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JPI PeaceTalk
Subject JPI PeaceTalk with Joel Wit, Senior Fellow with Stimson and Director of 38 North
Author JPI  (admin)
File
  Joel S. WIT.JPG  (102KByte)
2019-08-09 오후 5:09:06


 

 


Joel Wit explained that North Korea has developed nuclear weapons to defend itself, which can be traced to the the Korean War when the United States threatened to use nuclear weapons against North Korea. He thinks that at times the North Koreans were serious and at other times they weren’t so serious. For example, he believes that when he was serving in the US government in the 1990s until 2002, the North Koreans were much less interested in nuclear weapons and much more interested in a better relationship with the United States. Mr. Wit approves of the freezing of North Korea’s missile and nuclear testing over the past year, which slows technological development. But the next steps, he says, are much harder and require political will from both countries and realistic expectations. Progress with denuclearization and improved relations with North Korea requires out-of-the box thinking, he says, based on real world experience.


 

 


Q1. You contributed to the negotiation between the US and North Korea at the first North Korea nuclear crisis in 1993. You also helped negotiate the 1994 US-North Korea Agreed Framework and were subsequently in charge of its implementation until you left government in 2002. Since then, you have been studying and analyzing North Korea’s nuclear programme in the forefront.Why do you think North Korea is continuing to nuclear development spanning three generations?


First and foremost, North Korea has developed nuclear weapons to defend itself—its security. You can trace the origins of that back to the Korean War when the United States threatened to use nuclear weapons against North Korea. Obviously, this has been a program that has stretched over decades. I think at times the North Koreans were serious and at other times they weren’t so serious. More recently, they have been serious. Beyond defending themselves, there may be other reasons why they have nuclear weapons. After all, their possession of these weapons is seen as a threat by countries around them, and they can use that to intimidate.


 


Q2. Would it be possible that they had different motivations in each generation?


Yes, it’s possible, but it depends on the circumstances. For example, when I was in the US Government in the 1990s until 2002, the North Koreans were much less interested in nuclear weapons and much more interested in a better relationship with the United States. Today, the North Koreans’ interest in nuclear weapons may be declining, but they still need them. Five or six years ago, they may have had more interest in developing them.


 


Q3. Based on your experience over the past two decades, what measure do you think should be taken first to bring about North Korea denuclearization?


I think we’ve taken a good step in the past year with the freezing of North Korea’s missile and nuclear testing. That slows technological development. But the next steps we have to do, of course, are much harder. That includes stopping the production of nuclear weapons, stopping the production of missiles, and eventually rolling it back to the point where they don’t have any of those capabilities any more. That, of course, will take long time.


 


Q4. How do you evaluate the efforts of the Trump administration and the Moon administration to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue?


I think overall what they’ve done is very positive. We’ve stopped the development of these threatening weapons. There have been problems with how these policies have been implemented—we’ve had trouble having real negotiations with the North Koreans to reach detailed agreements. Part of that is our fault—we weren’t really prepared for that. Part of that is their fault—they don’t really seem to be engaging in the kinds of detailed negotiations necessary for agreements. I don’t know where it’s going to go in the future.


 


Q5. What advice would you give to the Trump administration and the Moon government?


The problem right now is that the North Koreans are not engaging. It’s not that the United States doesn’t want to negotiate. The North Koreans are not responding. I’m not sure there’s not a lot to be done at this moment without them responding. Beyond that, if they do respond, and we have negotiations, we need to be realistic about what is achievable at the beginning of negotiations. People always want the other side to give a lot and give a little in return. It doesn’t work that way—that’s not what a negotiation is.


 


Q6. You are the director of 38 North. And, 38 North is getting a lot of attention in the press. Can you briefly introduce us 38 North’s works?


It’s almost ten years ago I and some friends who had real experience dealing with North Koreans were very frustrated by the media coverage, which tends to be very bad. It’s very cartoonish. A lot of the commentary is by people who have never even met a North Korean. We decided to start a website where we’ll have people analyzing North Korea who actually know something, who have real world experience dealing with North Korea.


 


Q7. What kind of role do you think think-tanks can play in strengthening Korea-US relations and resolving the North Korean nuclear issue? What do you think of security dialogues like Jeju Forum?


I’m not a big fan of think tanks. When I talk about think tanks, let me explain what I mean. In Washington, there’s this foreign policy establishment which has certain ways of thinking, and it’s like they all live in this bubble off from the real world. On an issue like North Korea, people need to break out of that bubble. They need to think outside of the traditional ways of dealing with North Korea. One example is President Trump’s reaching out to Kim Jong-un. I’m not a fan of President Trump. I think 99% of what he does I don’t like. But on this issue, it’s actually the right thing to do, and yet what you’ve found if you look at the press surrounding the summit, 99% of the foreign policy establishment thought it was a bad idea. This is an issue that requires people to think differently from the way we’ve thought for the past 25 years, at least in Washington. The Jeju Forum is a good thing to have, not just for people who work on North Korea, but all sorts of issues, to get together and meet each other to exchange ideas—as long as people don’t expect too much out of it.