About a month ago, we did a “nuclear update” based on a long, tedious, but nonetheless comprehensive Foreign Ministry statement on North Korea’s nuclear policy. Our conclusion: not good. The new leadership was basically following the footsteps of the old, with little fresh thinking and perhaps even a harsher edge.
Given the elections in the US, South Korea and Japan as well as the leadership transition in China, such statements are rightly viewed as positional: setting the stage for the next round. Nonetheless, the North Korean effort to lay down markers could prove costly. We are particularly concerned about media reports suggesting that Pyongyang might explicitly reject—rather than simply ignore—the September 19 2005 Joint Statement, an absolutely pivotal document in the sad history of the nuclear talks. It is pretty easy to be cynical about the talks, which have not convened since 2008. But the Joint Statement played a crucial role in outlining a broad set of principals on which all parties agreed. At least it was something.
The flurry of recent diplomatic activity started with Northeast Asian Cooperation Dialogue (NEACD) meeting in Dalian in late September, led by my colleague Susan Shirk through the University of California’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. On the positive side, the North Koreans showed up, and with a large delegation that participated actively too. A second positive is that members of the US and North Korean delegations actually held a brief, 30-minute bilateral on the sidelines of the gathering. A third positive is that the North Koreans were positive about the discussion of maritime issues, an example of the functional ice-breaking approach that the NEACD has long taken toward these track 1.5 talks.
(In contrast to pure Track II meetings, the NEACD is dominated by officials appearing in their unofficial capacity. The seven DPRK officials were Han Song-ryol, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Choe Son Hui, the deputy director-general of the North American affairs bureau in the DPRK foreign ministr, Kwon Jong Gun, a director in North Korea’s foreign ministry, desk officers Sim Il Gwang, Jo Jong Chol, and Hwang Myong Sim, and Rim Chol Hun, first secretary at the DPRK embassy in Beijing. On the American side, were Clifford Hart, the Obama administration’s special envoy to the Six Party Talks, State Department China desk director Aubrey Carlson, State Department foreign affairs analyst Allison Hooker, Brett Blackshaw from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, Sean Stein and Jeff Foree from the Consul General in Shenyang, as well as IGCC’s Tai Ming Cheung, CSIS’s Bonnie Glaser, UC-Berkeley professor T.J. Pempel, and retired Rear Adm. Mike McDevitt.)
But Josh Rogin’s report for Foreign Policy reports a leak about the disappointing outcome of the brief bilateral contacts between the North Korean and American delegations (although not of the NEACD discussions themselves which are off-the-record); reportedly, the North Korean delegation simply reiterated their stance that the US had to give up its hostile policy before any progress could be made. Asahi Shinbum, among others, suggested that it might have been worse: that the North Koreans are considering walking away from the September 19, 2005 joint statement. These suspicions were effectively confirmed when U.S. special envoy Glyn Davies said it would be a “big mistake” for North Korea to discard the 2005 agreement while visiting Tokyo for trilateral consultations with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts.
It now seems like the Chinese might have picked up the scent earlier. On September 20, a week before the NEACD meeting, the Chinese foreign ministry not only reiterated the importance of the Six Party Talks—as the government does routinely—but explicitly celebrated the anniversary of the Joint Statement (“Despite twists and turns over the past nine plus years since the launch of the Talks, we have made a series of important progress [sic], including the Joint Statement of September 19.”)
The latest cold water was thrown by a speech given by a member of North Korea’s UN delegation before the UNGA on October 15. In our ongoing belief that it is worthwhile to read what the North Koreans actually say, we reproduce it in full below. The punchline: we are a nuclear power, we like it, get used to it. In fact its worse. Rather than seeing the country’s nuclear program as a tradeoff with its economic objectives, the speech argues that a nuclear deterrent “provides a sure guarantee for concentrating efforts on economic construction and improving the people’s living standard.”
DPRK Delegate Calls for Nuclear Disarmament
Pyongyang. October 18 (KCNA) — A DPRK delegate made a speech at the meeting of the first committee of the 67th UN General Assembly on Oct. 15.
Nukes which are openly used as a means of threat and blackmail, not deterrent, still pose a serious threat to global peace and security, he said, and went on:
The DPRK loves peace more than any others but does not beg for it, allowing the sovereignty of the nation and the right to its existence to be threatened.
It reacted to the U.S. extreme nuclear threat with its nuclear deterrent. This serves as a powerful means for defending the sovereignty of the country and deterring a war on the Korean Peninsula and provides a sure guarantee for concentrating efforts on economic construction and improving the people’s living standard.
The DPRK stands for nuclear disarmament.
In recent years the DPRK joined other developing countries in singling out nuclear disarmament as an urgent issue in ensuring global peace and security and calling for giving top priority to it in UN arena for disarmament.
The nuclear disarmament required by the international community is an overall and complete elimination of nuclear weapons.
Such passive nuclear disarmament as decreasing the number of warheads while leaving the nuclear doctrine for aggression as it is is a mockery of non-nuclear states and this would only deepen distrust.
To keep nuclear disarmament ahead of nuclear proliferation is the most effective way for fundamentally settling the issue of nuclear weapons and the proliferation issue resulting from their threat.
The DPRK delegation calls for the earliest possible complete dismantlement of nukes by the nuclear powers and paying primary attention to the conclusion of a treaty with a binding force for defusing the nuclear threat while discussing the issue of disarmament.
The use of atomic energy and space development for peaceful purposes are the right of sovereign states.
However, some countries persistently link the DPRK’s efforts for economic development with a military purpose and groundlessly pull it up under the pretext of its “enriched uranium plan” and “long-range missile test.”
They frequently launch satellites, insisting that only the DRPK is not allowed to do so. This is an unpardonable violation of its sovereignty.
As for the “resolution” of the UNSC, the DPRK has never recognized it as it was produced on the basis of prejudice and pressure, far from impartially judging the DPRK’s steps for self-defensive nuclear test to cope with the U.S. hostile policy.
Some countries are claiming the DPRK has a “nuclear ambition”. But it has so far taken all measures legitimately in the world’s eyes. It did so because it was convinced of its just cause.
The DPRK already emerged a full-fledged nuclear weapons state. Gone are the days never to return when the U.S. could threaten the DPRK with A-bombs.
The DPRK is compelled to keep its nukes for a quite long period unless the U.S. rolls back its hostile policy toward the DPRK.
The DPRK will fulfill its mission as a responsible nuclear weapons state and steadily push ahead with the development and use of space and nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.