Home Featured Stephen Biegun: Midwest Symposium on U.S.-Korea Relations – keynote

Stephen Biegun: Midwest Symposium on U.S.-Korea Relations – keynote

Stephen Biegun: Midwest Symposium on U.S.-Korea Relations – keynote

welcome everybody to this special event on diplomacy on the korean peninsula i'm john chorchiori i'm the director of the international policy center and the wiser diplomacy center here at the ford school and this is our lead off event for a midwest korea symposium supported generously by the korea foundation our symposium gathers students from albion college from wayne state from ohio state and here at the university of michigan and tomorrow we'll have some student activities including an expert panel with experts from the wilson center in the east west center in washington as well as a simulation run by the korea economic institute on north korea and today's keynote open to the wider um community will tackle that subject no one better to share analysis on north korea diplomacy than our guest today steve begin secretary began is a proud graduate of the university of michigan where he studied russian language and political science he has more than 30 years of international affairs experience in the public and private sectors from 2019 to 21 he served as deputy secretary of state confirmed by the senate with a remarkable 90-3 bipartisan vote a rarity these days but a testament to the great respect that he that he has earned in washington before that secretary began served as u.s special representative for north korea directing u.s policy and leading diplomacy on north korea among his many other important roles he served as national security adviser to senate majority leader bill frist executive secretary of the national security council chief of staff of the senate foreign relations committee and a senior staff member on the house foreign affairs committee right after the cold war in the early 1990s he served in moscow as the resident director in russia for the international republican institute before his recent government service he was vice president of international governmental relations for ford motor company it's wonderful to welcome secretary began back to the ford school he'll start today by offering some brief remarks i'll then ask some questions to get the conversation started before opening to your questions which you are able to enter through the q a box at the bottom of your screen so secretary began welcome back to the ford school we look forward to your comments into a great conversation on north korea well thank you very much john and thank you to the ford school and the university of michigan as well as to the korea foundation this is an excellent and timely subject for consideration for those like me who continue to follow north korea closely you'll have seen plenty of recent signs that this issue is going to find its way closer to the top of priorities for governments around the world and so it is a very very timely consideration of of what the issues are how we can tackle them and and how we can break through the current stalemate which quite honestly uh has persisted since this diplomacy began in 1994 with fits and starts and us and others getting close but not getting across the finish line i regret but understand the necessity that we had to shift this conference to a virtual format um the symposium would have been great to do in person and certainly to do on my beloved uh home of ann arbor on the campus but i recognize it's the case and i think it's probably also a timely reminder of the circumstances and conditions that we have to operate in in terms of international diplomacy from the uh from the approximately february of 2020 through the end of the previous administration just a year ago yesterday we were virtually unable to meet with the north koreans to continue our diplomatic endeavors because of the coded 19 pandemic in fact north korea reacted with one of the most draconian quarantine and isolation policies of any nation around the world truth be known imposing significant economic penalties on themselves and their own people to do so but desperate to protect the north korean population from the ravages of the pandemic for which they had little protection and not much health care to help them in the case that the virus began to spread and so uh one of the considerations and and i'll make a few points here in the course of my remarks but the intention will be not just to share some perspective and and some experience of what what's been tried in the past but also very much to inform the participants and the remainder of your symposium we're going to be working through a set of issues tomorrow on some of the challenges around diplomacy on the korean peninsula to help them put themselves in the place of what are the constraints today and how uh how could we possibly undertake the kind of diplomacy that's necessary to resolve the tensions on the korean peninsula so before we get into our exchange john i thought it would be useful maybe for me to spend a few minutes at talking about three broad sets of issues the first is some of the some of the choices some of the obstacles some of the barriers uh some of the considerations that diplomats have to make as they embark upon diplomacy with the north koreans particularly american diplomats second i'd like to very briefly describe the choices we made in the trump administration and uh and assess on where we succeeded and where we failed and lastly maybe just a couple of comments on how this issue of diplomacy on the korean peninsula fits into the larger u.s south korean relation u.s rok relationship i know we have an informed and expert uh community uh joining this discussion i'll frequently refer to dprk and rok rather than south korea north korea only because that was that was uh not only the training that i had but also in the case of north korea um they do prefer to be referred to as the democratic people's republic of korea and it's become so ingrained to me that that's how i do but that in case uh that the terminology confuses anybody which i hope it does not that's uh that's my thoughts you know the first question you have to grapple with in in embarking upon diplomacy with north korea is who's going to be at the table sounds like a simple question but it's not of course we wanted to be at the table the united states and we wanted north korea at the table but the korean peninsula is actually a divided peninsula between north korea and south korea between rok and dprk and and rok is a sovereign country and we're talking about issues that are fundamental to to their livelihood and to their safety and future security and so you have to have the rok at the table with us in that discussion so when you start into this you start with the us and dprk then you add the rok but then you then you begin to feel the pressures from the previous rounds of diplomacy and the shared interests in the region from the japanese and the russians and the chinese and and fairly quickly you could get yourself to six parties at the table the the the uh the construct of diplomacy a decade ago was the six-party talks beyond that you have many interested parties who aren't necessarily the region but the european union the european union is very interested you have the members of the u.n security council who are interested in in developments in on the korean peninsula and of course uh many of our european countries who are also our allies in nato or allies like australia in the indo-pacific have a deep interest and so as you think about who is at the table you also have to think about how the north koreans see this and the dprk i think in in their first preference would like direct talks with the united states of america uh historically they've sought to uh to downplay the legitimacy of the republic of korea south korea and also at times north korea has had tensions with china and so as we entered into this round of diplomacy we started with a direct us dprk negotiation another challenge or another another consideration you have to make is is how to structure that diplomacy the trump administration as is well known chose leader level diplomacy as its opening gambit a a summit between president trump and chairman kim jong-un in singapore that produced the first leader-level agreement uh in the history of u.s dprk diplomacy it was long said in rounds of negotiations by uh north korean counterparts that if the leaders could agree then all things were possible in in this proposition was tested there was a there was a four-part joint statement released with the commitments of the leaders that i'll come back to in a moment and so the process did start at the leader level but we also felt it's absolutely essential to have sustained working level negotiations because of the complexity and nuance in these issues and also mindful of the fact that past diplomatic agreements fell apart because of a lack of detail or agreement on what exactly the meaning or requirements were for the agreements and so we sought also to layer a substantial amount of working level negotiations led in that case by me and and my team um there's the question of whether you uh in in that face-to-face contact uh whether you horse trade the north koreans tell you what their priorities are you tell them what your priorities are or something they have a very strong preference to which is you simply write down everything you want them to do you write down everything you're willing to do and you forward to that to them and they pick from it like a menu and send it back to you generally reshaping it to almost be a one-sided set of agreements and we saw we had an experience with this during my tenure as well in 2018 after a summit meeting between the president of south korea and chairman kim of the dprk a joint agreement called the comprehensive military agreement was agreed to it was a set of commitments to reduce tensions on the dividing line between north and south along the dmc military pull back certain types of equipment not to be positioned exercises restructured to avoid provocative behaviors it was on balance i think a very constructive agreement i think it took some positive steps like eliminating uh some of the guard posts that stood between north and south korea that potentially became sources of provocation in the past but um in the in the end when you when you assessed the comprehensive military agreement was actually ended up being a series of commitments that south korea made to north korea it was very little that north korea did under the terms of that agreement i'm not criticizing the agreement because i think it was an important first step and we hope to build on it with some additional commitments that the north koreans might make in in later rounds of diplomacy but nonetheless that's the paper offers where you slide it back and forth and the risk there of course is also you begin negotiating with yourself you say this is asking too much of them maybe i should ask for less or you know i i need to offer them this maybe i need to offer them more because you know that way then they won't come back to you you begin strategizing and you begin negotiating with yourself it's a real challenge to negotiate through that way versus face-to-face exchange and within that within those uh forms of engagement there's different models and these models come with fraught with political histories of themselves step by step salami slice libya model