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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Panel Discussion on North Korea at UBC

This is the report of the lecture that I attended today. This is my understanding of the discussion and may not accurately present the facts and opinions stated by the panelists. Comments and corrections are welcome.

"Implications of North Korea's Nuclear Test: A Panel Discussion"

presented by the Centre of International Relations, the Simons Centre for Disarmament andNon-Proliferation Research, and the Liu Institute for Global

Panelist: Wade Huntley, Director, Simons Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation ResearchPanelist: Kyung-Ae Park, Associate Professor, Institute of Asian Research
Chair: Brian JobDirector, Centre of International Relations and Liu Institute for Global Issues

Where: Multipurpose Room, Liu Institute for Global Issues, UBC
When: 12-1:20pm Friday, October 13th

Following are the main points by each panelist including those in their answers to the questions from the audience.

Wade Huntley
  • There are many arguments over the issue including whether it was actually a nuclear test or not. If it was a nuke test, it was not successful. North Korea (NK) should have known they would reveal their lack of capability by doing the test, which supports the conclusion that it was done for political and symbolic reasons.
  • The significance of this event is more in how the world reacts to it than in the test itself. The more important event was that NK left Non-Proliferation talk in 2002/2003 and declared that it was going for a nuclear way. The test this time merely confirms this; nothing really changed because of this event. The significant change is our reaction to it (referring to 9/11)
  • US and China have divergent interests. Chinese are definitely angry about the NK test, but they do not react as strongly as US and its allies.
  • Where does it lead us? - if our goal is peace in the Korean peninsula, neither engagement nor confrontation by themselves would be sufficient measures. The only way is to move away from the perception that 'nuke is the currency of power,' or nuke is a useful diplomatic tool.
  • How do we achieve peace in NE Asia? We need to begin by creating a regional security framework to move away from the perception of balance of power maintained by nuclear weapons as its currency.
  • If attacked, NK has no chance of winning but NK can do a lot of damage going down not by its nuclear weapons but with their conventional weapons which can reach South Korea and Japan.
  • NK is not just trying to get attention. Kim Jong Il is cleverer than many think.
  • If advise Stephen Harper on what Canada should do, Dr. Huntley would say 1) Emphasize on the non-proliferation as the world not just NK, and 2) call Condoriza Rice to offer quiet back-channel communication

Kyung-Ae Park

  • Why did NK do the test?

1) Put pressure on US for bilateral talk. Washington made concession in 2005 Six-party talk but left them unsatisfied. Washington suspended all financial transactions at banks helping NK launder money. NK refused to go back to 6 nations' talk until US would lift the sanction. The 60 suspended accounts which was worth $24 million, however, was only worth 1% of NK's budget.

2) Domestic motivation - in the midst of sanctions, NK needed to unite people and boost the morale. Military was gaining more power and they were frustrated - they wanted to act. To them a nuke test was the most cost-effective way to address the imbalance of power.

  • What impact does it have?

South Korea (SK): the Sunshine Policy was in jeopardy. Poll says 70% of SK people want to change the policy, and 60% think SK needs nuclear weapons. Dr. Park was in NK on July 4 but it was 'business as usual' - economy and business were totally separated from the missile test.

Japan: it was an excellent opportunity to Abe. 83% of Japanese support sanctions in place. Japan's economic sanctions are however not significant. Japan only accounts for 4.8% of NK's trade, whereas China and Korea account for 39% and 26% respectively.

China: perhaps in the most difficult situation, squeezed between US and Korea. China uses NK as a buffer zone, and NK's collapse and the consequent flow of refugees will be a problem. China does not want to see Japan's remilitarization because of this, and wants to collaborate with US for its rise in the global economy. China will go with US economic sanctions but not military sanction. China supplies 70% of food for NK.

US: If Republicans lose on Nov 7 election, Democrats may push Bush for a bilateral talk. Military action is not an option at all. NK case is different from Iraq, Iran or Syria. In the North East Asia, Japan and South Korea are hostage to NK.

  • Dr. Park does not see any regime change without US attacking NK. There is an anti-Kim Jong Il group protected by China, but even if this group succeeds, it will be controlled by China.
  • Uranium-based programs will be a controversial issue soon. James Kelly visited NK in 2002 and acknowledged uranium programs.
  • The International Community using Chapter 7 for punishment, but not allow Article 42 (military sanction).
  • If advise Stephen Harper on what Canada should do, Dr. Park would say 'be more proactive than reactive.'

Comments are welcome, either in English or in Japanese. コメントは日本語でもどうぞ。

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