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Former U.S. Defense Secretary Perry Calls for New Diplomacy with North Korea

Jan. 15, 2016 (EIRNS)—Former Clinton Administration Secretary of Defense William Perry wrote a Jan. 10 article in Politico, in which he called for a new diplomatic initiative towards North Korea, based on a proposal advanced by Dr. Sig Hecker, former director of Los Alamos National Labs and a frequent visitor to North Korea. In the past, Perry had called for pre-emptive military strikes against North Korea to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons. Now, he concedes that it is too late to get North Korea to immediately surrender its nuclear weapons, but that a new multilateral diplomatic initiative, based on a revised U.S. strategy and goal, could avert a looming nuclear arms race in North Asia and the increased possibility of terrorists obtaining a crude nuclear device.

Hecker has proposed what Perry calls the three no’s: North Korea agrees to no new weapons, no better weapons, and no transfers of nuclear technology of weapons. In return, North Korea gets a series of economic and other benefits. Perry warned that “if the United States fails to set reasonable goals, we risk a disastrous situation,” including both Japan and South Korea deciding to develop their own nuclear weapons capabilities, which both countries could do quickly.

Perry also blasted both the Bush and Obama administrations for failing to adopt a viable policy towards North Korea. He recounted, from his recent memoir, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, that during the Clinton Administration, there was a genuine opportunity to reach a comprehensive deal with North Korea, under which it would have abandoned its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

He noted “We didn’t have to be in this dangerous position,” explaining,

“In 2000, North Korea was bound by the Agreed Framework, which had frozen the production of plutonium at Yongbyon (its primary nuclear facility) since its inception in 1994, and the United States was deep into a negotiation of a much more comprehensive agreement with North Korea. As head of President Bill Clinton’s North Korea Policy Review, I visited Pyongyang in 1999 to propose such an agreement, and in October 2000, Kim Jong-Il sent his senior military man to express a high level of interest in the agreement and propose a heads-of-state meeting to sign it. I believed then (and now) that the prospects were very good we would reach an accord that could verifiably stop their nuclear weapons program.”

When Bush and Cheney came into office, they shut down all diplomacy with North Korea, and it was, in Perry’s words, “the most unsuccessful exercise of diplomacy in our country’s history.”

Perry concluded by emphasizing that the Hecker proposal is a good starting point for resuming negotiations with North Korea, but it must involve other countries as well, including China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan.

“To those who believe a different or tougher strategy could be more successful, I simply say this: Just look at our 15-year history of failure.”

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