A Third Way – the United States and North Korea, by Keith Luse

[The following keynote presentation by Keith Luse was delivered at the “Engaging Enemies” Conference, co-hosted by the ANU-IU Pan Pacific Institute, the East Asia Foundation, and other co-sponsors on 18 April 2013. Keith Luse was Senior Professional Staff Member in the powerful US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As an East Asian expert, he was East Asia Foreign Policy Advisor/Senior Professional Staff Member to (former) Senator Richard Lugar. –CanKor]

keith luse

Keith Luse

During my initial trip to North Korea in 2003, at a location about an hour north of Pyongyang, one of North Korea’s top American analysts turned to me and said, “We know that Senator Lugar is a very stern person, as his facial shape is the same as President Putin in Russia.”

Three days later on an extended excursion out of Pyongyang to view sites distributing American food aid, an unexpected confrontation ensued with one of my hosts whom I angered during a discussion about U.S. policy toward their country. The North Korean official said, “We made a mistake in allowing you into my country — you are very deceptive. You have a round face of compassion like Congressman Tony Hall who has assisted us with food aid, but you have a heart of hardness.”

And so began my engagement experience with North Korean officials. Five trips and several meetings with North Koreans later — within and outside of North Korea, I am admittedly amazed that all-out conflict has not reoccurred due to a miscalculation by one side or the other. Read the rest of this entry »

United Church of Canada issues statement on the crisis in the Korean Peninsula

[The United Church in Canada on 15 March 2013 issued the following “Statement on the Crisis in the Korean Peninsula.” The original text can be accessed here. –CanKor]

UCC crestThe United Church of Canada is gravely concerned about the escalation of tension in the Korean Peninsula. We fear for the safety of the people in North and South Korea, and the whole of Northeast Asia, should a war erupt.

We are concerned by the ongoing joint military exercises of the United States and the Republic of South Korea and the mounting threats of military actions from the Governments of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United States, and South Korea. We fear that these provocative actions are increasing the danger of armed confrontation in the region.

The current crisis in the Korean Peninsula points to the unresolved issues in the region, including the failure to obtain a peace treaty to end the state of war, and the international sanctions against North Korea. The resolution of these issues requires re-engagement of all parties in finding lasting solutions to the problems in the Korean Peninsula.

We call on the Government of Canada to help in promoting an atmosphere conducive to renewed negotiations among the states involved in the conflict by renewing its engagement in confidence-building measures and contact with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea urging the Governments of the United States and of North and South Korea to return to the negotiating table. Read the rest of this entry »

President Obama’s Edsel problem, by Donald P. Gregg

[Donald P. Gregg is a retired diplomat, currently serving as chairman of the Pacific Century Institute. From 1951 to 1982 he worked for the CIA. He was national security advisor to US Vice President George H. W. Bush. He served as United States Ambassador to South Korea from 1989 to 1993. During the time he was chairman of the board of The Korea Society in the USA, he called for greater engagement with North Korea. He wrote this opinion piece for The Korea Times on 11 April 2013. –CanKor]

Donald Gregg

Fifty-five years ago, the Ford Motor Company unveiled its highly advertised new car, the Edsel, which it expected to sell spectacularly. Instead, the Edsel flopped from the moment of its introduction, and is now rated one of the 50 worst cars of all time.

How did that come about? Apparently in those days Detroit’s engineers were vulnerable to a virulent form of groupthink that produced failure, not success.

I fear that today President Obama has a sort of “Edsel problem” as far as his North Korea policy is concerned. Many Washington policymakers focused on Korea have, since the advent of the George W. Bush administration, fallen victim to the collective belief that talking to North Korea would be a form of rewarding bad behavior on Pyongyang’s part, and that pressure, in terms of sanctions and military threats can wean North Korea away from its belief that developing nuclear weapons is the surest way to protect itself from U.S. attacks. Read the rest of this entry »

Serious armed clash highly unlikely, by Andrei Lankov

[In an article written for a Russian newspaper, historian Andrei Lankov, of Kookmin University in Seoul, believes that North Korea has nothing to gain from excessive confrontation at this stage. He estimates chances for anything serious to happen are 0.0%, and chances of a minor shooting are, perhaps, 5% at most at this stage. But this does not mean that things will remain calm in future, according to Lankov. If South Korea does not increase its payments to the North by early fall, the DPRK may indeed do a bit of shooting — just to teach the SK elite and its public an object lesson, explaining to them that paying Pyongyang is the cheaper option. We post his article courtesy the Nelson Report. –CanKor]

(Photo by NKVision)

(Photo by NKVision)

If the world media is to be believed, the Korean Peninsula is now on the brink of war. Indeed, over the last few days the North Korean government has been pumping out seriously bellicose rhetoric.

