
neutral, and effectively under a Chinese
sphere of influence. Or it could remain in its
current state, which is divided between North and South. Now it’s unlikely that China
would be unified and neutral– sorry, that the
Korea peninsula would be unified and neutral under
a Chinese sphere of influence. I can’t see Seoul or Washington
moving in that direction, which means that China is sort
of stuck between choosing between a divided
peninsula or one that’s united under an
American alliance and umbrella. And so, the main reason I
think why China hasn’t pushed so hard in terms of
sanctions or other pressure that it might apply–
it trades tremendously with North Korea, its
biggest trading partner by far, so it has a
lot of latent leverage that it could
use– is because it doesn’t want to bring about
the collapse of North Korea, and thus create a
unified under Seoul and allied with
the United States. So the status quo is
preferable to the alternative. I think a lot of
it just boils down to that simple calculation. And Kim, I think, knows this. And so he can actually
push China pretty hard. Because he knows,
ultimately, they’re not going to come down
that hard on them. He’s given them so
many opportunities to apply pressure, or to
apply greater pressure, which they have not pursued. The second reason just has
to do with more general fears of instability on the peninsula. This could be
brought about by sort of an internal
collapse of the regime, whether or not that’s the
result of US sanctions or somehow occurs
for other factors. China worries greatly
about the flow of refugees from North Korea into China. Why? Because there are
lots of ethnic Koreans who are Chinese citizens who
reside right across the border. And China is a
multiethnic state, although 92% of the population
roughly is Han Chinese, 8% of the population is not. And most of that 8%
lives in border regions. And Chinese leaders worry
a lot about maintaining the territorial integrity
of this multiethnic state. A massive influx
of Korean refugees into a Korean
dominant area of China would I think create internal
instabilities in China that they would prefer to avoid. And likewise, if the
regime in Pyongyang appeared as it was
collapsing, there would be great uncertainty
in China about what the future would look like. And China might
believe it would have to risk great actions to
maintain its interests. And they would prefer not to
have to make those choices. So keeping North
Korea alive, allowing it to prosper economically,
and to actually consolidate, is in Chinese interest, and
the second main reason why I think they don’t
push as hard as many would like China to push. The third one,
actually has to do with legitimacy, and the
legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party. Because there are only
four other communist led countries in the world. North Korea is one of them. China is trying very hard
to prove some sort of model, by which a Communist Party
can stay in power, even if it sort of tries to
harness market forces. And so the collapse of any
more communist countries in the world would
actually, I think, be of great concern
for China’s leaders as they’re trying to protect
and maintain their own model. So China works hard to keep
the other communist countries alive. And despite all the
territorial disputes that it has with
Vietnam, for example, China ever pushes
Vietnam that hard, because its always trying to
keep in power that faction of the Vietnamese
leadership that wants to maintain good ties
with China for the same reason, because they’re trying to ensure
the survival of the workers party in Vietnam. The second reason has to
do with the Korean War. Jim said, who is North
Korea’s great ally. It was Russia, but who
paid in blood and treasure to keep North Korea alive? It wasn’t Russia. It was China. Hundreds of thousands Chinese
died in the Korean War to keep North Korea
independent and sovereign. Hundreds of thousands of
Chinese were killed or wounded in the Korean War. Ten times the number,
at least 10 times, the number of Americans. So they paid a heavy price
in their own history. And in China’s own
history, victory in the Korean War
over the Americans is something that they
discuss routinely. Now of course, it
wasn’t really a victory, but the fact that they
fought a much stronger power to a stalemate was a victory
of sorts at the time. And so this is very hard
within the highest levels of the Communist Party to
decide that now is the time to abandon the country that
you fought to keep alive and paid a high price for. The fourth reason has to
do with China’s own beliefs about nuclear weapons. I think China believes
that the North Koreans are developing nuclear weapons for
perfectly reasonable reasons. To keep their countries
sovereign and independent and to defend against potential
attacks from the United States. This is exactly the
same reason why China developed nuclear weapons. So they’ve mentioned,
oh, we’ve got lots of experience
deterring China, so therefore we can deter Korea. It’s also true– or the
flipside is also true. China has worked very
