Sunday, June 04, 2006

Luncheon Address by the Honorable James Kelly, former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs

This post follows on from the previous summary of session one from the Seoul-Washington Forum held at the Brookings Institute May 1-2, 2006. The transcript from Kelly's luncheon address is based on a tape-recording. This would indicate that his talk was based off a few talking points rather than from a prepared speech. Accordingly, it lacks something in structure but the main topic is North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Not surprisingly he adamantly opposes acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear power.
We do not and must not accept North Korean nuclear weapons, even if there will be no quick solutions.
He goes on to stress the unattractiveness of any military solution and advocates diplomacy as the way forward. He emphasizes that no solution can be reached without active participation of South Korea arguing that it is the country with most interested in what happens with North Korea.

He sees some positive signs in how things are proceeding more generally in North Korea. He notes an increase in business relations, civilian and military, between China and North Korea. He also sees the on-going dialogue between South and North Korea as being broadly positive. However he does caution that South Korea's eagerness to be friendly with North Korea does not always lead to prudent moves. This comment is in relation to political payments the South has made to North Korea such as for the 2001 Summit meeting. He states:
South Korea is understandably reluctant to have tensions rise, if only for the blow that that would be to its life and economy. But it needs to be firm and patient with North Korea. Sometimes it seems that Seoul lets its desire for peaceful comity get a little ahead of the situation the ground.
He concludes his speech by expressing that US-ROK relations stand to benefit from an FTA but that it remains to be seen how the negotiations for that will pan out.

The transcript also includes the Q&A session that followed Kelly's talk. The first couple of questions focus on the difference between regime change and regime transformation with Kelly (rightly) pointing out that transformation would be for the existing leaders to initiate reforms while regime change would involve changing the leadership.

Don Oberdorfer asks about US reluctance to talk directly to the DPRK but Kelly reflects this by emphasising that US does talk to the DPRK and anyway, multilateral talks are better than bi-lateral.

Other questions focus on US-ROK relations and US-DPRK relations from the viewpoint of US foreign policy toward each of these countries. The final question asks whether the US should have an opinion on Dokdo and Kelly (rightly) reiterated what Michael Green (see session one summary) had said that the US should stand clear and not have any opinion about what is a bi-lateral dispute.

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"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui