>> what gave me a lot of strength that might is that blacks went through this before me in slavery, and up to this day, you know, i said to myself to saying it was just moments, you know, moments to think and it's like this is what people really went through back in the day and still are going through. but i said i've got to exercise this my brothers and sisters survive this do the same things you've just got to stay alive. you don't even have time to think of that, but you already know because you're being beat by people not of your colored, so my instinct is i cannot dhaka of here i cannot let these guys tell me -- these guys kill me.
say punditry. when i left the government in 2007, i really had no desire to write a book about north korea. i've been dealing w-9 issue for three years, involved in negotiations, seeing everything, you know, really close up, and i just didn't have a desire to write it then, but five years later and given the situation that north korea was in, it seem like a good opportunity to write a little bit about my experiences there. a bit about the history and u.s. policy into a more general audience because i think this is a sort of issue where the educated leader really doesn't know much about north korea and its history. they see headlines about missile tests and leaders and all these things. i thought it be good to write a book that people could look to
as a comprehensive assessment of the history, the family, the economics, the politics, the human right situation, the nuclear problem that they could look to every time they had a question about what was going on with north korea, and so it's not -- it's not -- i wouldn't call it a scholarly book, although it has footnotes, but it's really written to a general audience that might be interested in trying to learn something about this country on the far side of the planet. >> host: the book also has a point of view, and it's, i think, been formed from your experience in the bush administration. >> guest: uh-huh. >> host: how did you decide to kind of infuse it with that kind of point of view, you know, set of arguments really about north korea's future that, you know, it's a little different from a straight history i would say. >> guest: yeah. well, i think any history has an
opinion in it, and i think in this case, particularly the parts about u.s. policy, and i mean, certainly they were formed by my own experiences dealing with the north koreans in the bush administration, but i thought i also tried to give it an objective assessment in terms of the overall view that every u.s. administration going back to ronald reagan has tried to deal with this problem. ronald reagan had his own engagement initiative. george hw bush, bill clinton did, george w. bush, and president obama did. well i think there are some of my own personal views how president bush handled the situation, there's probably things in there readers disagree with, but there's things that readers would be surprised with in terms of what president bush thought in terms of diplomacy with north creigh, which is not
something they normally associate with president bush's views on north korea. that was a natural thing where i could add something on this set, perhaps other authors who have written on the topic would not be able to. >> you don't necessarily take an ideological perspective in your evaluation of the other administrations, but you do give kind of a critical review of successes and failures of our administrations in dealing with the issue. one of the, i guess the basic thesis of the book is that north korea the is impossible state because no one inside is empowered to overthrow it, and no one on the outside cares about the risks that it causes to change it. in particular starting with no one is in power to overthrow, why do you think that's been the case in north korea? i mean, especially from a comparative politics perspective, this really makes
north korea an outlier with what we saw with the former soviet union. >> guest: right. i think that observation is quite accurate, i think, when we looked at the soviet union, when we look at the regimes in the arab spring, all of which have leaders in power longer than the former, recently deceased north korean leader. they all collapsed, and north korea continues to survive. that alone is evidence that no one alope in the system is empowered to overthrow it, but i think it's also just because, as you know well, the very strict controls that exist in the country, it's a society in which the -- to use the term "strong state" would be an understatement. this is about the strongest state in terms of the control that it has on the society and on political freedoms, and even in thought, even in the way peel think, and for that reason, it's very difficult to imagine that
there could be a group within this society that could speak out, that could challenge a view that a party congress and that these things don't happen in north korea, and so that's why it's lasted for this long, i think, because in spite of a lot of its problems, economic problems, human rights problems, food problems, it's lasted this long, and that is because no one within the system is capable of changing it. >> host: there are potential forces for change going on inside north korea when you talk about marketization, you know, information flows. you know, we're not -- it's maybe post totalitarian, but we're obviously not to the place where there's an organized opposition. how long do you think it's going to take for us to see the evolution of politics in north korea to a point where it's possible for sentiment to be expressed? >> guest: it's a good