all for all unilateral sanctions relief all of these things are models that have uh are tied to lengthy policy debates and philosophical divisions they're under undermined by lack of trust on both sides and they each have slightly different nuances in how you would proceed and step by step you might say okay the north koreans get rid of 10 missiles i lift some sanctions that's a simplistic that's a simplistic example but that's that's step by step another way though step by step is the north koreans say that in the next 10 years they're going to get rid of all of their missiles and they're going to get rid of 10 this year 10 the next year 10 the next year and we're going to lift these sanctions each year in parallel with what they're doing a step-by-step approach towards an agreed end point the libya model which generated a lot of a lot of uh storm and drain during my during my tenure essentially uh is it is it it's a it's actually a misunderstanding what happened in the removal of weapons of mass destruction in libya first but what it's interpreted to mean is the north koreans would get rid of all of their weapons of mass destruction first and then we would consider whether or not to lift some sanctions and improve relations and so on salami slice is a description that's usually um usually used to describe how the north koreans would like to like to perceive the diplomacy which is giving them minimal commitment slicing the salami so thin and then getting rewarded each time they make a step always leaving themselves plenty of capacity to reverse themselves all for all which which was at least under consideration and got some discussion at the final or the most important summit meeting between president trump and chairman kim in in hanoi vietnam in 2019 all for all would be we're going to lift all the sanctions you're going to get rid of all of your weapons of mass destruction which is going to resolve all of these issues in one fell swoop and as tempting as that is in as much as i would have loved to have seen that the consensus build around that it was impossible to believe that the north koreans would ever do that once you get into the um into you know the construct of the diplomacy and how you're going to proceed then you have to also figure out how to sustain communication with north korea so this is extremely difficult north korea does have some foreign embassies around the world but they don't have an embassy in the united states of america although they have a diplomatic representation at the united nations and that has been the principal way through which the united states has communicated with north korea in recent decades it's it's referred to as the new york channel and here the united states diplomats the department of state has a phone number for a north korean diplomat there we have a designated person to maintain that communication usually the calls come from the north koreans somewhere between midnight and 4 a.m because they're usually decisions being made in directives being issued immediately out of pyongyang and so it was not uncommon for our designated communications person to have their phone cell phone ring in the middle of the night with a message from the north koreans but the north koreans would turn that channel on and off depending on how happy they were with the course of the negotiations or as a point of leverage to to try to force us to produce some unilateral incentive just simply to to resume communications a constant challenge constant challenge was the lack of communications and even when we were able to engage with our north korean counterparts and sit down with them and talk a significant challenge was the very very strict limitations that north korean negotiators were under um when i met with my counterpart north korean counterparts in vietnam uh a year almost two years ago now they had no authority to discuss issues related to the central most important issue for us in the entire negotiation the elimination of nuclear weapons they were absolutely unwilling and uh and unable at penalty of severe punishment to have any discussion whatsoever on those topics and so we could discuss a number of other peripheral important but peripheral issues but we spent four days at fruitlessly trying to get to the heart of the most complicated and important matter in this diplomacy but they had a different strategy that their leader was going to come and try to present a specific offer to our leader and and and close the deal in that way in a manner incidentally that would have been quite favorable to them now one of the things you have to be extraordinarily sensitive to in working with north korea is your your care and your precision in your communications i i uh the the system does not allow any sort of perceived insult or slight particularly regarding the leadership of their system to go unaddressed to not address that or to not respond explosively to any perceived insult or slight about their system or their leadership would again lead their negotiators to face the most severe punishments upon their return but of course as long as we could maintain a respectful dialogue and have had extreme care and how we communicated we could avoid those kind of flare-ups and i'm proud to say that we never had a single one during eight rounds of diplomatic engagement with the north koreans but i also was very mindful that the strength of the united states system is our agility i could go and sit down in these negotiations and i could test different ideas and different propositions to see if we could make progress in the creative progress in different ways something that my north korean counterparts with their strict instructions had absolutely no ability to do but conversely like back home here in the united states of america i had to deal with a sprawling democratic government and a democratic society in which there were any number of voices constantly opining or stating views or policies on how we should approach north korea and this could provide both some confusion source of confusion and also some opportunity for the north koreans to exploit uh to say that we couldn't deliver on a certain commitment or or to respond selectively to to what they heard coming out of the congress the white house the state department the media the think tank community and so on our strength in america is our agility in these negotiations our weaknesses our communications discipline and the exact inverse is true the exact reverse is true for the north koreans their strength is their message discipline they literally only say what they're instructed to say and they but they have absolutely zero agility or flexibility in the negotiations so the way um the way that i communicated with them well i'll come to that moment just a couple more uh thoughts on on the on as you think about how to engage north korea considerations i mentioned that the essential issue for us is denuclearization and even within denuclearization the simplest definition would be yeah sure you completely eliminate their nuclear weapons program and also you eliminate the means through which they construct them but it's far more complicated than that you have the question of verification how do you verify how do you prove how do you have the confidence that they did remove all the technology and and all the weapons before you begin lifting sanctions and perhaps even enriching the the north korean economy through uh through cooperation and assistance um you have a question of whether or not to involve uh the international atomic energy agency the iaea which is the gold standard of inspections in in in uh nonproliferation and denuclearization and the north koreans were extremely wary about the iaea so we had to find a creative way to get around their neuralgia for the for the world's most respected nuclear inspection agency we had to we had to uh grapple with what's called a declaration how do you just identify the breadth of the program before you begin to dismantle it so that you have on one hand a list of everything they have and on the other hand you then can verify that you've eliminated it the north koreans argued that a declaration would it be tantamount to giving us a targeting list in the case the negotiations went sideways and that we could use it simply to use use force to eliminate their weapons of mass destruction program the north koreans were very interested in something that i i could never bring myself to support but it has has a logic to it and it's worthy of consideration is whether we need to tacitly accept that north korea is a nuclear weapons state which it is in a sense that it has nuclear weapons but and and set aside the ambitions to completely eliminate that through denuclearization and instead pursue a strategy of arms control limitations reductions transparencies etc leaving to another day perhaps a long way the actual elimination of north korea's nuclear weapons program there are increasing numbers of advocates for this as i said it's it's not a policy that i would support um not just because i i am a determined believer in the nonproliferation objectives of the nonproliferation treaty but also because it would set loose in east asia nuclear ambitions for other countries who both saw the opening created by north korea or feared the implications of north korea being an accepted or tacitly accepted nuclear weapon state how long would it be before the people of japan or the people of south korea or the people of taiwan began demanding nuclear weapons programs of their own to defend their own security and deter north korea from such an attack and they also we also had a challenge that when we talked about denuclearization we also met two other very serious areas of north korea weapons programs biological weapons and conventional and chemical weapons uh both of which uh independently uh pose formidable challenges both for our diplomacy and for our efforts to bring um bring us a safer environment to the korean peninsula um the north koreans for their part uh demanded a number of of things from us that uh are on the front page of the debates today in fact uh i mentioned uh earlier that uh this is a very timely session because of the growing tensions on the korean peninsula some recent north korean short-range ballistic missile tests and also policy pronouncements suggesting hinting at that they might in fact unilaterally lift the uh moratorium that they put in place on the testing of nuclear weapons in the testing of long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles the what the north koreans have constantly called for is the united states to abandon its hostile policies towards north korea you'll read again even in the press today u.s spokespeople uh protesting the united states does not have a hostile policy towards north korea we certainly don't intend to attack or go to war with them but the north koreans definition of hostile policy includes our joint military exercises with our south korean allies it includes the military equipment that we sell and deliver to the south koreans to defend themselves it includes u.s military capabilities to include nuclear capabilities that do exist in east asia we don't we don't have nuclear weapons on the korean peninsula but we have submarines and we have ships that have nuclear weapons that sail the waters of east asia we just saw a nuclear submarine surface at guam one of the first public sightings of a u.s nuclear submarine since 2016.

