tv Policy Experts Discuss the North Korean Nuclear Threat CSPAN August 25, 2017 11:59am-12:23pm EDT
>> the urban superintendents conference moving into tabletop discussion and we will take a lunch break shortly. the conference resumes at 12:50 p.m. eastern c-span2 will be back alive at that time at the conference. right now a discussion from yesterday about the threat from north korea's missile and nuclear programs that we'll hear from former assistant secretary of state for human rights in the obama administration, a former aide to florida center marco rubio and a white house correspondent on "the associated press." from the foundation for the defense of democracies, this is one hour 15 minutes. >> good morning, everyone and welcome to the foundation for defense of democracies and it center on sanctions and illicit finance. i'm joe dougherty, communications reckon so many to see samantha for basis at fdd. were looking forward to a time event as we address the threats posed by north korea and the u.s. policy options.
today's event will be live streamed and i encourage guests here and on like to join on today's conversations on twitter and you can find that at fdd. also a reminder to please silence your cell phones this morning. i am pleased to hand over the conversation over to today's moderator on "the associated press," josh lederman. ..
there are actually signs that the pressure campaign they have been pursuing is working and that north korea clearly feels squeezed by this. as a senior administration official told me last night, they feel they have made more progress on north korea in the last six months than the u.s. has made in decades. so, where does that leave us? and who should we believe? and what options are there now to counterproliferation and to address grievous human rights concerns about north korea. to counter the north's growing cyber threat? well we're going to try to tackle some of these tough questions today and thankfully we have a panel assembled of some of the top experts in each of these areas. tom molinski, is, or was the
assistant secretary of democracy, human rights and labor from the obama administration from 2014 to 2017. prior to that he served as washington director for human rights watch. dr. jonathan pollack is a senior fellow at john thornton china center and east asia policy at the brookings institution. previously he was professor of asian and pacific studies at u.s. naval war college. dr. samantha ravech, served as deputy national security advisor to vice president dick cheney. she lead as project here on cyber-enabled economic warfare. and anthony rogero, a senior fellow here at fdd. he spent 17 years in the u.s. government as an expert in the use of targeted financial measures, especially sanctions among other measures. and most recently served as a
foreign policy fellow for senator marco rubio of florida. so with that, why don't we dig in and, jonathan, i wanted to start with you and ask for a bit of a reality check, on how bad are things right now? and is the situation more or less under control, so to speak than it appears from externally from the roller-coaster of the past few months? >> fair questions. there is public and there is private and i do think that we had several weeks ago a situation induced frankly by the president's own remarks that almost had an implication of a readiness to precede prevent war against north korea. i don't know exactly what motivated the president but the reality was ironically then that north korea, argument was, well
there is this dueling war going on -- kim jong-un was not even seen for over two weeks. he was out-of-pocket. and even the supposed threat to lobbing four missiles at guam, i probably read too much north korean propaganda but it is revealing in all kind of ways. one thing you should always remember about north korean propaganda everything is condition-based. the words may sound horrific what they say they are going to do. then you read the fine print and the fine print will say that it is a function of, we will prepare and we have a plan and then we'll present it to kim jong-un and, if he so orders we're just ready. well, i have seen this too often. north korea in its language is very, very jarring. that is often for its own domestic audience, more even sometimes their international
audience. so the condition if kim gives the green light, depending on what the united states does. so unless you believe that the united states was prepared to undertake unilateral use of force against north korea, i wasn't anticipating, and indeed, if you read literally the word of the commander of the north korean strategic rocket forces, it was a deterrence signal. he said it literally in those words. i'm not trying to say because of that you suddenly accept word from a north korean senior official but i think that we went in the space after few days from the implication, tookly with all due respect to the media, in the media, we were on the cusp of the biggest crisis since cuba in 1962 to kind of an all-clear signal that came a few days later. we're sort of whipsawed in that
context. now were the north koreans sufficiently alarmed that they would have acted otherwise? i don't know. i mean you know, it's, again i can't emphasize enough that, this may come as a surprise, and i think it is a horrendous regime. you know, i know love lost, anyone familiar what i have written over the years about north korea but there is much more prudence and calculation in the actual mission of actions that they take as distinct from the words they offer in the way of threats. my own view is, i don't take it lightly. obviously we're in a different context because they have missiles that can certainly reach guam and under some circumstances depending what you have got in the way of a warhead, might, might be able to reach the continental united states. so the directions are not good because we can see that kim has doubled down on his nuclear and
his missile bets for reasons that to me are so embedded in the history of this regime. there have been nuclear dreams in north korea literally from the origins of the north korean state. so, we have to be mindful of that. but, very frankly, this will be my last opening point, we have a policy on the korean peninsula. it is called deterrence. it has worked exceedingly well for 65 years. in that 65 year period south korea has gone from being an economy that had a per capita gdp less than $100 to the 12th biggest economy in the world. its economy is roughly 35, 40 times the size of the north korean economy. kim may feel validated by the possession of these weapons. the only issue here would that give him a different calculus of risk-taking under some circumstances in not so much vis-a-vis the united states.
