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News in Depth: Interview with Daniel Pinkston on N. Korea's Nuclear Threat

Updated: 2013-02-01 00:00:00 (KST)
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Within months of each other North and South Korea entered the space club with both of their successful rocket launches.
The latest moves have some saying the region is in a space race while others are more worried about the security implications.
So now the North and South have demonstrated advancements in rocket technology that could be used for military purposes how concerned should we be? We turn to Daniel Pinkston from the International Crisis Group.
Good evening.
Thank you.

So how has South Korea's successful rocket launch this week affected the security situation on the Korean peninsula?
I think it is just another indication of the very competitive nature of the space environment in East Asia.
We see Japan launched a couple of satellites last week, China has a very active space program.

China tested a missile defense interceptor last week, as did the U.S. And these space activities are pretty much based on national programs, there are a lot of nationalism which we see in other areas of the region with the maritime issues and historical legacies and all that.
So, it is another indication of the environment in East Asia.

So,we see there is much more competition rather than cooperation in space. And it is continually going in that direction.
We've seen reports pointing to readiness and preparation of another nuclear test by North Korea.
And even the North's sole ally China seems to be trying to hold Pyongyang back. What will be the consequences if the North goes ahead?
Well, of course there will be some costs.

Many people have said that this would be a mistake, a miscalculation.
Ambassador Glyn Davies, who was in the region recently, said this very clearly.
The Chinese, of course, will be very displeased with this.
But I think the North Koreans have a different calculation.

So, I think North Korea will see this as the world against them.
So, even though the Chinese are pressuring them, from this military first perspective, the drives in North Korean decision making, instead of dissuading them, it encourages them or validates, in there view, the need to have this deterrent.
So I think this will, in fact, accelerate their testing and development and they think they can ride out the short term cost.
They think that China and everyone else for that matter will become accustomed to this, will get used to this, and accept North Korea, so why not get on with it.

I think this is their calculation.
Under President Lee Myung-bak we stopped the previous pattern of getting some slowdown in the North's nuclear program by giving concessions only to see a ramp up in provocations for more concessions.
Incoming President-elect Park has pledged softening relations.
Is it better to go back to the old model?

I think the main variable here is in Pyeong Yang and regardless of what we do on the outside they are driven by their time table.
There's a development and engineering time table that you would follow to develop these systems.
Now, did they ever break away from that? It's very difficult to tell.
Of course, they have to take the political considerations into count in Pyeong Yang.

But, I think it is mostly driven by the internal politics in Pyeong Yang.
They will look at that first and then there is the secondary consideration about what the international community thinks, what Seoul or Beijing or others think and I think that they are going to follow their schedule.
With each side having long-range rocket technologies in their pockets do you think the timeline for unification will be delayed or sped up?

Oh, that's a difficult question to answer.
I think unification will come only after there is a change of thinking in Pyeongyang, change in the leaderships' thinking.
And that thinking is what drives things like nuclear weapons development and everything else.
So, when there is a change of thinking, the leadership abandons their ideology that is, ( ) argue hostile.

They always talk about others having a hostile policy toward North Korea, but I think they have a hostile outlook.
So, they have to abandon that and move towards a more cooperative relationship with the outside world.

And then we can begin to enter a path of cooperation and mutual benefit that would eventually end up with unification.
But with this posture, it makes it very difficult, it makes cooperation virtually impossible.Thanks for your time today.
My pleasure.


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