hard to be in a position where it can deter the
United States from using nuclear weapons
against China first. And it took China a lot longer
than it’s taking North Korea. But be that as it may, I think
China looks at the situation, and says, yeah, you know,
it’s not bad for North Korea to have nuclear
weapons, given that they want the regime in
North Korea to survive. It probably is an
insurance policy, and one in which they can
see in their own history. So if you look at
why China hasn’t done more since the first test
in 2006, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact
that the Chinese believe the North has perfectly
good reasons for developing nuclear weapons. So a second question,
what is China doing? China does just enough to
appear to be doing something, but not so much
that it will bring about serious political
change in Pyongyang. So it’s their min-max approach. The minimum that they can
do to demonstrate that maximally somehow they’re
actually taking action. But it’s never that much. It’s never what
Washington would like, or others who would like to
tighten pressure on the North would like. China is not going to go so
far as to implement sanctions on its own that are so
widespread and so robust that it would have the
possibility of bringing about the collapse
of the regime, and thus having the
regime in Pyongyang. Think twice about
its nuclear program. So China’s not
going to halt oil. They might tweak the oil now and
again to express displeasure. They might even
reduce it somewhat, but they’re not
going to halt it. If you look at trade patterns
over the last seven years, it’s grown quite
substantially, which I think points to
the limits that China would place economically. Now China’s policy
is for a dual freeze. So this would be a freeze of
the DPRK’s nuclear program in exchange for a freeze
of US ROK exercises. This is a complete effort to
deflect any responsibility away from China on to
the United States, because who would have to
make the first move here? Washington would
have to say that it would no longer continue
exercises with an ally that it’s had for decades. So that’s a nonstarter. What China’s not
doing, for example, is emphasizing the goal
of denuclearization from the September 2005
agreement in the Six Party Talks. Of course, this was before
the first nuclear test, but it is an
agreement that China helped bring about, and is one
goal that many people would like to see is denuclearization
of the Korean peninsula. So China’s really just
focused at a tactical level diplomatically and then the sort
of more general exhortations to pursue a diplomatic approach. But that makes sense,
if you buy my argument as to why they don’t
want to do more for geopolitical reasons,
legitimacy reasons, and so forth. Third question is will
China’s approach change? I think it’s unlikely
to change substantially, but there have been some
very interesting signs in the last couple of
years, and in fact, in the last few months,
that there is certainly a great debate going on
within Beijing among scholars, foreign scholars,
and informed analysts about what kind of
relationship China ought to have with the DPRK. There is no love lost. These two countries really
have no natural affinity for each other. And this goes all the way back
to perhaps the 1930s, when Kim may have been
rolled up with a gang of pro-Japanese guerrillas, or
the Chinese Communist believe were pro-Japanese
guerrillas, and also killed. But even in the Korean
War, Kim’s grandfather did not ask for Chinese
assistance until October 1st, until really it
was way too late. So there’s no love
lost between these two. Now the upcoming 19th
Party Congress in China, this is the National Party
Congress of the Chinese Communist Party,
reinforcing my point earlier about China’s
legitimacy concerns, is going to commence
on the 18th of October. This is an extremely
important event in the Chinese
political calendar. This is when we will
see whether or not Xi Jinping has been able
to consolidate power by who is appointed and who is
not appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee, and how
large a committee will be, and so forth. But this political
process, which reflects a year or two of
negotiations behind the scenes, has induced a lot of caution
in the Chinese system. So there is a chance that once
Xi’s position is more set– and I don’t mean
on October 19th, this would still take
several months to play out. But if you had
stronger, or if you had a consolidated leadership,
or more consolidate leadership in China, you might
see a willingness to entertain greater
action, or perhaps even some kind of tacit cooperation
diplomatically with the United States that has not
yet been pursued. I’m not holding my breath. But it could happen. And conditions
would certainly be more ripe for that to happen
after the 19th Party Congress. And then the debate
that I mentioned, where you have people,
ironically enough, writing in Western media outlets. So one article appeared this
summer in Foreign Affairs by a Chinese scholar named
Zhu Feng, entitled something like North Korea,
China’s Liablity, basically suggesting that
China and the United States ought to collaborate
to figure out how to deal with
North Korea, which would be a huge change
in China’s approach. And then about four
weeks ago, [INAUDIBLE],, another Beijing based
Chinese scholar, published an article in
an Australian blog calling for joint China-US
contingency planning. So these were
remarkable articles. They could not be
published in China. They were published
outside of China, but immediately translated and
re-circulated within China, sparking a great debate. And these two
individuals have faced, as far as I know, no
repercussions for advancing these arguments, that are
certainly on the face, contrary to the preferences
and policies of the government in Beijing. So there is a debate. The last thing, I how that
unfolds, I don’t know. But that’s a sign that
something could change. And then finally, I think, if
you by my assessment that China is quite concerned about the
future of the Korean peninsula, the best hope, if some
sort of diplomatic approach were pursued, or some sort
of joint US-Chinese approach were pursued, would be to
contain real assurances about upholding the division
of the Korean peninsula and securing the
regime in Pyongyang, which I think many Americans
would not want to do. And I don’t think even this
White House would want to do. But I think those are the kinds
of assurances that China would be looking for if it were to
apply more pressure to bring about change. The last point I wanted
to make is that I think, if one thinks, or looks forward
to the evolution of the region over the next five to 10
years, China’s approach is probably backfiring
quite considerably. So two outcomes are
kind of possible. The first would be a tightening
of the US alliance system under the rubric
of missile defense. We’ve already seen this with the
deployment of a Thaad battery to South Korea
earlier this year. And we could certainly see
deployment of similar systems to Japan, or even a
deepening or enhancement of the systems that are in South
Korea, which not only enhance US missile defenses, but are a
way in which the US can greater integrate the alliances
in the region, and integrate them together, and
be in a much stronger position than China wants. Or South Korea and
Japan could decide that they need to have their own
nuclear weapons, which is also what Beijing doesn’t want. So in some ways Beijing’s
reluctance to do more is creating a set of
futures that it is actually harmful to Beijing’s
longer term interest. But that potential
harm does not seem to outweigh the imperatives that
China has identified in keeping the peninsula divided. Thank you. JIM WALSH: So we’re now in the
question and answer period. We have microphones on
either side of the aisles. People are free to
line up behind them. We would encourage one question
per customer, hopefully a question rather than
a lengthy statement. But that’s probably as likely
as Kim giving up his weapons. So– AUDIENCE: Thank you. My name is [INAUDIBLE],, and I’m
a second year master’s student at Fletcher School. So the analysis made
by Professor Narang, from the denuclearization
to the deterrence, I think it’s a perfect
policy goal change, more realistic at this point. Also, it’s in a good standing
with the US vital interests in securing the
survival of its allies. On the other hand, I think
another vital interest of the US is to prevent
the proliferation of nuclear weapons, not
only from North Korea, but also in countries
in East Asia, including South Korea and Japan. And I would argue that in
South Korea, the nuclear fervor of South Korea
going nuclear, it’s getting stronger and stronger. [INAUDIBLE] opposition
party with one third of national assembly
almost officially endorsed that South
Korea should go nuclear. JIM WALSH: Is there
a question here? AUDIENCE: Correct. So the question is, is
the US willing to let South Korea or Japan go
nuclear for the sake of– for protecting– for
continuing its deterrence policy against North Korea? VIPIN NARANG: These
are old problems. We had to deal with this with
West Germany in the 1950s, and France in the
1950s and ’60s. The strategic aim– I mean, there’s a political
aim that Kim Jong-un has the nuclear weapons also,
which is break our alliances. And it’s an old problem,
known as decoupling, which really confronted
Western Europe when the Soviet Union was believed to be able
to hold the US homeland at risk. And de Gaulle famously asked,
would the United States trade Washington DC for Paris. And it was one of
the reasons that motivated France to acquire
nuclear weapons on its own. But Germany was also
seized with this fear. And we went to great
lengths with nuclear sharing and dual key control
to prevent West Germany from going nuclear. And it was the same kind
of raising the temperature that Adenauer did in order
to get those assurances. So this is kind of a game
that the allies play also, which is they raise
the heat to get greater reassurance
from the United States on extended deterrence. So this isn’t an old problem,