these are these in north korea's views are us nuclear weapons uh in the theater of north korea and then also they complain about further investments and developments in the united states of our own nuclear weapons programs and our own missile tests putting themselves as equals with us and asking for us to take the same steps that we're asking of them formidable challenges in the diplomacy i can assure you the um just a couple last things on the on on the the diplomacy one is is managing the environment that you are in um one part of that is the three-dimensional world of first negotiating with the north koreans but second managing the the expectations and the demands of allies and partners in the process and then the third is as a as a representative of the president for the executive branch uh answering the mail for congress which may have its own views and being being available to uh to come up and do oversight and to uh and to face the scrutiny of our elected representatives in congress on whether or not our policies in their view are sufficient to defend united states interests i will say i had excellent interactions with the congress but it was aided by the fact that much of the much of the many of the issues that i worked on were highly sensitive and could only be discussed behind closed doors in secure settings but when you took this out of the public eye in that respect the level of intelligent thoughtful feedback engagement with our members of congress was extraordinary they're very knowledgeable but when you took the political element out it was a much more substantive negotiation that's one element of the external the last element that i want to touch upon is is the public world in which you're operating constantly being reported on constantly having commentary from former diplomats i now fit into that category from experts from think tankers um from political attacks you know diplomacy with north korea is is controversial it's controversial here in the united states i i got my fair share of criticism uh during our during our efforts and in south korea it's it's a it's a central political issue in the campaign for the next south korean president that the voting which will happen in just over a month um and that in north korea policy north korea diplomacy is even today one of the one of the most volatile political issues there um there are third parties uh third-party interlocutors there's business people former diplomats who speak to the north koreans constantly delivering messages uh back and forth um uh and uh and then also there's um uh ngos in in in in non-governmental organizations who have priorities such as human rights and and insists that this be uh awarded a sufficient level of attention to respect american values all of these and none of these are our influences that are impossible to manage and none of them uh frankly i would be critical of is just a complex environment you're operating in when you're trying to pursue diplomacy um i'm going to come back to this at the very end with just a comment for your uh for your students are going to be doing the exercise but let me very briefly tell you the choices we made so i mentioned we did a leader level approach and then we followed it up with working level we launched with a joint statement in singapore at president's first summit with chairman kim jong-un and that joint statement had four specific commitments to transform relations between our two countries to build a lasting peace on the korean peninsula to achieve the complete denuclearization on the korean peninsula um and what was narrowly described as recovering the remains of the of american soldiers who who fell in marines who fell in the korean war and who whose remains were not recovered was later expanded to people to people and humanitarian assistance we tried to deliver fast progress we wanted to have some low hanging fruit that we could very quickly establish positive momentum we wanted to set up four separate work streams one on each of these four priorities that came out of the singapore joint statement the way we decided to do this was to have a starting point with some first steps in an end state that defined how it would end so denuclearization for example we would early on get inspectors into north korea the north koreans would freeze the existing program and then we would set much farther out on the calendar when we would actually eliminate the nuclear weapons program but the idea was to identify the starting point the endpoint and then work the work the road map on how you got from start to finish the same could be said for transforming relations we wanted to put a put u.s diplomats into pyongyang immediately eventually the end state would be the full diplomatic recognition of north korea by the united states of america that might have been a long way away and had a lot of other issues but we would have defined the starting point the end point and some early steps to proceed i know that you distributed for your participants at the symposium in advance my speech that i delivered at um stanford let me first say that one of the ways that we dealt with this challenge of communications between the united states and korea as i only deliver prepared remarks during my tenure as as um north korea negotiator you'll remember that one of the one of the locations i chose for those remarks was uh was university of michigan in ann arbor in the fall in the fall of 2019.