the dangers in korea and it is environment, it is on the peninsula and it is in the region. that is what we should be worried about more than anything else. that said i think there are people in the administration who have been very sober an serious about this. secretary mattis makes it very, very clear, the last place in the world where he would want to have to fight is on the peninsula, and he knows it. he understands it. i think trump, i suspect, listens carefully to mattis on this so i don't think we're on the cusp of crisis, but then frankly, if you're ask yourself what we do over much longer term? we're in a very, very long struggle here on this and we're going to have to if i could coin a phrase i'm not really coining it's a case of strategic patience that may leave people unhappy. there is a collective failure involving a lot of countries, not just the united states to
prevent north korea's nuclear weapons development, and the foal has to be to make life as difficult as possible for them without provoking a war and hoping at that some future point yet to be seen, yet to be determined when, you either have a different kind of leader in the north, or that much more likely, at some point, the civil in fact comes to an end. >> you mentioned some of the sober voices in the administration on this, mattis and others, the position of the administration has been that the u.s. is open at some point to talks with north korea under the right conditions, namely that they abandon their nuclear aspirations and there is interesting comments earlier this week from secretary of state rex tillerson who actually came out and essentially praised north korea for refraining from provocations since the u.s. laid out this marker for them and basically, you know, implied that if this continues on this
path, the u.s. would be ready to, at some point sit down. i think lot of people look at this and say, well, publicly announcing detailed plans to strike near guam is not exactly refraining from provocations. on the other hand they haven't actually tested anything in the last several weeks. state department officials i'm speaking to that secretary tillerson is being potentially vague and timelines and markers to talk talks with north korea. do you think that is smart, given the calculation, leave vague and open what north korea actually has to do? >> that is a fair question. my one piece of advice to secretary tillerson the fact that north korea has not tested a long-range missile in a month is not necessarily equivalent to restraint.
if he were to total up the number an varieties of missiles they have been testing at an accelerated basis over the last several years it doesn't look like restraint. there may be many reasons why they're not testing at the moment. interestingly enough, there has not been a nuclear weapons test in korea in almost a year. there were a lot of predictions earlier this year there would be a sixth test, maybe a seventh, abe an 8th. on one level, you don't want to give them, dare i say too much credit but no, i think what tillerson seems to be dangling, the idea, okay, you've gone a month without doing anything that we deem a quote, unquote provocation. and on that basis, if your quote, unquote good behavior is sustained over a period of time, we'll talk to you. now talking, dialogue, to use that dreaded but unspecific term, is not a negotiation. i don't think that anyone in the
administration should be under any illusions about this. there is no reason to believe in, for any reason that i can identify that kim is remotely close to or considering a path that does not entail the continued, quantitative, qualitative enhancement of its nuclear weapons capabilities. you have to ask what would a discussion be about? why would an out come here be different? i will freely acknowledge, any day you don't have another long-range missile test or another nuclear test, that's a good day, that's a good day, but the question is what does it really represent? is there really a path we could imagine under which north korea could reverse the kind of strategic orientation it has and, find a way to put, put the kind of pressures on them that, that they try a different path? i understand, diplomacy you have
to sort of say all the magic word and all that but i'm personally very, very skeptical that there is much of a path for any kind of a really meaningful, something beyond a discussion and even then, you know. the administration needs to ponder, what do you expect out of this. what do you do assuming you start that kind of process. what are you looking for from north korea that would justify and sustain it over the longer run? we've seen this movie too many times, frankly for me to have much confidence in an outcome. >> paul you worked a lot in u.s. government to try to expand the amount of information that north koreans had access to. we have this image in the west of north koreans as being kept totally clueless by their government. these images of massive military celebrations and history ontic state news broadcasts and ad duallation of kim jong-un.
as a number of westerners operated in north korea in recent years, we see images that challenge that. luxury items in north korea. elements of pop culture in from elsewhere, what is the situation, how important or relevant, given that the kim regime doesn't seem to place the economic well being of its people as a top priority, how relevant is it north koreans understand what is going on around them and what role their country is playing in this conflict? >> in the long run i think it is more than relevant. i think it is the key to the puzzle. first of all i completely agree with your assessment. we're dealing with a nuclear power. we tried to prevent that. we failed. that is reality. that is not going to change. that is situation in some respects resembles challenge we face in the cold war, albeit, much smaller, less scary scale.