and we know how to do it. Now it could be that President
Trump has a more relaxed view of horizontal proliferation. We don’t know. I mean, it would be
a break in US policy to say we are comfortable
with the allies acquiring nuclear weapons. There is a very real
strategic reason why the United States doesn’t
want the allies to acquire nuclear weapons, which
is the US doesn’t want the allies to start a
war that the US has to finish. And having a single finger
on the button, so to speak, is much easier from an alliance
management and nuclear command control perspective. And I think that those
are very strong arguments in favor of continuing
extended deterrence. Extended deterrence is one of
the greatest nonproliferation tools the United States has had. And I don’t see it– Japan has a very
strong hedge already. And it’s South Korea that I
think has a longer way to go. And so we’ll see
how this unfolds. But I think Kim sits there
seeing President Trump tweeting about chorus and South
Korea appeasement, thinking my strategy is working. I’m breaking the
alliances and causing discord between
Seoul and Washington, and Washington and Tokyo. And we have a very odd
alliance structure. As you know, it’s two
bilateral relationships instead of a trilateral relationship. So we’ll have to
figure this out. But we know how to do this also. AUDIENCE: I have a question
about [INAUDIBLE] US-China [INAUDIBLE]. So it’s not working. JIM WALSH: Yeah, can– AUDIENCE: Oh, there
its, OK, great. So I have a question about the
US-China contingency plans. As Professor Fravel
was saying, that under certain circumstances,
such that the US and China can work something,
such that in return, China agrees a unified
Korean peninsula, but is neutral, and
without US military forces? TAYLOR FRAVEL: That might
be China’s aim in offering some sort of coordination. But I’m not sure that the
United States and South Korea would agree. So I think the US concerns, and
even the South Korean concerns, and I think a growing
awareness in China as well, regarding
coordination, simply has to do with what happens
if there is a crisis or an event on the peninsula
that required– that engages the interests of China and the
United States at the same time. So in a regime
collapse scenario, who secures the North Korean
nuclear materials, which are located pretty close
to the border with China, but the US still might be
able to get there faster. What happens if
your forces are in close proximity to each
other from both countries. So it has more to do
with, I would say, operational or
tactical questions, and strategic
questions, as to what the future of the
peninsula should look like. But those tactical and
operational concerns are getting more and
more important every day, especially if you believe that
Kim might be emboldened somehow with his possession
of nuclear weapons to initiate some kind of
conventional provocation that elicits a US and
South Korean response. JIM WALSH: Can I just
briefly add an addendum? So I can understand,
and I support it, that people want the US and
China to work closely together. But as I said in my talk,
this is exactly what North Korea fears and expects. And as we push China,
understandably, to squeeze North Korea, if
that relationship deteriorates, who is the great power
guarantor for an agreement? Who is it that
North Korea trusts when an agreement is signed
to make sure the US follows through on its promises? Now, the more–
you know, China’s in the classic situation of both
trying to reassure and squeeze at the same time. But if that
relationship unravels, why in the world
with North Korea ever agree to anything
with the other parties? It’s the weakest player. AUDIENCE: Should US station
nuclear weapons in North Korea like they do in Germany? VIPIN NARANG: In South Korea? AUDIENCE: In South Korea. VIPIN NARANG: No. There’s no deterrent
reason for it. I mean, we’re the stronger,
conventional power, which is not the case in NATO. So this argument about deploying
tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea, they become
ripe for inadvertent escalation. It’s just more targets on
the ground that could– we have sufficient
standoff capability. We have SSBNs, a
responsive air leg. There’s just no
reason I can conceive of from a deterrent
standpoint as to why that would make sense. But I can think of
a lot of downsides. So I don’t see the argument for
it, other than for reassurance, but there are other
ways to reassure. AUDIENCE: It might signal
to the North Koreans that the US are
really serious about– VIPIN NARANG: I don’t
think the North Koreans are worried about our seriousness. JIM WALSH: I agree. AUDIENCE: Would
it be better for– sorry, I’m [INAUDIBLE]
from [INAUDIBLE].. Would it be better for the
international community to acknowledge North
Korea’s program, and try to limit it
where it is, rather than allowing it to get in
touch with nuclear aspirants, given North Korea’s past
record of nuclear sharing with other states, particularly
leaking information to Iran and [INAUDIBLE]. VIPIN NARANG: I’ve written