The DPRK stated that it will withdrew from the Armistice treaty from March 11, and cut the phone hot line between Pyongyang and Seoul. It also withdrew from its non-aggression pact with South Korea. Meanwhile, Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the North Korean government, ran an editorial in which it stated that the glorious North Korean army, newly equipped with the world-class nuclear weapons and missiles, will transform both Seoul and Washington into seas of fire as soon as presumably the Supreme Commander gets around to giving a relevant order. According to reports from North Korea itself, the population of major cities are undergoing frequent, high intensity air raid drills. Read the rest of this entry »

Security in Korea – the DPRK view, by Korean National Peace Committee

[On Tuesday, 12 March 2013 we received the following letter from the (North) Korean National Peace Committee. Naturally, CanKor neither corroborates nor endorses any of the facts or judgments made in this letter. As is our practice, we make the document available to our readers without comment. –CanKor]

Dear friends,

Warm greetings from Pyongyang.

You know that recently the U.S. and its followers are persisting in anti-DPRK stifling racket calling that the DPRK’s third nuclear test for defending our sovereignty became a nuclear threat.

North-Korea-nuclear-weapons-nationalturk-0344Nevertheless, they can never cover up or hide the truth.

You can be aware of the truth of the nuclear threat on the Korean Peninsula and the criminal nature of the U.S. and the south Korea through the memorandum(gist) released by the Korean National Peace Committee on 8 March.

The U.S. imperialists, which provoked the war for aggression of Korea in June 1950, shipped nuclear weapons to south Korea in August that year and at the end of the year openly disclosed its plan to drop 30~50 A-bombs in Korea – China border areas. Read the rest of this entry »

Security in Korea – the US view, by Tom Donilon

[Thomas E. Donilon is National Security Advisor to US President Barack Obama. The following is an excerpt of his speech at a function of the The Asia Society, delivered in New York City on 11 March 2013. The title of his presentation was “The United States and the Asia-Pacific in 2013”. We reproduce the section of his remarks dealing with the President’s North Korea policies. You may view and listen to the whole speech and subsequent discussion on the website of the Asia Society here. –CanKor]

Tom Danilon is National Security Advisor to US President Barack Obama (Photo by Alex Wong, Getty Images)

Tom Danilon is National Security Advisor to US President Barack Obama (Photo by Alex Wong, Getty Images)


President Obama has clearly stated that we will maintain our security presence and engagement in the Asia-Pacific. Specifically, our defense spending and programs will continue to support our key priorities – from our enduring presence on the Korean Peninsula to our strategic presence in the western Pacific.

This means that in the coming years a higher proportion of our military assets will be in the Pacific. Sixty percent of our naval fleet will be based in the Pacific by 2020. Our Air Force is also shifting its weight to the Pacific over the next five years. We are adding capacity from both the Army and the Marines. The Pentagon is working to prioritize the Pacific Command for our most modern capabilities – including submarines, Fifth-Generation Fighters such as F-22s and F-35s, and reconnaissance platforms. And we are working with allies to make rapid progress in expanding radar and missile defense systems to protect against the most immediate threat facing our allies and the entire region: the dangerous, destabilizing behavior of North Korea. Read the rest of this entry »

DPRK Business Monthly Volume III, No.12

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check the  current January 2013 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly Volume III, No.12

Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (left) and Google chairman Eric Schmidt (Photo by AP)

Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (left) and Google chairman Eric Schmidt (Photo by AP)

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

  • Google Head Visits Pyongyang
  • Virtual Suggestions: Google and North Korea
  • DPRK Never Has Been Hermetically Sealed
  • Another US Entrepreneur Honorary Pyongyang Citizen
  • NK Relaxes Cell Phone Rules for Foreigners
  • NK Eyes More Foreign Media Outlets: AP Vice-president
  • Grain, Fertilizer Imports from China Fall Sharply
  • Western Instructors Train N. Koreans in Statistics
  • NK Seeks German Help to Open Economy
  • Pyongyang Wants Private Sector Cooperation with ROK
  • ROK Civic Groups Call for Kumgang Tours Resumption
  • DPRK Tablet PC Can Receive TV Broadcasts
  • Kaesong Production Up 17.5%
  • Row Brews Over Kaesong Holiday Move

…plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators.