it's a problem we have to manage through a combination of diplomacy, deterrents and pressure through sanctions. but as important as all of those elements of that strategy are to preventing this thing from getting out of hand and protecting ourselves and our allies that is not how we're going to solve it in the long term. the solution will come at a point that we can not predict right now. when there is some sort of change in north korea. we need to get used to thinking about this country the way we haven't in the past. it is not just a state. it's a country with people. it's a country where increasingly politics is going to come into play. the, the only way that this regime has managed to sustain
itself over a period of decade is, by creating a total information blockade. denying its people knowledge of the outside world, of the existence of alternative possibilities of life. and that has been more necessary for the north korean regime than for most other totalitarian regimes that we know. when you think about it, north korea is completely unnatural state. there is absolutely no reason for this country to exist, apart from sustaining this one family in power indefinitely. more than, more than china, more than the soviet union. more than, than burma in recent years, any other totalitarian state you can think of, its existence depends on maintaining set of myths, myths about the true history of the korean war, about the origins of the kim regime. myths about the relative economic well being of the
people of north korea relative to those living in south korea and the rest of the world. its success why it created those myths why it succeeded over those years. why it makes it particularly vulnerable to a strategy that punctures those myths, by exposing people in north korea to information. yes, 20 years ago, most people in the north really had no idea, really had no clue what is going on outside of their borders. that changed to a dramatic extent. this began during the great famine of the 1990s when many north koreans had to make their way to china just to survive. this created networks, cross-border networks first which food and consumer goods started flowing. inevitably information did as well. we now have three million in people in north korea with smartphones.
that can be used to share information in person-to-person. there's a tremendous volume of information crossing the border on little flash drives and sd cards, things that were technologically impossible 10 or 15 years ago. there sub sult turf north korea consuming entertainment, soap operas movies, showing people what the life is like in south korea and united states but increasing uses more sophisticated political information. there is a subculture consuming it but also sharing it. by sharing it surreptitiously you, we're beginning to see development what i would call civil society. people cooperating with each other in ways that the state tries to monitor but can't on a massive scale.
with which creates a greater sense of independence from the state, independence of thought, independence of action. now, what does that mean for our strategy? we can't make any of this happen. i am very wary of the rhetoric of regime change which suggests that somehow we can, you know, foment a coup or revolution in north korea which i don't think it is possible but we can accelerate this trend already naturally happening in north korea by, by funding programs that are run by ngos, other organizations that push information into this crossborder flow of goods between china and north korea. we can accelerate that. we can also do what we can to prepare ourselves and the people of north korea for the pretty extraordinary challenges that we will face when the regime is ultimately challenged and
destablized. >> the issue of regime change is pretty interesting. the president and secretary mattis, secretary tillerson, others made a point to say we're not seeking regime change in north korea. they seem to be trying to placate kim jong-un's concerns that is our actual motive but you don't actually hear them make that same assertion regarding, at least, not proactively, regarding iran, regarding venezuela where administration flirted with that idea and other countries that also pose egregious concerns to us about rights, about security, about the destablizing roles they play. is there, by trying to placate kim jong-un's concerns about that, drawing differentiation there is an extent the u.s. is undermining its moral leverage
on rights, on democracy by saying it is okay for this totalitarian state to continue to exist and we'll not mess with that as long as they don't develop nuclear weapons? >> i think there is a fine line here. i don't like the rhetoric of regime change my seven, even though the future i envision for north korea, the only future under which this problem is solved in my view is a future which this regime doesn't exist but rhetoric matters in diplomacy. particularly given our own history, given the way perceived the regime change operation we undertook in iraq, the rhetoric of regime change, that phrase in particular, suggests to people around the world that the united states is going to use military force to overthrow a regime and to impose a different one and i think when we use that rhetoric is diminishes the legitimacy of the appropriate things that we do to defend human rights around the world, even though you might
argue that the difference is only semantic because if the people of north korea had their rights, if they could choose their own government, they certainly would not choose an arrangement that leaves them 10 times poorer than their brothers and sisters in south korea and there would be unification an the regime would not exist. i think, we can be clear about what the goal is but i think we have to be careful about the rhetoric. i would much more prefer emphasize rather than regime change i would use the rhetoric of human rights. i would say everybody in the world has certain rights, freedom of speech, freedom of choice, freedom to travel. people of north korea no different. they should have a say in the future of the korean peninsula -- >> we'll leave this recorded program now to take you back live to the third annual superintendents conference hosted by the school superintendents association and howard university. >> i'm representing mcgraw hill education who is not here, who might be on the agenda but i think i should be updated the
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