this also– giving up on denuclearization does
not mean you give up on non-proliferation. Non-proliferation objectives
can occur, and have. Arms control agreements with
the Soviet Union and China have been reached while
we’re practicing deterrence. I’m just saying, give up on
the dream of denuclearization, but that doesn’t mean you can’t
work on vertical proliferation limits and horizontal
proliferation. Very worried about North Korea– the more sanctions you put on
North Korea, the more incentive it has to sell nuclear
technology and knowledge for hard cash. So we obviously have
interests in preventing North Korean assistance
of nuclear technology and knowledge to
other countries. And we also had
incentives to try to limit the vertical
proliferation of the program also. And we can do that
simultaneously. It’s exactly what we do
with the Soviet Union. And India and Pakistan,
maybe, one day, can also have some discussion
about vertical limits on their programs also. But there are
things that I think North Korea signalled that
we can even talk about now. Even if we’re not talking
about negotiations, there are things that
can be put on the table. B1 flights in exchange for
no more nuclear testing. B1 flights in exchange
for no more ICBM tests. I mean, there’s a lot of
scope for quid pro quos that don’t involve give
up their nuclear weapons, which seems to be our opening
bid, at least publicly, and that’s a nonstarter
for North Korea. JIM WALSH: I would say
that in the policy world, the language here is important. I mean, we had a
Iran nuclear deal, but we never accepted
Iran’s self-described right to enrichment. And I think that we can
negotiate with North Korea and reduce the risk. But I don’t think– and obviously, we
accept the physical fact that they have
nuclear capabilities, but I don’t think we
should welcome them as a nuclear weapon state. I didn’t think we should
have done that with India, and that’s why I was opposed
to US-India nuclear deal. And I don’t think we
should do it in this case. But for some, that might
seem too much parsing. But in the policy world,
that stuff matters. VIPIN NARANG: They can’t legally
be a nuclear weapon state, because the NPT only
identifies five. So they can be a
nuclear weapons power, without being a nuclear
weapons state, which is kind of the language
we used for India. AUDIENCE: Question about US
left of launch strategy– US left of launch
sabotage strategy. There was some talked about
this earlier in the year. It seems to have
not been effective. VIPIN NARANG: Do you see
any evidence it’s working? AUDIENCE: Yeah. Was it ever working, and
if so, why did it stop? VIPIN NARANG: It’s great psy-op. I think– Jim, sorry– JIM WALSH: No, no, please. VIPIN NARANG: It’s great to
have these stories out there. Because it just generates
fear in North Korea that we’re messing with
their supply chain. And there’s just no
evidence it’s working. The missiles that
have been failing are kind of untested,
unreliable, Musudans, which are stitched together. But everything else
seems to be working OK. And we can get into
the supply chain. And they always have
to worry about it. It’s kind of the instead
of doing B1 flights, one possibility is we
just release stories that we flew B1s and scare
them would ghost stories. I mean, all of the
psychological operations are useful, but at
least so far, it’s hard to say that there’s been
any evidence it’s worked. It doesn’t mean
we aren’t trying. It doesn’t mean–
there’s a lot of things we can do to try to enter
ourselves into the supply chain. But it gets back to– the reason why– I don’t know if you guys
have been following– there’s a big debate about
the providence of the engines on the missiles, and
whether North Korea, as front page of
The New York Times story, whether North Korea
could purchase its own UDMH, the liquid fuel, the storable
liquid fuel for the Hwasong 12 and 14. Those are important, because
if we can mess with the supply chains, if they have to
get them from outside, or if they’re dependant
on foreign suppliers, it limits the amount
of supply they have. If they can make it though,
and they’re doing indigenously, they can’t have better
operational security for it. And the limits on how
big the program can grow are much higher then. And we may not be able to
insert these kinds of left of launch measures that
we may be working on. JIM WALSH: We’re
going to continue to follow this
process, but I do want to signal that since we do
have one of the world’s leading scholars of nuclear
issues in the room, if he doesn’t want
to get in line, he can still raise his hand and
we will entertain his question. Yes sir. AUDIENCE: I’m [INAUDIBLE],,
from Northeastern, sophomore. And how [INAUDIBLE] the idea
that a nuclear [INAUDIBLE] on North Korea and a free
pass on humanitarian issues? JIM WALSH: Can you say
that one more time? I know that mic is screwed
up, and you’re bending over. AUDIENCE: How [INAUDIBLE]
the nuclear option with North Korea, and a free
pass on humanitarian issues. JIM WALSH: Yeah,
I’ll take that one. I definitely hear–
well, obviously, it’s a murderous regime that is
