The National Committee on North Korea
Leon Sigal on Recommendations for the Next Administration's North Korea Policy
January 17, 2017
In an article for Arms Control Today, Social Science Research Council's Leon Sigal, parses through clues to the next administration's North Korea policy and suggests that Trump should follow through on his impulse to engage in talks with North Korea, rather than the recommendations Trump will likely receive to continue a policy of "strategic patience."
Lost in the countryside, a city slicker stops to ask a farmer for directions. The farmer replies laconically, “Well, I wouldn’t start from here.” Starting from here is the sort of advice President Donald Trump is likely to get when he asks about North Korea.
He will be urged to pick up where his predecessor left off: refuse to enter into negotiations unless the North first commits to denuclearizing completely and takes steps to demonstrate it is serious about that commitment. He also will be told to continue ratcheting up sanctions in a vain effort to force Pyongyang to the negotiating table on U.S. terms.
That advice is tantamount to wishing away Washington’s current predicament in hopes of somehow going back to the future.
Siegfried Hecker on Why We Should Talk to North Korea
January 12, 2017
In a New York Times op-ed, Stanford University's Siegfried Hecker argues that the incoming Trump administration should move quickly to engage in bilateral negotiations with North Korea. Hecker, also director emeritus at Los Alamos National Laboratory, says that reestablishing communication with North Korea could help prevent a nuclear crisis, and could also garner support from China and other countries in the region.
The crisis is here. The nuclear clock keeps ticking. Every six to seven weeks North Korea may be able to add another nuclear weapon to its arsenal. All in the hands of Kim Jong-un, a young leader about whom we know little, and a military about which we know less. Both are potentially prone to overconfidence and miscalculations.
These sensitive nuclear issues require focused discussions in a small, closed setting. This cannot be achieved at a multilateral negotiating table, such as the six-party talks.
Mr. Trump should send a presidential envoy to North Korea. Talking is not a reward or a concession to Pyongyang and should not be construed as signaling acceptance of a nuclear-armed North Korea. Talking is a necessary step to re-establishing critical links of communication to avoid a nuclear catastrophe.
The New Year's Speech
January 3, 2017
In Kim Jong Un's annual New Year's address, he re-emphasized themes from the May 2016 Workers' Party Congress, discussed military and economic policy, and referenced the widespread protests that have taken place in South Korea. In reviewing the North's missile and nuclear tests over the past year, Kim implied that the country would soon test launch an ICBM, a claim which has drawn the bulk of media attention to the speech.
We conducted the first H-bomb test, test-firing of various means of strike and nuclear warhead test successfully to cope with the imperialists' nuclear war threats, which were growing more wicked day by day, briskly developed state-of-the-art military hardware, and entered the final stage of preparation for the test launch of intercontinental ballistic missile; we achieved other marvellous successes one after another for the consolidation of the defence capability.
In response to the claim, U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump tweeted that "it won't happen!". A ROK Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that Trump's tweet could "be construed as a clear warning to North Korea in response to Kim Jong-un’s indication of possible provocations, including a launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), in his new year’s address."
December 19, 2016
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December 15, 2016
The following is an excerpt from the Fall 2016 Newsletter of the Coalition of Families of Korean & Cold War POW/MAIs, which discusses their most recent trip to Pyongyang on the issue of bringing home the remains of American POW/MIAs from the Korean War.
Families Negotiate with Pyongyang
The Coalition was part of a delegation from the Richardson Center for Global Engagement that met with North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister in Pyongyang. The featured point of the meeting was to return remains of missing American servicemen from the Korean War. North Korea has a reported 120 sets of U.S. remains unearthed during agricultural and construction projects over the years. They have repeatedly asked the U.S. what to do with them. In each instance, U.S. officials intertwined the humanitarian return of the remains with the political nuclear faceoff, and deferred repatriation.
The Coalition chose to pursue an alternate path. We reached out to nongovernment organizations and were welcomed warmly. One relationship has led to another, as we have become part of a network of NGOs dedicated to complementary issues and anxious to help each other.
November 30, 2016
On November 29, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives passed joint resolution H.Con.Res.40, encouraging North Korea to allow Korean Americans to meet with their families in North Korea. The timely resolution comes as the 114th Congress enters the last few weeks of its 2nd and final session and, more importantly, as many of the 100,000 divided Korean American families pass away. The Korean War divided roughly 10 million families, and many have since become American citizens. In a press release on the resolution’s passage, Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) said, “This resolution lays the foundation for divided family members to meet their loved ones whom they have not been able to see for over six decades… These Americans have every right to see their loved ones and it is our duty to help them by encouraging reunions.”
Rep. Rangel, who is a Korean War veteran and first introduced this resolution in February 2014, further noted, “The United States must remain firmly committed to the humanitarian aspects of family reunions.” The passage and introduction of this resolution would not have been possible without the efforts of the Council of Korean Americans, Korean American Coalition, Korean American Associate of Greater New York, and, especially, Divided Families USA, who have been championing this issue for nearly a decade. The resolution will now go to the Senate for approval, where it has bipartisan support from Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Mark Warner (D-VA).
November 21, 2016
NCNK has published a second edition of it's Q&A-style primer on North Korea policy issues, intended for policy makers in the Legislative and Executive branches who will take office in 2017. This second edition includes information on additional issues and also updated answers to relevant questions (PDF version here).
Is China going to assist the United States toward the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program?
Unlikely. U.S. Administrations have actively looked to China to convince North Korea, one way or the other, to give up its nuclear weapons program. China has increasingly become North Korea’s key conduit to the world and is the source of about 90% of Pyongyang’s foreign trade. However, Beijing has consistently prioritized regional stability over denuclearization and has not been willing to take actions that could potentially destabilize North Korea. The Chinese are focused on “managing” the overall North Korea situation as opposed to pursuing resolution of the nuclear issue.
Are North Korean missiles able to reach the continental United States?
Eventually. A pre-emptive strike targeting North Korea will likely be recommended to President Trump once U.S. defense experts determine that North Korea has developed the capability of launching a missile fitted with a miniaturized nuclear warhead that could reach the United States.
North Korea has made significant technical progress in its missile program in the past year and is developing a road-mobile long-range missile with the potential to reach the continental United States.
October 17, 2016
In the wake of the North Korea’s fifth nuclear test in early September, Congress has introduced several new resolutions and legislation on North Korea and taken action on a number of related pending items.
In direct response to the fifth nuclear test, Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, introduced a resolution condemning North Korea for its “dangerous provocations” and calling on it to abandon its nuclear weapons and missile programs immediately. The resolution further calls on China to use its economic and diplomatic leverage on North Korea and calls on the UN Security Council to adopt additional sanctions measures against North Korea. It also reaffirms the American alliance, defense, and deterrence commitments in the region, including the deployment of THAAD and other missile defense efforts.
Who We Are
The National Committee is a non-partisan coalition of individuals with extensive and complementary knowledge of and direct experience related to the society, economy, government, and history of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
We are a diverse group. A number of members served as diplomats in some of the landmark U.S.-DPRK negotiations. Some have authored major books on the history, society, and security of the Korean Peninsula. Other members have worked in virtually all parts of North Korea, and on issues related to the country's current economic, humanitarian, refugee, and medical crises. Some of our experience reaches back to the era of the Korean War. Most have extensive contacts in the Republic of Korea, China, Japan, and Russia related to the Korean Peninsula. While the National Committee on North Korea is non-governmental, several of the members have worked in official positions and have ongoing ties with current or past administrations and with the United States Congress.
The idea to form a National Committee on North Korea originated during The Musgrove III Conference held in mid-May 2004, which was attended by many of the founding committee members. The first meeting was held on November 4, 2004.