john when i did those remarks i was of course speaking to the assembled students and faculty and interested parties here at the university of michigan but my remarks were primarily directed at the north koreans and i heard that i got a response from that speech that i delivered from a podium you know here at hill auditorium on the campus of university of michigan the north koreans are listening to everything but the stanford speech the reason why i suggested you share that for those of you who haven't read it i would encourage you to that was where we were telegraphing to the north koreans how we want to do this and i have to say the feedback for that was also quite positive so positive that i was i was in sitting in pyongyang less than a week after i delivered that speech in palo alto california and my counterpart had a copy of it on the table in front of them and we had delivered it to them the um we decided uh in these different road maps work streams we were going to pursue uh parallel and simultaneous progress that's the main thing that you would have heard in stanford speech and our idea was to advance on improving relations or peace on peninsula or denuclearization or people to people and if one slowed the other could carry the carry the load and that we could build a multi-vector approach to this that would keep forward momentum even as we ran into difficult issues which we surely would especially in the denuclearization um in advance we priced for what we would give up in return for what we would want the north koreans to do if they were going to give us a missile we were going to give them x if they were going to shut down a uranium enrichment facility we were going to give them y um and so on and so on we priced for everything so that we could parse out um our leverage uh in a manner that would effectively get us down well down the road map of denuclearization but we were prepared to give them relief if they were making progress on north korea excuse me on denuclearization as long as they agreed to the end state as long as we were constantly making progress towards that eventual goal of complete denuclearization um we uh we worked very hard internally through all this also to speak with a single voice in the united states government we tried we weren't perfect at it but we did reasonably well and we did it by empowering the state department inside the interagency and empowering the special representative my position inside the state department so that we could have almost dictatorial control over our messaging albeit within a robust uh sprawling democratic government and also with an entire branch of government that was beyond our ability to control our congress so that's what we tried to do we got very close in in that in i i have to say there were moments in hanoi it really which was the pivotal summit between the united states and north korea um we had moments where i thought we could get there but in the end in part because of some of the confusing messages we were sending i have to say in all fairness i have to accept that criticism in part because even though you want to process and you want a sustained engagement things kind of come to a head they reach that that peak that that acne where it's decision time and when we got to decision time the north koreans weren't ready and i think they weren't ready for a couple reasons one is they couldn't contemplate uh what success meant for their system and i think that's a fair judgment on their part that if kim jong-un who is a totalitarian dictator who runs a single-party state with extraordinary repression if he were to broker an agreement that opened north korea to trade and tourists that eliminated its nuclear weapons that brought peace to the korean peninsula that transformed u.s relations and u.s diplomats and embassy in pyongyang it is very hard to picture how that totalitarian dictatorship could be sustained in that environment it thrives on isolation it thrives on quite quite honestly it thrives on hardship you know thrives on parsing out benefits in its society and rewarding and punishing its citizenry and to think that those tools in that system could be sustained in the aftermath of the type of offer that we were offering the north koreans which was a bright future unfortunately the north koreans were prepared to accept that the um the uh that's i'll be more than happy to answer more questions on north korea diplomacy but those are the somewhat i think somewhat pedantic points i wanted to share because i do think they're important considerations uh for your participants in the in some of the exercises you're going to be doing tomorrow let me just briefly touch touching that last point that i said i would which is where this fits into the us rok relationship us and our south korean allies first of all um the south korea us alliance is a historic and durable agreement that defends both of our interests on the korean peninsula and increasingly in east asia it's it's a vital part of america's national security interests it's it's immensely popular in south korea as well and i i'm optimistic that it has a bright future but it does have some challenges um first in the course of the trump administration and my all credit to the byte administration there was quite a debate over how to balance cost sharing inside the alliance and you know there are two views on this one is that the united states uh in is an equal beneficiary of the security that comes on the korean peninsula and is that therefore it needs to be an equal contributor a more transactional view which was held by by the previous president was that we are basically there and we need to be paid to be there to defend the south korean people and so those are two very fundamental points of departure and what the alliance means and drove two very different approaches between president trump and president biden as to how to resolve the issue of cost sharing but the by administration very early in their tenure successfully did resolve that cost sharing for a five-year time frame and so we have a little bit of time to figure this out before before we have to debate it again and there are some things we have to sort out first on the south korean side very important to them is resolving the issue of when the command of military assets and personnel on the peninsula falls exclusively to the south koreans what's called wartime operational command transfer or youth or a shorthand wartime opcon transfer this is a subject of lengthy debate over when uh the south korean military will be capable of commanding the forces on the korean peninsula it's an issue that's very important to the south korean uh political class and the south korean military because they are a sovereign country it's their country um and and it's one that the u.s military also has very deeply held views that south korea has to be able to demonstrate the capabilities and the competence to do so in in both its its leadership capacities but also in its its ability to manage complex military operations and so this is a a subject of of some tension that needs resolution on the korean peninsula another issue um that is important to the united states of america is for south korea and japan to resolve their differences so the united states and its two most important allies in east asia its two allied partners in east asia can operate successfully in a trilateral manner another issue that's that's now be doubling the us rok relationship is the um is the approach towards china the united states is has made a clear determination that it is going to be a competitive relationship and at times hopefully not but at times possibly even adversarial with the people's republic of china south korea has deep economic ties with china a political decision to uh to shift in that direction uh by south korea has economic implications for south korea and also south korea is lives uh very close to uh to north korea as well and so um the the united states and and south korea need to have some some lengthy discussions on aligning what are how how we are going to respectively um uh work with china or react to china but also together as an alliance what is our role going to be in the larger strategy of addressing the rise of chinese power in east asia and then there's some other issues such as a role for south korea in the five eyes agreement the intelligence sharing agreement uh among the leading democracies but the english-speaking democracies exclusively currently that is probably the premier intelligence organization in the world there's question of whether or not there's a role for south korea in the quad that's evolved in uh in the indo-pacific the united states australia japan and uh india um clearly uh the uh missing party there is is india but is excuse me is south korea but is there a role for south korea in the quad does it should it become a quint should it incorporate our other u.s military ally in the indo-pacific and then also the recent development of the u.s australia uk agreement the august agreement built around intelligence sharing and building nuclear subs each of these agreements uh uncomfortably exclude south korea and so as we look at our diplomacy on the korean peninsula we also have to anchor that larger u.s rok relationship that is um capable of delivering on providing security for the peoples of both of our countries so john i think i will wrap it up with that and uh let's uh your pleasure let's jump into q a and then i'll be happy to answer questions from anybody else participating in the in the uh virtual meeting that sounds wonderful thank you for those really great and helpful remarks both in thinking about how to approach the diplomacy as a practitioner and also giving us a very comprehensive view of uh of the political factors that shape diplomacy around north korea i have a few questions and those of you who are watching in the audience you can at any point feel free to enter questions in the q a function which we'll get to in just a moment but let me start with a few about questions about the most recent events on the peninsula as you mentioned north korea tested some tactical guided missiles this week the fourth missile test this year including a few with hypersonic weapons and yesterday the north koreans sent a signal hinting that they may resume nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests that have been paused since 2018 what's the military significance of these tests and based on past experience what are their likely political objectives so um i don't think we can be complacent about the the things that you were describing uh clearly north korea is beginning to ramp itself up and in generally they tend to have a plan that