question, and as political scientists, we're supposed to be able to determine when these things happen to reach a critical tipping point, but i don't think we can. i don't think we can say with any degree of accuracy what the tipping point in terms of when a society is ready to act up, and rather than simply be -- follow the rules, the current political system, and in the case of north korea as you say, in the book, i talk a lot about the element that i think is new in this picture, which is the growing markets in the country really starting from the father and -- famine of the 1990s in which people had to sell whatever they could find -- a cup, a pen for food, and that was the start of a market in a system that never had markets before, and that has. going on now for 15 years. i think what we can say is that there's an element there that
was not there in the past that has created more of an independence of mind by the people in north korea, and not being solely reliant on handouts from the government, but when exactly that's gong to reach a point where the system will tip, you know, it's very hard to say. >> how do you think the state is adapting to some of the changes? >> well, part of the way they are adapting is they are trying to crack down, certainly on the unofficial markets that existed, some of the official markets. there have been efforts formed, what you might call reform in north korea. some of the economic cooperation projects with the affluent south korea, but these have largely been aimed at bringing hard currency into help the regime, not so much to create real market reform in the country, and so i think that what we're seeing now, if we do see efforts
of economic engagement with the outside world, the north korean leadership is doing this because they seek hard corp sigh, not because they are seeking necessarily to create a better life for their people. >> host: in what ways do you think pockets of protest, could it emerge, or do you think it's going to be a case where anything that happens is just going to be stamped out, you know, do you see any possibility for the elites, you know, tolerating certain forms of the dissent? >> guest: well, right now it's hard to imagine that, and, you know, the question is to whether you can -- you know, at what point we will see either toleration of dissent or emergence of di sent. as social scientists, we can't predict that, but we can point to certain preconditions that exist that could lead to that, and so i think certainly the market mentality is certainly
one of these things. you know, it's very hard to say. well, at least there's not a lot of evidence that this regime is tolerant of any dissent. there's not a lot of evidence that they tried to listen to what the content whether a protest has taken place in north korea, and, of course, it goes without saying that this is a country that there's -- it's very hard to get any information on what is happening inside the country, and so when we talk about dissent or protest, we hear antedotes or stories of things that might have happened in this military unit or in that city, but we really don't -- we really don't know, and it's such a concealed country, and i think when the day comes when it opens up whether it collapses or falls and you see unification like
germany, i think we'll learn about what political dissent existed within the country, but it's hard to find that and cite that today. >> do you see the regime as really rigid and likely to crack, or do you think it's flexible in the fact it muddled through now despite global changes in the international environments. >> guest: yeah. >> host: you know, how do you verify the character regime in order to have a sense of what might come later on? >> guest: yeah. i think it is, if you pose that spectrum, it's on the brittle end of the spectrum of a regime that will crack versus one that is malleable. i think the reason it's been able to muddle through 1 because of the second factor we toxed about at the outside of the conversation. it's managed to muddle through not because of anything internal of the system, but what's
happening outside of north korea, and that's a dynamic where nobody really wants to put in the effort to change it or solve the problem, and there's one country in particular that wants to ensure there's no big changes or unstable occurrences within the country. >> host: yeah, and, well, i guess that's the second part of your observation about north korea as an impossible state that nobody cares enough to risk the cost of changing it, and really that, i think so, is quite striking when we look at the history, especially of how they are motivated for desires of international intervention and other parts of the world like rwanda, kosovo, you know, bosnia, and yet somehow north korea hasn't been subject to that same international activism despite the fact that, you know,
arguably, the human rights conditions are just as bad, certainly for large portions of the population. >> guest: right. >> host: you know, how is it that this is the case? what makes north korea immune to that sort of focus of the international community? >> yeah. well, i think when we say "international community ," we have to be clear what we mean, and i think we mean the developed west, and there's certain issues that the developed west has taken up in terms of human rights, and, yeah, you mentioned some of them. i mean, clearly, they have taken up the causes, and there's others, sudan,ty bet, others take -- tibet, others taken up by the international community, but north korea is not an issue. two reasons. the first is through very successful efforts by the north korea regime to ensure this remains a nameless and faceless
