“This is unacceptable, not only for U.S. security but for
world security,” Perry said.“With North Korea’s desperate economic
situation, the only thing it has to sell are missiles. Now they
could sell nuclear weapons. If they get them, they might sell
to the highest bidder, including terrorists. Time is of the
Perry, who serves on the East-West Center’s Board of Governors,
said North Korea could produce five to six bombs soon by reprocessing
spent fuel at its Yongbyon facility, what he called an “imminent
danger.” But the country is also opening other facilities that
could process new fuel to produce many more bombs in the longer
term. He also expects North Korea to again test missiles over
Perry said there are two distinct factions in North Korea —
one that would open up trade and relations with South Korea
and the United States, and the military faction that believes
opening up the country would cause the Pyongyang regime to collapse.
Perry said the military faction seems to be in control, and
as long as that exists, the North will continue to have a nuclear
weapons program “no matter what.”
That flies in the face of assumptions that the threat of nuclear
weapons is only a “bargaining chip” in negotiations. “If the
program is not frozen, there will be an irreparable situation.
We will have no idea where the nuclear weapons are.
“I expect that this could lead to a nuclear arms race in the
Pacific region.” Perry said. “This would be a profound security
disaster. We have to do everything we can to keep this from
He added that “coercive diplomacy” backed up by military force
is essential to negotiations and that a “red line” must be drawn
that cannot be crossed. In the 1994 agreement with North Korea,
during which time Perry served as U.S. Secretary of Defense,
that line was to freeze reprocessing of spent fuel to develop
nuclear weapons in exchange for peaceful nuclear facilities
and fuel. Drawing that red line again will require the United
States, South Korea, and Japan working together, but, he added,
“I’ve never seen the three countries so far apart.”
Perry said U.S.-South Korea relations have not recovered since
President Kim Dae Jung’s visit to the United States two years
ago. Kim felt the Bush administration had dismissed his Sunshine
Policy of opening up to the North. The United States also put
its relationship with the North on hold while it reviewed U.S.
policy there. These feelings of alienation have carried over
into the new South Korean government, which takes office this
month, Perry said.
Perry is concerned that initial contacts between the United
States and the new South Korean administration have not gone
well. He also said South Korea must shoulder some of the blame
for not fully understanding U.S. security concerns.
Susan Kreifels is an adjunct journalism instructor at HPU and
Assistant to the President of the East West Center.