one of the worst with respect to the treatment
of its own people, and oversaw a famine
which it bungled. And so this moral
question of how do you deal with evil
when it’s a threat, are you giving them
a pass on that? And I’m sympathetic to that. The humanitarian
consequences of a nuclear war would be far more substantial. I think we need to put
that on the ledger. And I don’t think that
just because we entertain the possibility of
having agreements that reduce the chance of conflict,
that that requires that we’re any less critical
or work any harder on the humanitarian issues. When it comes to humanitarian
relief, I would argue, the sanctions regime
has made helping those women, and children,
and elderly in the burn out cities and in the
hinterlands, more difficult. The Eugene Bell Foundation,
because of national sanctions enacted by North Korea,
was prevented for a while, until it was resolved,
from going in to do tuberculosis work. There’s a bad diseases,
communicable diseases, that could have
outbreaks in North Korea. And so I don’t I don’t see these
things as mutually exclusive. But I get the notion that all
we do is talk about nuclear, and that’s the first
priority, no one ever talks about the other stuff. I hear you, but I
think there’s more– I think it’s not either or. Yes sir. AUDIENCE: I’m [INAUDIBLE]
from Stanford, and I hope you don’t mind
me jumping the queue, but these were advisee of mine. So your thesis advisor,
undergraduate honors advisors may come back. VIPIN NARANG: I’m going
to use this as precedent to come after these guys. AUDIENCE: Like Jim,
I’m worried about this, even though I think this is
unlikely, but war could occur. One thing I would say to
people is if the United States starts evacuating
non-essential personnel, that’s really, when you should
be worried about things. This weekend, there
was an announcement that all American
non-essential personnel should be prepared to evacuate. JIM WALSH: I did not see that. AUDIENCE: Within
hours, it was released that this was false
information, this was not real and the US government
issued something directly to the troops
saying don’t believe this. Who possibly had an
interest to do that? Thoughts? Worries? Why would this have happened? VIPIN NARANG: I wouldn’t
have done this 20 years ago when Scott was my advisor. I somewhat disagree
on evacuation order being a signal, because if it’s
going to be a surprise attack, we can’t issue an
evacuation order, and a surprise attack has
to be the way we do this. And so my concern is
actually that we’re putting American forces and
personnel up on a platter if we start a war. And we wouldn’t
have any indicators, because we can’t give
Kim any indication. And so I saw the
story, and it came from a South Korean outlet. I don’t know what to make–
where it came from or why. But I immediately thought
there’s no way we would issue, because we just wouldn’t
issue an evac order in the first place. So my worry is war
by miscalculation. The way I think
all of us kind of see how a B1 flight be
misinterpreted as go day. I would not expect
an evacuation order. TAYLOR FRAVEL: I’ll just say
in all matters of fake news today, the Russians. JIM WALSH: Good one. I’m not so confident
and sanguine about it. But I think what it
does is point to this– we now have another path
to war that we did not know of before, which is,
for lack of a better term, fake news and
manipulation of reporting. And I think that’s
very disturbing. And we know that certain
leaders of the world pay more attention
to news reports than they do to their advisors. Why are you laughing? Or their intelligence
community, or their– VIPIN NARANG: [INAUDIBLE]
about the Iran missile test, which was not real. JIM WALSH: Yes. So I think that this
is another path. You know, I used to say,
we’re one dead fisherman from some sort of conflict. That is to say,
what is the thing that we’re not looking for that
leads people to misinterpret. And you– and I have not
thought about this before, and you have now identified
a whole new category. Yes sir– AUDIENCE: So, it appears,
whether it’s reality or not, but that North Korea is
extremely paranoid that they’re going to be invaded, et cetera,
or whether or not that’s just Kim– is what he’s
selling to his people to remain in power. Do you think that,
although we would have to have diplomatic
relations, which we don’t currently have with them. But if we ever offered
to end the armistice in an official peace
treaty and formalize it, that might give him
sort of a olive branch to grab and say this is
what I did for America, and we can actually have
some real negotiations? Or do you think it would
even make a difference? JIM WALSH: For years, and
years, and years in Trac 2s, that is what the North
Koreans have been asking for, is a peace treaty. And there’s any
number of Americans who served officially
in government who opposed it when
they were in government and then endorsed it once
they got out of government. I can think of at least three. I think it’s worth pursuing. I think people should
