An expert outlined the state of U.S.-North Korea relations and the use of nuclear weapons for a Rotary Club of Los Altos audience Sept. 12.
Philip W. Jun, J.D., executive director and chief operating officer of the Ploughshares Fund, predicted extreme provocation from North Korea over the next six months.
After years of negotiating with North Korea as a U.S. Department of State appointee during the Clinton administration and living in Seoul himself, Jun based his evaluation on personal experience and knowledge of North Korea’s current political climate.
Jun received a Fulbright Scholarship to Korea and later served as a senior member in the U.S. delegation to the Korea peace talks in Geneva and the working group that managed U.S. policy toward North Korea. He traveled to North Korea as a senior adviser with former Secretary of Defense William Perry in 1999 and former Secretary of State Madeleine in 2000.
Although the U.S. called North Korea’s bluff when its first missile had to be exploded after 90 seconds and the U.S. demanded it adhere to a February 2012 agreement not to test missiles, North Korea gained significant knowledge from those tests, according to Jun.
“They have no intention of giving up their nuclear weapons program,” he said, adding that he expects North Korea to continue “playing the U.S., South Korea and China against each other.”
North Korea needs revenue and may seek to sell its nuclear stockpile. The key question is: To whom? Jun said he believes North Korea may have already sold nuclear technology to Syria.
North Korea has undertaken provocative behavior, according to Jun, because it’s an impoverished, failed state with leaders who seek to consolidate power internally while testing the mettle of the U.S., South Korea, Japan and China.
North Korea has a distinct advantage in negotiations, Jun said, because the Kim family circle of leaders has been in power for 20 years, in contrast to the changing administrations of other countries.
Jun noted that the U.S. has consistently underestimated the aggressive attitude of North Korea, and as long as China has North Korea’s back, there is little the U.S. can do.
Marlene Cowan is a member of the Rotary Club of Los Altos.