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North Korea May Be Preparing New Missile Tests

July 20, 2017 1:22 p.m.

North Korea May Be Preparing New Missile Tests


Stephan Haggard, Korea-Pacific Program director, UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy

Related Story: North Korea May Be Preparing New Missile Tests


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

this is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh reports from U.S. intelligence sources indicate that North Korea could be preparing another ballistic missile test in the next two weeks. That news must be disturbing but not surprising to North Korean analyst who just attended the annual Northeast Asia cooperation dialogue. North Korea participated in these diplomatic talks last year but was a no-show this year. A major issue discussed are we reaching a nuclear tipping point in Northeast Asia? Joining me is an attendee of the meeting, Stephan Haggard , Korea-Pacific Program director, UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy . Welcome to the program.
My pleasure.
Can you remind us about the purpose of this meeting. It is the informal dialogue.
These discussions are called track two. The purpose is to bring together officials in their unofficial capacity. The northeast Asian cooperation dialogue typically seeks to get attendance from the ministries of the fence of the six parties, the state departments or foreman ministries a uniform military officer and then contingent of academics. The purpose is to provide each country with a view of what the other countries think of strategic developments.
How concerned were the meanings participants about the missile test back in early July? Has that importance be overstated in the U.S.?
No, I don't think so. There was a general concern that the capabilities of the North Koreans have advanced. It's a dual problem because they been pursuing their nuclear capabilities and undertaken five tests with two last year. It's also the delivery system issue, which is can they put a nuclear device ahead of a missile? Those ranges keep extending. The tipping point metaphor really refers to the fact that these capabilities are being joined.
So you are leaning towards yes that it tipping point in the region is imminent?
Of what I mean by tipping point is that they have developed the capability to strike not only forces in the region but the U.S. Homeland. Obviously they don't have any incentive to do that. Does give them a Detroit capability if some other type of provocation were to unfold.
They don't seem to have much of an incentive to engage in negotiations. They did not show up for this dialogue. What is that indicate to you?
It basically indicates that they don't feel they want to talk about these issues. I've notice by watching this crisis that the North Koreans have become much more comfortable once they tested nuclear weapons. Their interest in formal security assurance or engaging in a program which will cap their nuclear missile activities, they just don't see that as necessary. It is a reason why the sanctions issue is so front and center in discussions of North Korea because the objective would be to change North Korea's view of negotiations.
As I mentioned in the opening they reported last night that based on U.S. intelligence North Korea is preparing for another test in the next couple of weeks. President Donald Trump said he wants China to have a stronger role in deterring North Korea. Does that seem to be working? Are the Chinese and North Koreans talking?
I think it is early to say that the Chinese connection has failed. They are concerned about the nuclear issue in the policy has been very firm on the fact they want to see a Korean Peninsula. We also know that they are -- their trade relations are very dense. For China and North Korea it is nothing.'s a small country but for North Korea China is very large. So that leverage is what the U.S. would like to see using trade relations to try to pressure North Korea back to the table.
I think we need to give this more time. This is the main issue in the bilateral relationship.
We hear that the South Korean government is making a request proposing military talks along their border. Those may take place tomorrow. North Korea hasn't responded yet to go wise and youth -- new president suggesting this question mark
Something interesting is that it's not divided on typical left right issues. Over the last nine years [ Indiscernible ] was impeached and replaced by a new president through elections. The new president is centerleft and want to take a more engagement approach to the north. So just opening the channel is important because for the last nine years there has been no discussion to cross between the two countries.
Some diplomats especially William Perry says the U.S. strategy to get North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons is not going to work and we should accept their nuclear status. Is a concept you heard this year?
I think everyone thinks that the prospects of success are low at this time because the North Koreans are comfortable with having a nuclear weapons capability. Nonetheless, that doesn't mean that the pressure channel should be pursued because if it is possible to get back to talks and now we are talking about talks, it's only going to come through this combination of pressure and extending a willingness to negotiate, which Tillotson has done.
What was your feeling coming away from this meeting?
On that fearful I think that the Korean peninsula is stable. We have a capacity to deter the North Koreans and they have a capacity to deter us. I'm more concerned about miscalculations. Whenever you have two parties talking about preemption, that is a unstable situation. If either side things the other side is coming, then there is the incentive to move first and that is how you get into spirals that can be dangerous.
I've been speaking with Stephan Haggard, Korea-Pacific Program director, UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy . Thank you.
My pleasure.