Robert L. Gallucci

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A U.S. Air Force B-1B bomber, right, and South Korean fighter jets conduct a joint training exercises over the Korean Peninsula Wednesday on March 22. (Associated Press)

During a visit to Seoul last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson drew some reddish lines around North Korea.

“Twenty years of talking has brought us to the point we are today,” Tillerson said at a news conference. “Talk is not going to change the situation.” If North Korea threatens South Korean or American forces or elevates the level of its weapons program, Tillerson warned, preemptive military action is “on the table.”
Tillerson’s comments did not come entirely out of left field. For months, Washington has been abuzz over the possibility that North Korea may successfully test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to an American city.…  Seguir leyendo »

A military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea, in October. Credit Wong Maye-E/Associated Press

During nuclear negotiations in 2005, a North Korean diplomat let slip an unexpectedly candid comment, offering valuable insight into his government’s nuclear policy: “The reason you attacked Afghanistan is because they don’t have nukes. And look at what happened to Libya. That is why we will never give up ours.”

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on Wednesday, claiming that it had detonated a hydrogen bomb. The United States government disputes that, but one thing is clear: North Korea’s leaders still believe that nuclear weapons will prevent others from attacking them no matter what they do. This is fanciful. What the world needs is reality.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Obama's defense of his emerging nuclear deal with Iran as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” reminds his critics of an earlier landmark agreement, intended to end the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and others have argued that the eventual collapse of that agreement, resulting in North Korea’s building nuclear weapons, proves that a deal with Tehran is a big mistake. Those of us who negotiated the North Korea deal know that important lessons can be learned from that experience. But they are not the ones based on the critics’ fundamental misreading of history.…  Seguir leyendo »

As officials in charge of American policy toward North Korea during the Clinton and Obama administrations, we met last month in Europe with senior representatives of the North Korean government to discuss relations between our countries. We believe that the current impasse, which only buys time for North Korea to develop its nuclear program, is unstable and that matters will only get worse if not addressed directly. It’s time for the Obama administration to reopen dialogue with Pyongyang.

The United States government has not had direct contact with a senior North Korean official for more than a year. Our private and unofficial meetings were an important opportunity to review the state of the regime’s thinking on bilateral relations and its willingness to give up its nuclear weapons program.…  Seguir leyendo »

The death of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il, and the ascendance to power of one of his sons, Kim Jong-un, creates some opportunities and potential traps for the administration and senior leaders in the United States — things they should be sure to say and be sure not to say.

First, we should recognize that we have been here before. Sort of. In 1994, I learned of the death of Kim Il-sung in an early morning telephone call from the South Korean foreign minister. I was in Geneva leading negotiations with the North Koreans over their nuclear weapons program. The first question in the minds of those in Washington and Seoul was how the transition of power in North Korea from father to son would change things — whether the negotiations would continue, whether it would be business as usual or the beginning of a crisis.…  Seguir leyendo »