they've thought through in advance to escalate towards a certain goal um they are dramatically improving their short-range ballistic missile capabilities without a doubt and they're spending by the way enormous resources to do this um i i don't have the the the tip of my fingers the number but it's in the it's in the millions and millions of dollars that they spend for each one of those individual missiles to build them that they that they've been testing and firing into the sea and so you you go back to the probably now two dozen launches that they've done you just you think about a country enduring such privation and hardship and at a moment like this and it's spending an enormous amount of resources but it's doing so um with some return these short-range ballistic missiles seem to me to be significant weapons um they certainly uh have the ability to to uh inflict significant harm on the korean peninsula to our to our allies in south korea but also i think it's fairly clear that they can reach a sufficient distance to reach japan and if you draw a circle around at what the uh you know radius of the of the range of these missiles which i think tends to be around uh five or six hundred miles um you certainly uh in that circle you're going to have tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of american citizens as well living working operating stationed in military bases in the region so um the threat of those is is is significant um and uh and the question is that and this is debated uh if you've been reading any of the recent literature there's a debate that often breaks out is are the north koreans testing these systems to send a signal is it a political statement or are they testing these systems to test these systems is you know to paraphrase sigmund freud sometimes a missile test is just a missile test they may just be trying to advance more sophisticated capabilities on the korean peninsula we shouldn't be complacent about it but it isn't lost on anyone in the region that short-range ballistic missiles won't reach the continental united states of america not by lunch now an intercontinental ballistic missile will get the attention of a lot more americans you remember back to 2017 during the period of fire and fury and even that that terrible mishap on the state of hawaii when the person who ran the civil defense system accidentally triggered an alert that a north korean missile had been fired at hawaii and caused you know several hours or at least a lengthy period of panic on the hawaiian islands because of that that mishap that'll get a lot of people's attention and the north koreans know that um but it'll get attention for north korea that it doesn't want as well now it's very hard for me to conceive of how we could make the sanctions on north korea any more um punitive than they are we have exhausted the ability of the united states in and of itself to impose pressure on the north koreans but the chinese still have significant leverage with north korea whether the chinese would react or overreact to a north korean icbm test i think would remain to be seen but my my experience during my period of diplomas leading to diplomacy with north korea in which i worked very closely i would say even in partnership with chinese counterparts a nuclear weapons test that really crosses the red line for china so if i guessed where the north koreans are heading um it very well may be towards an icbm to really you know grab the united states by the collar and shake us and say you know you know start responding to our demands the problem is we we can't respond to those demands without them sitting down to talk with us and uh and it it it is a it is a dilemma how we would how we would do this when the north koreans have largely given the biden administration the silent treatment for a full year that actually gets on very nicely in my next question which is about sanctions in response to the tests as you know the biden administration has imposed new sanctions including travel bans and asset freezes on five north koreans involved in the nuclear program and i believe it's just yesterday that china and russia stalled u.s efforts to to multilateralize these sanctions at the u.n security council how effective in your view is the current program of sanctions in shaping north korean incentives and behavior and to what extent do china and russia appear to be enforcing the sanctions that were laid down in that 2017-18 period when there was strong multilateral consensus so um the uh the sanctioning of the five north koreans was a symbolic action i understand why in in the administration i served and there was strong pressure to that as well but these five individuals were likely uh sanctioned for any assets they have in the united states which they don't have or any travel outside of north korea which they will not do and so you know in in a way uh it really is symbolism it's telling north koreans we know who did it but because of the overarching sanctions that are already imposed on north korea the the the practical impact of those sanctions it's a it's a political gesture it's symbolism north korea in russia excuse me china and russia both were partners and sometimes challenging partners but partners nonetheless during my tenure as north korean um special representative and i have to caveat that my perceptions are now one year and one day old since i left government on january 20 of 2021 but as much as we wanted north korea and china to effectively implement those sanctions there were there were large uh areas of seepage that they could not or would not address and i i i don't give them too much of the benefit of the doubt because a country like china can control the the online behavior virtually every citizen in the country surely should be able uh to enforce a sanctions regime against north korea in the case of russia perhaps the capacity is a little bit less but also the will wasn't necessarily there but also uh without giving them any uh any excuse um i have to say that you know china and russia are also the two countries aside from south korea that border north korea in the case of china it's hundreds and hundreds of miles and in the case of russia it's a little bit less but these are these are uh easily cross borders by smugglers and you know some certain amount of seepage and then there's just criminality in the in the world there's corrupt ship owners and you know there's tankers flying under false flag and turning off their communications and and you know smuggling oil into north korea there's going to be some certain amount of seepage anyway and because the proximity of russia and china a lot of that seepage is going to come from russia and china you know it's the united states can't control uh its border for uh reasonable uh and illegal immigration um you know we have a long border people cross it it's just it's just a fact of life and and that drives the uh some some degree of the sanctions non-compliance as well um but i don't think sanctions uh i don't think we can add much more pressure the chinese could i should say that the chinese could but we ourselves it's not within our wherewithal without the chinese doing it to add any more economic pressure uh through sanctions on north korea right and and i have one more question before we turn to the to the audience and that is about on the diplomatic side how to bring the stakeholders together right now we've got russian troops on the border with ukraine we've got intensified tensioner in the straight taiwan straits as you alluded to relations between japan and south korea are tense in this context based on your experience is it possible for these big powers to compartmentalize and still be able to make serious headway on north korea at a time when they're locking horns on so many other issues possible yes willing is a whole separate question though so when i uh when i uh took the position at as the as the chief negotiator on north korea in the summer of 2018 we still had a reasonably cooperative relationship with with uh china in the case of russia the relationship had been troubled for quite a long time and it was further roiled by russian intervention in the 2016 election so there were tensions there the russians the chinese uh didn't even need to compartmentalize because they shared shared our objectives and so we were able to cooperate even the russians compartmentalized and they were capable of doing that and so so that worked and i remember my counterpart telling me that this was once highlighted in a call between presidents putin and trump as one area that the united states and russia could cooperate we lost a lot of ground from 2018 to current day that relations with china are um are so uh so embroiled in areas of disagreement john that it's not just a question of of can they but will they and in the case of china uh from the beginning of the administration president biden's approach and his white house's approach which is very practical was um look let's let's understand we're going to be competing but there are areas that we agree on we should work together climate change north korea um you know what have you and there are issues that we're just going to have to disagree on and we're going to compete with you and and the the chinese response was no no that's not how it's going to work either you're going to address all of our concerns or we're not going to cooperate on anything so it was a conscious rejection of that compartmentalization by wong gi and yang jinshu the two senior foreign policy leaders in china um the russians uh russians might be a little bit more interested but quite frankly the chinese are the long pole in the tent on this one all right thank you very much uh i'm now going to turn to some questions from the from the audience and the first one comes from my colleague jungju who is the director of the nam center for korean studies here at um uh and she asks about the account of the hanoi summit contained in john bolton's latest book the room where it happened asking how accurate you say that account is because bolton claims credit essentially for foiling an agreement with the north koreans emphasizes president trump's or claims president trump's inattentiveness to the matter and the influence of japanese prime minister shinzo abe in shaping u.s policy in northeast asia to what extent is that account consistent with what you witnessed so i didn't read the book so i will i what i can tell you rather than refute what uh john wrote is i can tell you what happened to emily um in it in in if i really told you the full account it course would consume our entire amount of time but let me get to the critical point which was the failure to reach an agreement