just show up at the table without precondition. That’s how you do negotiations. Right now, both sides are
saying I want to talk, I don’t want to talk. And in our case, we’re saying
we want you to denuclearize as evidence of your good
faith before we sit down to talk about denuclearization. So I don’t know why you’d
have the negotiation, if they’d already done what you
asked them for to begin with. But my own view is parties
just need to sit down. They need to show up every
Wednesday in Geneva and sit, and every party gets to
say what they want to say. And they keep doing it. And then you see where it goes. And peace treaty should
certainly be part of that. But I don’t sense
there’s those same– that that has the
same salience or juice that it had in past years. And of course, peace treaty
means very different things to the parties. AUDIENCE: When you say that,
meaning to North Koreans? JIM WALSH: Yeah,
the North Koreans. We always sort of reject it
out of hand, which I always thought was a dumb idea. But the North Koreans,
they still talk about it. But they don’t talk
about it as much. They talk a lot
more about Pyongyang policy of we’re a
weapon state and we’re going to develop our economy. But I’d be happy to bring that
back as an oldie, but goodie. AUDIENCE: I clearly
understand the reasons that you all mentioned
for why they rationally want nuclear weapons. But isn’t it sufficient to have
the conventional deterrent, especially with their
proximity to Seoul and the terrain
with the hardening and the hiding of
armaments, and I’m just wondering why they
didn’t stay on that path. JIM WALSH: Spectacular
question, fantastic question. I think that’s a real puzzle. And I don’t know the answer. I mean, it could be that
there are other motivations for the nuclear program. Some people thought
it was their new look. They couldn’t afford to
maintain a conventional, so they went nuclear. Some people think it’s
about internal legitimacy and prestige. I don’t know, but I think maybe
it isn’t as good as we think. But they seem to have worked
really hard on that too. But I love the question. And I have no idea. Do you guys have
a crack at this? VIPIN NARANG: I think those
are all what Jim said. There are not mutually
exclusive reasons. But I still think there is
a security argument, which is if you’re North Korea, and
you believe that the US is willing to sacrifice
Seoul anyway, how do you change
the US calculation. If you want to
break the alliances, then you don’t have
the conventional reach to really hurt the US
without nuclear weapons. I think that’s kind of– that would be the
security-ish argument. But it’s true, I mean,
we’re still talking– we’re still talking about a
population of 20 million people within 30, 40 miles of the DMZ. And you’re going to have
significant casualties even without a nuclear weapon. South Korea’s been living
with this conventional [? internment ?] for so long. So North Korea’s
nuclear weapons actually don’t affect South Korea
as much as it affects Japan and the United States. I think we’re seeing that. I think there’s a little more– the South Koreans say
this doesn’t really change our political
strategy with North Korea. It changes yours. But I think that kind of
division between the alliance is exactly what Kim is trying
to achieve in developing nuclear weapons also. But there’s a very strong
political argument here, which is break these alliances apart. The final point I
would add, I do think– I can’t prove this,
but my intuition is that there’s nothing to do
with the domestic political legitimacy as well. I mean, so many pictures of
Kim standing and observing a test and exercise,
smoking around a missile before it was launched. That he seems to be using that. It could be a second order
reason, not a first order reason. I think the ones that Vipin
mentioned are probably the primary ones. But he could
certainly be using it to bolster what looked like
a pretty weak position when he came into power, along
with shooting his uncle, and a bunch of other people. JIM WALSH: Are we
supposed to wrap up soon? JOHN TIRMAN: One question. JIM WALSH: I’m going to ask
that the line be broken, because we haven’t had
one female questioner the entire time. And I’m going to give
that question to you. AUDIENCE: So I’m from
Brooklyn High School. And I want to ask
about the roles of the international bodies,
such as United Nations, can play to solve the
North Korean problem. And is there any resemblance
of North Korean case to the cases of
Iran or Pakistan. JIM WALSH: Well, I think
it’s a good question. You know, we’ve seen in the news
recently that the Europeans– so what are other diplomatic
alternatives, or people who could be conveners, or
help nudge the parties along. The Europeans are
actively trying to do that, according to
some recent reporting, based on the embassies
in Pyongyang. You know, certainly
the UN Is involved in humanitarian
assistance in the DPRK. But also they’re involved
in these human rights investigations, which drive the
North Koreans crazy, absolutely crazy. And it’s the UN that has
imposed all these sanctions. So as a neutral
interlocutor, it’s tough. And of course, what is the UN? It’s a membership
of sovereign states. So I totally get
the idea that would be nice to have some
other way to get at this. And so we need to think
creatively about that. And so that’s part
of that process, is to think about what the
UN or what others might do. But at the end of the
day, the principals will– if others can clear the ground
or provide encouragement– the principals are
still going to have to make some tough
decisions themselves. But that’s a great question. VIPIN NARANG: Just
last thing to add on the UN, with China and Russia
both on the Security Council and exercising a
veto, that quickly serves the political
calculations of the five permanent members. If they are not in agreement
as to how to proceed, then I think it limits what
the Security Council can do. Now there are UN bodies
playing other roles, but in terms of the
Security Council, remember it’s a
reflection of the politics of the permanent members. JIM WALSH: Boss, do you
want to take us out here? One more? Sure, we get one more. This is your bonus question. Look how fast that
guy– your good. AUDIENCE: This is a question
about North Korea’s deterrence strategy. Given the potential
impact of an EMP strike on the US power
grid, do you think that’s part of their
nuclear deterrence strategy? VIPIN NARANG: I
just don’t know why you’d waste a nuclear
[INAUDIBLE] on an EMP. I mean, if you’re going
to target the US homeland, you target the US homeland. I mean, the EMP concern
right now, I think, is this discussion of an
atmospheric nuclear test. And if you do that
over the Pacific, there will be EMP effects
within a certain radius, depending on the yield. And shipping– I don’t
know how civilian airliners are hardened against an EMP. I mean, we don’t know. Right now, I think
the immediate threat is if they go forward with
an atmospheric nuclear test on a ballistic
missile, which they’ve signaled they’re considering. But I would be surprised if
that’s their lead-off hitter. I think we’d have to– there’d have to be an
escalation in the crisis. Or we have to keep
saying we don’t believe you have the ability to
deliver a thermonuclear weapon on Hwasong 14. And that’s what drove
the Chinese to do the [INAUDIBLE] test in 1966. It’s why the Navy
tested [INAUDIBLE] in ’66, because to show– or ’62, to show the Air
Force that they could do it. And so if we keep saying we
doubt the North Korean ability to deliver a warhead, the
way the State Department spokesman said the
other day, they may just show us
that they can do it. And then if a missile
goes awry, I mean– how do you clear out. They probably can’t
give advance warning. Things have to be– they’d have to do it without
a lot of notification to airmen or Mariners. So you’d probably have– you could have some
effect on shipping and civilian airliners. That I think could be a
very significant pathway. If a civilian
airliner goes down, I don’t know enough about how
hardened civilian airliners are against a high
altitude EMP effect. But that would be
very, very, very risky. JIM WALSH: I have a big bias. I never got the EMP thing. It seemed to me that you got– VIPIN NARANG: Certainly
not in the US homeland. JIM WALSH: I mean, you
get all the downsides of a nuclear attack without
any of the benefits. Your adversary sees this nuclear
missile coming towards you. They don’t know
that it’s an EMP. And they think, oh,
we’re under attack. So you know, we’re going to
shoot our nuclear missiles at you. So I’ve never really
gotten that one. AUDIENCE: What is an EMP? JIM WALSH: So you launch a nuke. You put it in the atmosphere and
it fries the electrical grid. But I know people care about
it, so– and that’s good too. VIPIN NARANG: Certainly
not on the US. I mean, the only scenario
I think that that is a risk is what a test over the Pacific. That would– then you’d
have localized EMP effects. AUDIENCE: You see that
that’s less of a threat than say a direct
nuclear attack? VIPIN NARANG: Yeah, I
mean, if you’re going to– JIM WALSH: Yes. VIPIN NARANG: If you’re North
Korea, you’re going to use one, you use one. JIM WALSH: You’re
all in or you’re not. This halfway thing only gets
you killed without accomplishing any of your goals. JOHN TIRMAN: Let’s thank
our panel, and thank you.

Danny Hutson

4 thoughts on “Starr Forum: North Korea

  1. Denuclerazation by force,will not fail. He has no option, I will not allow him/bucktooth billy to make the choice. We are taking the land, he is not to be in power. He will not hide behind (denuclerazation status) like Mexican criminals hide in "sanctuary" He must must resign his emperoer status publically.He must say hes nothing more than a north Korean citizen. On fox news.
    The Mexican thing will be here as long as he is here( DRPK on this earth) in power.

  2. by the wayTGB I can "claim" the Hawaii thing,.TGB I influenced that solidly, the incoming missle alarm it has to do with the counter tops, at the facility. with phone cord, phone jacksTGB there different from colorado

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