policy issue and not a personal story, a personification of a story that the average american, if you will, will somehow be influenced by or take up a cause for. many of the north koreans who dissent to the border are sent back on busses with curtains drawn so there's nobody to associate a name or a face with this terrible human rights situation in north korea. you know, for example, south korea in the military dictatorships had a person who won nobel peace prize, become president of south korea, and he became a voice and face for democratic activism in south korea. you know, so you have south
korea, and you have these personalities to be identified with a problem, and the north koreans are good at not letting that happen. that's certainly one of the reasons why that's not taken up the other -- i think it has not captured the imagination of a major personality in the west. it sounds catty, but i think it's true. when somebody like richard gere takes up tibet or another takes up chinese policies in darfur, this gaves a residence to the issue you would not normally see, and in the case of north korea, we have not had that. we have not had an individual that does that. now, one of the things we're
seeing more of, and there's stories in the book of this as well that americans are learning stories about defectors that are getting out of north korea. there's several books written about defectors who managed to escape from north korea telling their stories, and i think that certainly helps, but still compared to other cases of human rights, we just don't see the same sort of resonance to the issue. >> host: another fact that could have an impact on the human rights, observations by the international community is the fact that north korea has been on the drive to become a newspaper lar weapons state -- nuclear weapons state, and i think that's particularly interesting when we look 59 -- at iraq. you were in the bush administration for part of the time that this issue was playing out, and, you know, it turns out
that, you know we decided to attack iraq and overthrow saddam hussein. he didn't have nuclear weapons, and north koreans arguably have a regime, but we decidedded not to pursue that course of action with north korea. how do you see the difference between the two? >> guest: you know, it's a tough question to answer without recounting the whole history of why the bush administration went into iraq. that was not my area of responsibility so i'm not capable of commenting on that, but i think in the case of north korea, the puzzle is why iraq -- not why iraq instead of north korea, but if in iraq, why not also in north korea? you know, i think there's two answers. the first is that you have
china, okay. china sits right on the border with north korea. the last thing the united states or china wants is some sort of confrontation or a configuration of the peninsula that would cause the two to butt heads as they did in 1953, and so i think any time there is serious thought given to some sort of military action, this is constantly at the top -- not even the top, but half way up the ladder, this is a concern that every u.s. president, i think, has had to think about seriously. i think that's certainly one of the reasons, the china factor, and the other is that we, united states went into iraq or afghanistan because it became thee top foreign policy issue on which the administration saw a revolution, a final resolution. now, we can debate whether that
was the right or wrong thing. many americans think it was the wrong thing. many americans think that nothing was resolved there, and, you know, that's a completely different question. i mean i think the point for korea is that i don't really think that the north korea issue has risen to that level of priority for an administration. it's been a crisis that you wanted to sort of solve, at least in the sense of preventing it from becoming a bigger crisis through diplomacy, but the united states historically, when it's sought to solve a problem, they are willing to use both force and diplomacy to really solve the problem, and i think in the case of north korea that that is just not registered like that, and that is not specific to any administration. i mean, we've had crisis with north korea for successive administrations, and every administration made the same calculation. when we reach a crisis with north korea, are we willing to
go all out to the end to solve this thing or do we want a solution that will at least park it momentarily, put it on a diplomatic track, freeze it, cap it, and then move on to the other issues that most concern us, you know, whether it's the domestic economic situation, or iraq or syria or the middle east peace process. these are the more important issues in the u.s. foreign policy traditionally. >> host: another thing that makes it different is the u.s.-korea alliance, and so i mean, how do you see the dynamics of the alliance playing into our ability to address the top concerns that the u.s. has related to north korea's nuclear program? >> guest: yeah, i think undeniably looking at the situation on the peninsula the alliance with south korea is more important than any policy we have towards north korea. you know, south korea is a key ally for the united states
today, and it is a major partner and a lot of international initiatives around the world, and big trading partner, all of these things made south korea extremely important to the united states in terms of its position in asia, and i think there's always been a tension in the u.s.-south korea relationship when it comes to north korea because we have different governments, and a democracy in south korea, some of which tend to be more progressive would seek more engagement in north korea and others that are more conservative that want to follow a tougher path with regard to the north, and so for the united states, you know, it's a question of sort of sinking up with whatever government is there at the time as they deal with the latest north korean crisis, and so, for example, when i was in government during the bush administration, we had a progressive government in south korea that was really quite engagement oriented with
north korea and it's a good deal of bad north korean behavior in order to fulfill the mission of trying to seek long term reconciliation with the country in the north. the bush administration was not as enamored with that particular strategy. i think currently you have an add m -- an obama administration, and the conservative government in south korea now that are very much on the same page with north korea because both of them, after having been burned by north korea provocations, really are of a find to kind of hold tight, hold firm, and require that the north meet certain preconditions before we have another round of diplomacy so, you know, there -- you know, part -- i've always said that sort of 75% of the north korean policy is our south korean policy in the sense we have to be synced up with our
ally when dealing with the north korean problem. >> host: another aspect of the book you talk about is president bush's own perm interests in the -- personal interests in the human rights issue in korea. there's been a major influence on president bush's thinking, and, of course, he had the 5:thor of the book in the white house and had other refugees in the white house, the parents of the japanese abduction, and so he took, you know, a bully pulpit approach, but actually my impression was that the human rights envoy that now was appointed really was not a major part of the picture in terms of the policy. >> guest: right. >> host: now we have the obama administration. we have not seen any refugees in the oval office, but we have
seen a human rights enjoy that actually went to north korea and, you know, talked with the north koreans, raised human rights with the north koreans, even though that was a relatively short conversation. what do you see as the marts and demerits of the approaches? >> guest: well, i think it's great that the obama administration's end -- envoy robert king has made two trips or more to north korea. i think that's great. the more we open a dialogue with these sorts of issues with the north, the better. you know, i think admittedly part of what he was doing well was to try to negotiate a humanitarian assistance pack camming for north korea in terms of food rather than talk about human rights abuses, but the fact he was there, i think, was very important. you know, you know well, the dialogue with the north koreans
on human rights is a ridiculous dialogue. you can tell them they need to improve the human rights situation, and their response to you will be, and we had this conversation at the official level, the response will be, well you, the united states, have human rights problems too. i mean, that is not a comparable discussion, and so i think what president bush wanted to do was he wanted to make this an issue that people knew about, and he wanted to, as he put it, he wanted to do something, he wanted his presidency, by the time he left the oval office, he wanted to do something that could help to measurably improve the lives of north korean people, and so i think there were two things in particular that he did. the first was that he created the first defector program in the united states. none had done prior to this.
of course, there's a big program in south korea that exists, and that would be to an extent expected, but for another country outside of south korea and for a country like the united states to say that we are going to take north korea defectors who want to settle in the united states was a big step. the administration didn't toot the horn publicly, hey, look at us, it's a big thing, but it was a big, important step that i think sort of set an example out this and put a marker on the ground saying the united states is not just talking about human rights improvements in north korea, but it's trying to do something. the second thing, as you mentioned, was that he brought attention to the issue by bringing in defectors, people whose books he read, stories he's known, intimate details he's known very well about all of these folks and talked to them about the situation, and
then gave statements that he met with the people and wanted to see the human rights situation improve in north korea. again, giving names and faces to the sort of problem helps to give it a broader resonance. in the book i go through some of the experiences of when the defectors came into the oval office, walking them in the oval office, and watching them respond, watching president bush respond, and really were truly memorable experiences, and so in the end, i think these things, obviously, did not solve the human rights problem in north korea. they are not opening up the prison camps. they are not allowing the u.n. commissioner for refugees into the country, all of these things are not happening, but when you are limited in terms of what you can do, i mean, everybody respects sovereignty so you will not crash into the country. you know, these are, i think, very tangible and concrete steps
that tried to put this on the radar screen and create more international attention because that is, you know, that -- creating that sort of knowledge base and that sort of advocacy environment is the first step to try to address a problem like this. >> host: okay. now, the book also, i guess, goes through and illustrated some of the wrong decisions that north korea made in terms of building its own economy, and this is quite striking because as you note in the book, north korea was the more powerful economic part of the peninsula compared to south korea for a long time until the ' 70s, and you talk about thort korea's illicit activities, and it was a focus of the bush administration that we don't hear about these days. i'm wondering do you think the activities are continuing?
are we succeeding in squeezing north korea in terms of customers from some of its military equipment and missile sales of, you know -- do we see still activity by north korea in terms of trying to counterfeit cigarettes or u.s. money or sell drugs abroad. where do you think that stands at this point? >> guest: this is sort of a fascinating story. i mean, the notion that here's a country that's basically one-third of its economy is based on illicit activities. as you mentioned, counterfeiting drugs, counter fitting cigarettes, counterfeiting the u.s. currency. the north koreans counterfeit the u.s. $100. it is nope in the profession, if you will, as the super note because the north koreans managed to acquire the prints press, ink, and paper used for
the production of $100 bills. the difference is the prints pleats they acquired are brand new whereas the one the u.s. trash rights situation uses are -- treasury uses are old, so the imperfections you see in a u.s. note is not in the north korean note. that's why it's called a super note. this is a part of their economy, and so during the bush administration, efforts were taken to try to stop this through a series of sanctions aim at trying to target thing te account of companies that were known to be involved in illicit activities, and i think the reason we don't hear more about it today is because these activities have been fairly successful, and that the north koreans probably do not feel that they can do the same sorts of things that they used to do for many years when it came to
making money through this sort of activity. >> host: okay, so it's actually that the international community and the u.s. are getting better at eliminating those markets from north korea for these activities? >> guest: i think so. i think so. i think that's why we're not hearing much more about it today, but i also -- i mean, i also think that for many of the financial institutions, they've just become much more weary of handling north korean accounts and north korean money and so that has also caused north koreans themselves to think whether they want to be seen as being this finally liable asset that every bank regulator or bank president doesn't want to see in their institution. >> host: and one of the other cases that's related to that that you had direct experience with is the bank of delta asia situation where the u.s. treasury issued an advisory
about that bank and the possibility that it was engaging in money laundering or handling counterfeit notes. how do you see, and, of course, that occurredded in a point in time when it looked like there was going to be progress in negotiations, but then it seems like everything stalled out. how do you see -- do you think that was the case with bda that is stalled the diplomacy and, you know, as we look today at, you know, more satellite launches, possibly a third nuclear test by thort -- north korea, people are calling for re-examination of the financial area. is it rep --
reproducible from your view today? >> guest: yeah. the first thing i point out is the irony in the description you just gave which is on the one hand when the u.s. government pursued this financial sanction in 2005-2006, it was widely criticized as something that was both up effective and hurting the diplomacy, and yet today as they clammor for it is a powerful tool in terms of trying to influence north korean behavior, and so -- but in 2005, this particular action was, as you said, a treasury department to u.s. financial institutions to do business with them, bank of delta asia because accounts in it related to north korea were believed to be involved in money laundering.
this in the end was a law enforcement action. it was something that i think the u.s. government had to do. if a country is counterfitting your currency, that is technically an act of war. they were obligated to take action with regard to protect u.s. financial institutions. now, as many people who follow this know the effect of that had a ripple effect. this was matched against a very small bank in china that then caused every other bank regulator and bank president and financial institution around the world to say, wait a second. if the u.s. is not dealing with the bank, maybe you have to look at our bank. there was a ripple effect that had a real impact on north korea. i think it had a very big impact on north korea. now, was it meant as an action to sub submarine diplomacy
taking place? i really don't think so. it was a law enforcement action. it was something happening on a parallel track with the diplomacy. all of us who are participating in the diplomacy are also participating in the decision making process on this particular action. in the end, it was something that had to be done, and it did -- it did cause a delay in the negotiations, but as we saw later, the negotiations eventually came back online, and it led to two very important agreements. one of which really froze the north korean nuclear problem, and the second agreement actually led to the dismantlement of important pieces of the nuclear program such that it's pretty safe to say today that the plutonium program, the plu --
plutonium based program is no longer functional, and that was one of the accomplishments the united states made in terms of diplomacy when it came to stopping north korea's nuclear program. we have a whole new program or programs that there's concern about, not just the plutonium program, but the uranium program, and in terms of, you know, accomplishments made through the new sanctions at the time, the new sanctions, i think, were effective at getting north korea to give up at least pieces of their program. >> host: yes. do you think they are republicble today? >> guest: hard question to answer. i'm obviously not as close to it as i have been in the past so i don't know, for example, if the north koreans have adjusted. i presume they have to what they saw in the action in 2005.
i think on the one hand they are adjusting and finding work arounds so they are not subject to the same sorts of captions. on the other hand, when the united states pursued this, i mean, it was an advisory to u.s. financial institution. it was not something that was supported by the u.n. and supported by the u.n. security council resolution. on the other hand, today, after the first nuclear test against the obama administration in may of 2009, you now have security council resolutions that give authority for pursuing these sorts of financial sanctions, and so i think on the one hand the north koreans probably have tried hard to find work arounds so they could avoid being subject to the same sanctions. on the other hand, the united states has the international authority to pursue things in the way they did not under the bush administration. >> host: yeah.
i think one other question on this, you talked about diplomacy, but, of course, as part of that, we gave back the money that was being held under the law enforcement action that had occurred. i'm sure the north koreans probably looked at that as exoneration for what they had done. how do you view the fact the north koreans got their money back? >> guest: i think it's evidenced in the fact that we don't hear much about these sorts of activities that they were undertaking. the main lesson they learned from that whole episode was they can't continue to do business this way. they can't continue to try to counterfeit other countries corp sighs or sell fake drugs or fake cigarettes. they can't do that anymore.
that was the main lesson they learned, and the fact they came back to diplomacy and back to the negotiations in earnest to freeze the programs and to dismantle them, to me, was a function of -- was a function of this sort of course of diplomacy. i mean, i think it was the concern about their financial reputation and everything that came with that that brought them back to the table and that led them to make these agreements. now, they certainly got things in return. they got energy assistance, they got a new set of political discussions with the united states, a variety of these systems from south korea. they got things in return for this. of course, that's the nature of diplomacy, but i think the driving force biped that, and i know there were some who would disagree with this, the driving force behind that, where the sanctions that really put a bite on them.
>> host: of course they stole, you know, our driving for a nuclear status even despite the apparent agreements that had been made designed actually two deal with the plutonium part of the nuclear program. back to the north korean prospects for a forum. they are still catch hungry. maybe we don't see immediate evidence that the leadership is committed to reform, but, of course, the chinese are always there suggesting that the north koreans should follow their path. you know, what really is the way to cultivate an environment where north korea can enter reform direction? you know, at this point, it's of they are looking for cash, but is there a way of drawing them into a positive path rather than pursuing the negative activities
we've been talking about? >> guest: well, thing the positive path that's been on the table, really, i think for successive administrations, and i know there's always discussions to the extent of the current administration that's different from the bush administration, different from the obama administration in terms of dealing with north korea, but in the book i go through the history of these, and in the end they, you know, the packaging was different, but there's a pose positive path on offer which is in return for giving up the nuclear programs, the united states international community provides security guarantees, economic assistance, energy assistance, political normalization, provide money, provide a regional security environment in which north korea could feel safe and secure -- all of these sorts of things in return for giving up their nuclear weapons, but that has
not worked. it's failed. it has failed for every administration going back to george hw bush. with the obama administration, we really reached the end of the road with this. many argue the obama administration, at least in terms 6 initial intentions, was the most forward leaning u.s. administration to come into office coming to the north korea problem, and yet it's now in a position indistinguishable from the harder line that the bush administration took and not even that the clinton administration took at times in their two terms. that's the positive path, and they don't seem to want to take it. what can be done in the interim? i think the most important thing that can be done is to try to get more information into north korea. more information in terms of what's going on in the outside world, in terms of marketization, in terms of the
interpret, in terms of cell phones. i think this is -- this is the only way to really make end roads to seeing change in the country. from the perspective of the leadership, you know, economic reform is a double-edged sword because on the one hand, they need economic forum, they need money, they need food. they need these things. on the other hand, when regimes like this open up, it releases political forces that inevitably lead to a loss of political control, and even possibly the collapse of the regime, and that's not a bargain that, you know, the leadership, particularly this new leadership that is inexperienced and has just come into power and that prizes political control. that's the last thing they really want to consider at this moment so i'm not optimistic on the propegs for reform at this time.
>> host: okay, but the way you framed it is very much a u.s. way of framing basically a deal of which the nuclear issue is resolved in exchange for a foreign path -- you noarks the chinese -- you know, the chinese, i think, have a different idea of what is necessary that is not about quid pro quos perhaps, but the question of essentially you follow us and you can find a sustainable path. i think that's basically the argument. the question i have 1 based on what we've seen in china. i mean, north korea has not necessarily even seemed to be willing to dip a toe in the water, but what would a north korea look like? how would we know, you know, if we began to see a north creep leadership moving -- north korean leadership moving in that direction, and could it succeed? >> guest: yeah. well, you know, scott, i mean,
you know, i have many friends that are china scholars, and when i talk to those friends, they are always on the mystic about north -- optimistic about north korea and the prospects. i never understood why. when you asked them say they it's very clear why they are optimistic because they studied china, and they have seen china come from where it came in the culture revolution and the great leap forward to being a country it is today, and think -- they think if a country like china can do that, certainly north korea can do that. again, two big differences here. the first is that china had ping. he was a charismatic leader, a larger than life figure. there is no ping in north korea. there's an inexperienced 29-year-old who is running the country now. he's no ping. that's the first problem.
the second problem is, you know, the chinese said to get rich is glorious. making money was okay. even if it meant giving up a degree of political control. for the current north korean leadership, and at least for the foreseeable future, there's nothing more important right now than political control, and that is -- that -- that looks to be the case for the last leadership and it looks to be the case for the current leadership. i think there are hopes this young fellow, the new leader of north korea who spent a part of his life in switzerland in secondary school, that the people are hopeful he might be ping, but, again, given the recent crisis and the missile test and the failed deal the obama administration tried to reach with north korea, i don't think there's hope now that he
shows signs of being a future -- a future ping. maybe there is a military general somewhere in north korea that is unhappy with the current situation, that is unhappy with a young leadership making bad decisions, that has a different view on things, you know, maybe there is a south korean hee in north korea, but we don't know. right now, the prospects don't look good for that sort of reform or that sort of charismatic leadership. >> host: some people point to his uncle as one possible reformer. certainly he's had international experience. it's hard to judge necessarily, you know, whether he'd move in the direction of reform, but, you know, let's say that somebody, you know, maybe he or someone else emerges to play a role, but within the same
system, how do you think that the u.s. government would be able to respond to that circumstance? >> guest: well, i think they'd certainly welcome somebody like that, but, you know, l obvious problem is that i think the u.s. would welcome someone like that, someone like a figure interested in reforms and interested in taking north korea to a getter place. you know, if there were someone like the generals we see in burma today looking to make a big turn in terms of the own system, i think the united states welcomes that. the big 800-pound gorilla in the room, if that's the scenario, still remains the nuclear problem. that's the core of where the u.s. and china differ. the chinese want reform as you
say, but they are also willing to say in order to promote reform, we should do things like give them a peace treaty ening the korean war and normalize relations with the united states as presteps, if you will, to try to promote reform. i think the problem with the united states is that that is just not possible. every administration going back to george h. w bush is clear that the number one priority is the nuclear program, and united states welcomes reform, absolutely in north korea, but it has to come with denuclearization. the alliances in the region are positioned less than the alliance, and i don't think any of the allies, japan or south korea, let alone the united states, would be normalizing relations with a country that
remains a nuclear weapon state, completely outside of the regime. it would basically destroy the non-proliferation treaty and regime and would have a dramatic effect on alliances in the region so this is the rubix cube that's difficult to match up and has been, you know, the basic problem every time we talk about a big deal, getting a big deal with north korea. >> host: i want to go back and talk about that. in the book you talk about issues related to deterrence and denuclearization. a lot of people thought if north korea conducted a test that constitutes a paradigm shift in the region. of course, you with there when north korea conducted the first test. was there something about china's reaction in particular that surprised you? how did you see the response to that playing out, and how did
the response that you were involved with, you know, in the bush administration, you know, what should we draw from that, for instance, in the context of a possible, additional nuclear test by north korea in the coming weeks or months? >> guest: in the short term, it was a game changer in the sense that we moved to a new level of international unity in terms of punishing the north for these sorts of actions. in the sense that we had u.n. security resolutions really for the first time in which china and russia were to sign on to these, and unanimously condemned north korea and sanctioned them for their actions. in the short term, i think that was a game changer, and sense then, every time the north koreans have done something egregious, for the most part, the chinese and the russians have gone along and said
something especially with nuclear tests, but in the longer term, in retrospect, that was about the only real change. it didn't create the sort of game changing mentality in the way that the chinese dealt with north korea. you know, i think there's a lot of debate in china as to whether they should drop the ally, drop this legacy of the cold war and really help to end this regime. that clearly does not happen. if anything, chinese has drawn closer 20 north korea politically and supporting the new leadership. it didn't create the major change people thought it would, and, again, part of it, i think, is the fact that the status quo bias, if you will, dealing with the north koreans and crisis is to bring it back down, lower the temperature. it's not to try to solve the
problem, and that is a political choice. i think that administrations in washington, so seoul, in tokyo, beijing, and moscow, these are choices they make because in the end, at least for now, stability e quails to -- equates to peace and prosperity in asia. status quo equates to status and prosperity. do people want that or go down a violent path with north korea where you try to solve the problem? it's very clear what ever government wants to do. they want to maintain the status quo. >> host: great. well, and 245 really brings -- that really brings us to the question of reunification where it seems there's a big gap between the u.s. vision and the chinese vision and also involves what south koreans want in the future. my impression was that you were
pretty bullish about the prospects for achieving unification. you also dealt to some degree with some of the challenges that would emerge. you know, at this point, you know, how likely do you think it is that they'll be able to achieve unification, and how do you see that process playing out in terms of, you know, basically in a cop text for china ease -- context for china's influence to rise? >> guest: yeah. the question is well, but i don't think that the united states and south korea on the one hand and china on the other hand have the same view of unification. the united states has said explicitly in joint statements of the past two presidents with their south korean counterparts that the u.s. aspiration is for a korea free and at a peace, a single korea free and at peace. that is the natural order of things, and the international
relations in this part of the world, a unified korean peninsula, and the chinese don't. the chinese don't want to see unification. they just don't. i think that's become clearer and clearer in the past couple of years. i think there really is a conflicts of interest between the two sides when it comes to that. in terms of future and reunification it's impossible to predict how it happens nor could anyone predict how the unification of germany would happen. we can focus on the question of whether countries in the region are ready and willing to take on the task of unification. i think ten years ago that was not the case. ten years ago, i think, the general consensus wasupifications too difficult, hard -- consensus was too difficult,
hard, and too dangerous. something to push off into the future, two or three generations if you will. basically, not my problem. no onemented -- no one wanted it to be their problem. the attitude on that is slowly changing now in part because the weapon situation with north korea is getting worse and worse and the human rights situation is getting worse and worse, and while no one wants to push north korea over the edge, there's a growing feeling that it is coming and that we must be prepared. i think you are seeing that sort of change of attitude in south korea. i think you're seeing it in places like japan where the north korean threat is the biggest extense issue threat to japan today, and while on the one hand japanese are concerned about nationalism in one korea, they see this current situation
as dangerous, unstable, and their attitudes are changing on this too. in the book, you know, we look and talk about so those are the things we need to watch because no one can predict unification, and no one can say exactly with -- when it's going to happen, but, you know, the question is are you prepared for it? that's the operative question, i think, for the societies and the governments in the region, and whereas before no onemented to talk about it -- no one wanted to talk about it at all, but there's a much more willingness and openness to talk about it now. >> host: i wanted to ask you to close that after kim jong il died, you wrote that the era as we know it is over. there's a fair amount of continuity. i guess the question is, you know, how durable is the impossible state? >> guest: yeah. well, you know, it all depends
on how you define north korea. i think north korea, as we know it with the death of kim jong il, is over in the sense that as i talked about in the book, we're entering a new phase where you have a young, untested leadership with immense challenges in terms of maintaining his own position in the system, but it's also dealing with a crumbling economy and an acute food problem. at the same time, the society is increasingly influenced by a market mentality like it was not the last time you had a leadership transition in 1994 when the first leader died and the second leader came into place. in that sense, north korea today is not like the north korea in the past, and, sure, it has not collapsed or has not changed since the death of kim jong