the president first of all president came to this summit as prepared as he has ever been for any international event that i participated in with him and to that for that i credit uh ambassador bolton i think ambassador bolton and the national security council staff his asia director and my good friend allison hooker spent hours with the president pouring over intelligence reports maps information so that the president went into this round of negotiations with kim jong-un uh fully aware of the breadth of the north korean nuclear weapons complex program in the size of the arsenal that we suspected they had and so the president arrived in hanoi um fully informed ambassador where ambassador bolton really planted his flag though was he did not want any diplomacy with the north koreans at all flat out he did his preferred approach was an ultimatum to the north koreans that they give up all their nuclear weapons or else and it was a very very difficult time inside the interagency to define what the or else was in my view the possibility of of uh going to war on the korean peninsula to to face the complete destruction of south korea in a matter of hours at the onset of hostilities was not a viable option um it is the uh it it was the dilemma that we faced and you know i remember my good friend h.r mcmaster ambassador bolt successor you know saying that um saying once that you know it's wrong to say that going to war is not a choice because it's always a choice it may not be a good choice it may be a horrible choice it's a choice but ambassador bolton never completed that kind of thought process on on therefore the approach would be what because as i've said we've absolutely exhausted the sanctions that we could put on north korea other than military action or perhaps a campaign of subversion which would have its own risks incidentally because if the if the south korean if the north korean government collapsed it could be calamitous not that we should be supporting this regime but the rapid collapse of this regime uh with its uh huge capacity and weapons of mass destruction could potentially be chaotic and calamitous so when the president arrived in hanoi he wanted a deal and that that crossed ambassador bolton's red line because he didn't want any deal at all but the president wanted a good deal and uh in here again credit ambassador bolton because the president understood when he arrived in hanoi what a good deal was and so when chairman kim offered him a um a proposal which would be to have us lift all the sanctions that were imposed against north korea in exchange for one portion of the north korean nuclear weapons program to be discontinued but implicitly to allow north korea to continue to hold its nuclear weapons and to continue to produce enriched material and weapons in other facilities that they might have outside of the facility young gun that they agreed to close when that was when that was tabled the president understood because of his preparation intuitively that was a bad deal we would essentially become the underwriters of the north korean nuclear weapons program and so the president over the course of the two days tried to tease out from kim jong-un more at one point it was it was almost a paraphrase only slightly here the question of can you give up give more here or can you ask for less and chairman kim kept robotically repeating the offer that he had brought to the table and i sat there i sat there in the back of the room and i thought oh my gosh this guy could change history right here this north korean leader he could fundamentally change the direction of events on korean peninsula but he couldn't move he couldn't couldn't pivot he didn't have that flexibility as i described earlier and i think and as i thought about this uh in in in the two years since i don't think he'd made the decision yet i don't think he was ready i don't think he was ready to match what the president was willing to do so when the president finally felt like he had exhausted those possibilities he didn't turn to basketball he turned to the secretary of state mike pompeo when he asked the secretary of state what he thought and the secretary of state said i think we're close but i think the gap is too still too big and the president said to chairman kim yeah the gap is too big we've got to close this uh we've got to get this gap closer let's have our people continue to work on this this has been a good meeting i think we understand each other's views and positions but we can just keep working at it and let's keep working at it when we left that meeting um our hopes were that it would be an opportunity to build off that and take it further and everything that was discussed in hanoi is still i think extensively on the table for the bite administration and the north koreans but it didn't die because um there was a saboteur in the room or or somebody whose ideological purity was such that they were able to to shift the president's thinking the president made that decision and i was actually very proud of my president that day he looked at it and we went into the whole room we went uh we took a break one last break before we came back to conclude the meeting and the president had all the senior people there the secretary of state me his national security advisor ambassador bolton he had his senior director his senior director for asia matt pottinger and allison hooker there he had um his chief of staff there and he went around one by one he said he said i this is not it's not a deal that i i i'm inclined to take but but you tell me what you think and he went around unanimous view among all the president's advisors the north koreans simply weren't ready they hadn't brought enough to the table and so that's how it ended i don't know what i don't know what uh john wrote in the book i'm sure it um i'm sure it was very flattering to the role he played um and and i do give him a credit as i said for some important parts of the preparation but that's how that's how it played out thank you uh very informative and i want to now combine a pair of and i was in the room and i was in the room i want to combine a pair of questions one is from one of our great mpp students sarah godak who asks how the pandemic and and also the various phases of it have affected china north korea relations and a katie decker an outstanding ford school grad who served in the u.s government asks should we interpret the announcement this week that chinese brokers say they're they're going to resume regular trade with north korea combined with the recent missile tests as evidence that the north is back open for business and is trying to reassert itself after a quiet period amid the pandemic you know um so i was deeply involved in the early stages of the pandemic because because the outbreak happened initially in china it was an international issue of course our health authorities were involved i i was in a daily meeting with dr fauci dr redfield and the assembled uh experts on on covid19 but because it was in china uh it was very much a focus state department and one of the early decisions we made was to to uh halt travel between china united states and hope that we could contain the spread of the virus in the united states in hindsight um it came through europe primarily into the united states of america incidentally um so unfortunately the horses had already bolted but um when we it was a tough decision but the president made the decision to to freeze travel or halt travel between the united states and china and china wasn't happy they felt like it was ostracizing them it felt like it was punishing them and you know obviously was uncomfortable but i noted that there only one country beat or equaled us with the speed to close travel from china that was north korea north korea immediately closed its borders to china now you have to understand the north korean population is is extraordinarily challenged in matters of health the spread of disease the lack of immunizations vaccinations poor nutrition a variety of factors contribute to it to a weakened population without any uh any any significant health care uh available to them except in the in the uh urban areas in particular in pyongyang but in the countryside tens of millions of north koreans exist with very little medicine and so if this violence got into north korea it would it would be terrible it would be like the grim reaper people's resistance is low their healthcare is system is weak and it and they were right to be afraid of the consequences but they reacted with such draconian uh such a draconian response their quarantine period was 30 days for example things like that um that that were just recording they completely closed the borders and that did start to create some some additional attention not only did china not only was china unhappy with the abrupt closure of the border but then over the course of the ensuing months the north koreans won't let chinese diplomats in or out of north korea or anyone anyone else's diplomats and finally after much badgering and much much pressure the north koreans allowed groups of ambassadors to leave and the reason they didn't even want to let them leave which you know ostensibly would not spread virus inside the country was that there had to be some point of interaction at a border or elsewhere and so we may have even seen the videos of russian diplomats pushing a handrail car across a bridge from the north korean border into russia to evacuate from the from the russian embassy in pyongyang it's a it's an amazing youtube video to watch um just in recent months uh huge tensions behind the scene have grown between north korea and china because north korea won't let china send a new ambassador into pyongyang again because of this uh almost paranoid level of fear of the presence of kovid 19 and so there were tensions between china and russia excuse me between china and north korea north korea rejected chinese humanitarian assistance they rejected trade they rejected goods and this this gets to katie's question second question the uh the chinese excuse me the north koreans appear uh from what i can tell from where i sit today to put together a sophisticated quarantine facility on the border with china in which goods are literally going to sit out in the open for weeks in order to de-fumigate and they'll be sprayed and disinfected and this will probably be things like grains and fertilizers and other goods by the way all legal trade and just to be clear while there are draconian sanctions against north korea there are large parts of trade that are legal and not prohibited by the u.n security council resolutions including fertilizers including foodstuffs in particular and in many other goods as well you know the idea wasn't to starve the population of north korea and bring it to its knees it was to to limit the capacity of the north korean regime to uh to fund and supply a weapons mass destruction complex so that the chinese who fear instability on the korean peninsula i mean at the heart of this north korea a north korean collapse would be viewed in beijing as calamitous uh as well not just the chaos and the the loose uh the possibility of loose uh weapons of mass destruction but also um the political consequences and the longer term resolution of the division on the peninsula could settle out in a way not advantageous to what china pursue perceives to be its interests you know god forbid in beijing's view that the korean peninsula is unified as a democracy and allied with the united states of america that would be in beijing the nightmare scenario that would keep them awake at night so north korea trade is important to china to stabilize the north korean economy they want to provide food they want to sustain the regime they may not want it to thrive and they may not want it to test icbms or nuclear weapons but they definitely they definitely don't want to see the hardships get to such a point that the north korean regime collapses katie what i would say is the more noteworthy thing though when it comes to recent developments in china over the last uh last few weeks is increasing mentioned by chinese officials that the course of diplomacy should be six-party talks again they return to that construct i talked about earlier from the from from the first few years from during the bush administration in the early 2000s um that china's beginning to hint at that suggests china which by the way six party talks were led by china suggests that china is beginning to show signs of wanting to assert itself as the lead broker for diplomacy on the korean peninsula thank you i want to shift back to the question of how the united states communicates with uh authorities in pyongyang or intersects with north korea uh and jordan corvay asks the question of what role sweden played in your diplomatic efforts given that sweden serves as the u.s protective power in kenya yes so um the swedish my swedish counterpart was a tremendous partner the swedes are trusted uh by the uh by the north koreans they have sweden was the first country to recognize north korea uh in the aftermath of the korean war um and but north korea is also excuse me sweden is also a well-regarded and widely respected democracy in the west and so they they serve as a perfect intermediary and they played a very important role in our diplomacy i have to say that some of the most important meetings two of the eight meetings that i had with north koreans during my tenure as chief negotiator were brokered by and held in sweden they they were the authors of the last gasp effort in october of 2019 when we met one once more our final time before the onset of the coco pandemic early the next year it was not a successful meeting but it was through energetic diplomacy by our swedish counterparts that uh that we were able to to after the collapse of the hanoi summit but then slightly resurrected by the meeting at the panmunjom village dmz between the president and kim jong-un in the summer of 2019 we were able to pull together one last negotiating round but at that point for a variety of factors uh i think we were doomed to fail we tried but i think we fell but i have to give all credit to the swedes my first meeting in sweden happened in uh in january of 2000 uh january of 2019 and they funded a level of security to put us in an isolated kind of conference center with the north koreans to be able to have our first substantive really substantive engagement with them in suites spared no expense i i give them great credit and if we're ever successful in diplomacy with north korea i have little doubt that there will be swedish fingerprints on the economy endeavor of course in addition to high-level diplomatic context there are other ways that the united states tries to engage with north korea and radical aurora asks to what extent public diplomacy initiatives either blessed by or at least tolerated by the u.s government have moved the needle on usdprk or ok relations such as exchange programs uh journalists traveling to north korea and so on they've played a they've played a very very important those types of initiatives that you described played a very important role in kind of softening the rough edges and finding areas of potential opening between the two societies um i have to say with with deep deep regret that the kovid 19 pandemic of all the all the tragic and unfortunate consequences of this terrible virus one has been in our ability to engage in effective diplomacy with many countries around the world i mean the president united states has not sat down with the leader of china a year into his presidency he's met once with the with the russian president under extraordinary uh constraints it's just and it's just so difficult to advance this kind of diplomacy um virtually on video links so uh you know you mentioned journalists you mentioned you know we have people-to-people exchanges exchange students um with some risk we had you know the tragic tragic killing of out-of-worm beer and so you there's some risk attendant in this these types of engagements as well but uh also track two and track 1.5 dialogues where officials and former officials or just former officials get together it generates a significant amount of creative thought a sense of where the openings are it's very important informal part of communication and it has delivered on more than one occasion has given birth to official level engagement for my part uh i depended heavily upon it and again for the last year of my tenure it was it all went away just with with uh every other coveted restriction you know for for over a full year and possibly still to this day although maybe it's softened now not a single person crossed from outside north korea into north korea so any north korean that would leave north korea would couldn't come back i mean the the the pandemic controls were draconian so um you know this was this is a huge loss and hopefully hopefully we can get past that but north korea has a very very low vaccination rate the pandemic is still raging around us i have to say i'm a little bit pessimistic on when we might be able to return to those kind of opportunities okay and and while the united states is looking for possible ways to re-engage with north korea of course it's also trying to engage with its own allies in some cases to pressure pyongyang and will kyle asks the question of what the united states can reasonably do to help alleviate the tensions and sometimes outright enmity between south korea and japan over issues such as the history issue or or trade war issues well i i have to say that uh it is it is a difficult issue um and uh and one that is vulnerable to political exploitation in both systems it's anchored around a troubled diplomacy around questions of you know when is an apology enough uh when is an apology sincere um and i have very very good friends in japan south korea that um that people who i respect immensely who struggle with resolving their feelings on this issue even now i had i had a respected south korean interlocutor visiting me once when i was at the state department and he was he was trying to explain to me and there's a moment of anger at japan and he and he he said to me you know you have no idea what they did to our forefathers and i said sir just to be clear you mean what their forefathers did to your forefathers and that just illustrated for me the fundamental gap that that it was tragic what happened on the korean peninsula at the hands of the japanese imperial army and but something that the japanese government have also apologized for and offered a restitution for so this is a big challenge for us these are two great democracies these are two countries that if we could work and hit on all cylinders together all of our interests would be advanced in the indo-pacific but um you know the challenge of overcoming history is one that for many cultures and societies that is quite difficult to do so i hope i hope it can be resolved but there's continued signs that uh that this remains your contention i mentioned that north korea diplomacy is a contentious issue in the in the presidential campaign in in south korea that's underway right now so is relations with japanese uh relations with japan um and i'm afraid it's not gonna go in any way soon what we really need what we really need is some incredibly good statesmanship on both sides to find a way through this issue to permanently resolve it thank you and our next question from julia fadinelli brings us back across the pacific to u.s domestic politics and changes between administrations from your experience to what extent do you think north korea relies on or anticipates differences between administrations and and responds differently across democratic and republican administrations or across different leaders obama trump biden uh or do they tend to present do they tend to perceive the united states as having a relatively consistent line toward north korea no you're the former not the latter they think about our politics a lot uh as as early as 2019 every time i got together with them any sidebar conversation was about you know who's going to win the next election and they were intently focused on whether or not president trump would be continuing in office after 2020 and because one of the things that they feel is an advantage for them is they think time is on their side so if you're kim jong-un who i think just turned 36 years old and he sees his grandfather kim il-sung who lived at the age of 80 or so you know he's looking at a he's still looking at a 55 a 45-year horizon assuming that you know the norms of that system are sustained over a period of time you know if he's got a wait out a president for four years that's doable and uh and and but on the other hand if if they are getting into a serious negotiation where commitments are going to be made they want to know that there's going to be a consistent execution implementation of those commitments across the you know the number of years it would take to fulfill and an election could create an uncomfortable interruption in that as it did for example with the uh jcpoa the iran nuclear deal um between it between administrations and by the way that lesson wasn't lost on north koreans either so they're they're deeply focused on this and uh and uh and it's in in the when i said that i think you know perhaps the uh final meeting in october of 2019 that probably was you know in hindsight not going to deliver much of an outcome anyway and one of the things that was on my mind i didn't go into was the fact that north koreans were already going into a bit of a retreat to see what happened in our presidential elections which were at that point uh just a year away right we've got time for a couple more questions and so i'm going to ask uh two more i've got here one is from brendan flynn who's uh joining us from wayne state for the simulation welcome brendan and he asks you alluded in in your in your opening remarks to the challenge for north korea of actually accepting uh the benefits that would come from sanctions relief and trade and the possible destabilization of the of the autocratic regime what steps could be taken to enable north korea actually to accept the risks of opening to increase commerce with the world yeah so um of course there are models that that they could uh emulate as an american diplomat and anchored in the realities and responsibilities as an american diplomat i could never and would never advocate for no you can still be a dictator we'll get this done and you know your dictatorship will survive now our president did do something that he had carefully considered in many of his communications particularly the some of the famous tweets he would send a message to to chairman kim through uh through before he was off twitter he would send a message to chairman kim and he would often end it with under your rule or under your leadership that we will transform relations on your leadership we want the president wanted to reinforce the subtle message we were not trying to advocate regime change we had a primary concern here which was nuclear weapons on the korean peninsula that was our laser focus of course human rights of course uh the the treatment of the korean peninsula the people of korea north korea is is a deep concern but probably the best thing we could have done to improve human rights in north korea was find a way to begin the transformation on the korean peninsula that in time that could soften the uh the nature of that regime but um you know the um he uh yeah he he did have to gamble in order to make this happen he has he has to do it because he wants a better future for his people um and we used sanctions incidentally to compress his timeline i talked about how he might look at his grandfather's record and think that he's got you know another 35 or 45 years to um to figure this out sanctions were intended to compress his timeline to limit his choices to reduce reduce that space that he felt he had that he can't and definitely preside over but he was careful of balance too because we also weren't trying to starve the north korean people into submission and we never believed that sanctions alone um could impose enough pressure we just wanted to reduce his choices but um yeah the models could be emulated as a china model you know there's a model in china there's a model in vietnam with a single-party state collective leadership um i mentioned his sense importance of sensitivity and communicating with the north koreans one issue that is almost radioactive the third rail is to suggest that there is any system in which north korea could be governed that is better than the one that they have now because they have the best one ever now and if you ever forgot that uh you were walking into a hornet's nest with your north korean counterparts but the truth is there were other models something between the totalitarian dictatorship which i have to tell you um it was it was in my view and i'm a sovietologist by background my background is actually russian studies as john mentioned um i felt at times like that we were doing the equivalent of a negotiation with the soviet diplomats in the 1930s during stalin's terrors in the margin literally quaking at times in the negotiations for fear that they weren't delivering on their on their instructions and so um you know that system that system isn't going to survive successful diplomacy but there's a lot of models for how societies transform themselves and create a better future for their people vietnam is one of america's closest friends in asia today we don't agree on the nature of their government but it also doesn't keep us from working together that's great and our last question actually flows nicely from that i'm going to combine questions from joel wheeler here at the ford school in sujin park who's our guest expert from the wilson center and they both have to do with how you how you deal with uh negotiations with kim jong-un or other senior uh north korean officials on a person-to-person level one aspect of this is how you in in your role as a diplomat uh negotiate with somebody who's guilty guilty of terrible atrocities uh and whom you may have serious moral and personal reservations about uh and the second part of the question is uh sujan's reference to another talk uh you gave in which you you alluded to the limited knowledge that uh chairman kim and others have about say the imf or world bank or other opportunities for north korea to be able to get assistance how do you manage to in a sense educate the person you're negotiating with uh in a context of such great sensitivity yes so um the uh i think the first responsibility uh as an american diplomat is to understand those deficiencies the those um those uh uh you know deficiencies isn't even a sufficient word for prison camps and executions and murders and poisoning and so on you know go in with your eyes wide open but uh you keep your eye on the primary objective if we could eliminate the nuclear weapons program in north korea you know one of the things we are challenged with is is as a democratic society is prioritizing uh in our diplomacy or in our international relations it doesn't have to be a tawdry trade-off we don't have to ignore human rights for example to make progress on nuclear weapons but we have to sort out for ourselves what is our primary what is our secondary what is our tertiary interest and can we address those in a way sequentially to resolve and create more opening and opportunity we had a view that our diplomacy with north korea could be an iterative process where we started out with very little space but in time the more things that we could work through the more space we could create and we could get to a point where we could have a dialogue for example on human rights and so you have to keep your eye on the ball of course i could have sat there in and felt uh uh you know that i was engaging with with uh you know people who had done inhuman things but instead i chose to sit down and think about them as humans you know many of them many of the people i worked with were raised within that society raised within that system that's what they know that's what they were born to did they make trade-offs in their life or choices did they choose a course that was personally beneficial over a course that was courageous or honorable or principled i don't know it wasn't my responsibility to judge i had to treat them like human beings and i did um in including and right up to uh chairman kim who i accepted him for what he was but i also had my eye on the ball on what my responsibility was as an american diplomat educating informing are certainly things that one has to be very cautious of again and sensitive to with with our north korean counterparts but sharing experience is a very good one models of comparison bad because again there's no system that's better than that system in in their thinking and it's picture you're asking for a fight for example to make a comparison of how kazakhstan got rid of its nuclear weapons uh in in and was more secure at least that argument could have been made up until about two months ago um and you can't couldn't use the ukraine argument anymore either for that matter but um uh you know uh you teach through sharing experience you count on on the tremendous benefit of what was discussed earlier the track twos the track 1.5 the interactions um you know a lot of organizations think tanks the united nations do capacity building discussions where it's not intended to teach north koreans anything it's intended for everybody to share and discuss their experiences but the north koreans in the room by osmosis and by curiosity absorb and understand these lessons and it's worked a number of uh junctures in in the united states and other countries interactions with north korea going back certainly going back to the early 2000s um that's how you do it yeah but um but you do it with sensitivity you do it with um acknowledging the strictures of their system and their requirements uh but you can do it thank you very much nice note to close on we've just reached 5 30.

I want to thank you secretary began so much for sharing your insights with us thank you for the participants of course thank you to my staff colleagues dan ellis and susannah wisely for organizing this session and we will uh yes yes i have one more word i want to say and this is your students who are going to be listening tomorrow i was mindful as i was putting together my presentation today that i was going to give you all the strictures all the challenges all the obstacles all the all the failed attempts at diplomacy with north korea but the challenge that i encourage you to take into your exercise tomorrow is to think beyond those constraints this is one of the greatest gifts i had as as a chief negotiator during the trump administration is for better or for worse our president was completely unconstrained by all the conventions of what came before now there were times when that made a lot of people uncomfortable but in the case of pursuing with north korea we could try anything and that was very liberating so as you think through these things tomorrow don't think about those strictures think about what solves the problem then figure out how you maneuver that inside the system how you operate inside that environment that i was describing of pressures and inputs and in confusions and communications how you work with other countries to build a consensus around it don't accept that failure is necessarily the only option that is what my whole team brought to the table every day and that's why we we got as far as we did we didn't succeed i'll be the first to acknowledge that but understand the strictures but don't be intimidated by them excellent advice for the morning students who are part of the simulation we look forward to seeing you at 9 30 tomorrow morning for our panel uh um please uh even though we can't see you on screen uh join me in thanking secretary beagan for some great remarks and we look forward to seeing you all tomorrow thanks everyone thank you john i'll see you tomorrow