Comment by the Business Monthly Editor:

“LinkedIn blocked me when I listed my North Korean address — and I was not the only one,” Felix Abt, a Swiss entrepreneur who spent seven years living and doing business in North Korea, said. Read the rest of this entry »

Sympathy for the devil – how best to deal with North Korea, by Spencer Kim

[Spencer H. Kim is chairman of CBOL Corporation, a California aerospace company. Specializing in the sale of aerospace products, CBOL markets to customers located in the United States, Europe, South America and on the Pacific Rim. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a non-resident fellow at Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. In addition to his business interests, Mr. Kim serves on the leadership team with the Cal-Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Church and as a member of the Commission on Race and Religion.  He also serves on the Board of Directors of The Korea Society headquartered in New York. He is a founding member of Pacific Century Institute, a non-profit foundation, dedicated to improving understanding and developing greater communication among peoples of the Pacific Rim nations. He serves as an advisory board member of the School of Public Affairs at UCLA. This article originally appeared in the Korea Times on 26 December 2012. It is a particularly refreshing take on the dilemmas facing the international community on how to deal with the DPRK, pointing to opportunities that it would be foolish to miss. –CanKor]

Spencer H. Kim croppedNorth Korea has successfully, sort of, launched a long-range missile. We are outraged. We want more sanctions; we want to pressure them till they say uncle or collapse. We wonder how China could be so perfidious in failing to make Pyongyang behave. We find it morally odious to talk to a regime that spends for rockets and nukes but allows it people to starve and puts others in concentration camps. Only when they agree in advance that they will knuckle under will we talk to them.

But indignation, however righteous, is often the enemy of wisdom. Reflection is a better ally. Yes, North Korea is difficult to deal with and its regime treats its people unspeakably. But if we are to deal with it (and, let’s face it, the place is not going to go away) we need to at least try to understand their viewpoint and understand our own weaknesses. Let us ask some probing questions of ourselves and perhaps even look at history a bit from the other guy’s eyes. Read the rest of this entry »

North Korea’s highest state body refutes UN Security Council resolution

[The following statement by North Korea’s highest ruling body, the National Defence Commission (NDC) responds to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2087, which was passed unanimously with Chinese support on Tuesday, 22 January 2013. The NDC response was published by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Thursday, 24 January 2013. –CanKor]

DPRK NDC Issues Statement Refuting UNSC Resolution

Officials of the DPRK NDC (Photo by AP)

Officials of the DPRK NDC (Photo by AP)

Our successful launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 was a great jubilee in the history of the nation as it placed the nation’s dignity and honor on the highest plane and a spectacular success made in the efforts to develop space for peaceful purposes recognized by the world.

The world people who love justice and value conscience unanimously rejoice as their own over the signal success made by our country, not a big one, by its own efforts.

Even space institutions of a hostile country accustomed to have repugnancy towards others could not but recognize the DPRK’s successful satellite launch for peaceful purposes, from a low-profile stance. Read the rest of this entry »

Confrontation Over Korea: Memorandum to US President Obama by Jonathan D. Pollack

[For the inauguration of US President Barack Obama’s second term of office, a number of Foreign Policy scholars at the Brookings Institution prepared a “Presidential Briefing Book” entitled “Big Bets & Black Swans”, published on 17 January 2013. The “big bets,” according to the introduction, are places where the Foreign Policy scholars believe the President should consider investing his power, time and prestige in major efforts that can have a transformational impact on America and the world, as well as on his legacy. The “black swans” are those low probability but high impact events that can trip the President up and divert him from his higher purposes; events so dramatically negative that he will need to take steps in advance to avoid them. Predictably, the black swans include the DPRK. In his Memorandum to the President, Jonathan Pollack posits an impending severe internal crisis in North Korea, which will engender a serious risk of an acute US-China confrontation or even a direct military conflict over Korea. Pollack is convinced that neither China nor the USA desire such a confrontation, and offers a four-part recommendation to begin a process of US-China understanding that would serve to avoid such a worst-case scenario. Jonathan D. Pollack is Acting Director of the John L. Thornton China Center, and Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, at Brookings. –CanKor]

Jonathan D. Pollack (video capture from World News Inc.)

Jonathan D. Pollack (video capture from World News Inc.)


To: President Obama

From: Jonathan Pollack

DATE: January 17, 2013

BLACK SWAN: Confrontation Over Korea

There is a serious risk of an acute U.S.-China confrontation or even a direct military conflict over Korea. Neither Washington nor Beijing seek this kind of conflict, but North Korea’s severe internal crisis has impelled the United States and China to prepare to intervene in the North, both to protect their respective vital interests and to forestall larger risks to the peace. Pyongyang has a long record of lashing out at neighboring states (especially our South Korean ally) to warn outside powers against any possible intervention in its internal affairs. But this threat now encompasses the potential use of nuclear weapons. Any possible nuclear use by North Korea, even if undertaken within its own borders, represents an acute danger to the region as a whole. If Washington and Beijing fail to coordinate and communicate, we could face the possibility of a U.S.-China confrontation almost unimaginable in its consequences. Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: