Global Experts Debate N.Korean Denuclearization in Seoul

  • By Roh Suk-jo, Yoon Hyung-jun

    May 14, 2019 12:39

    Global luminaries and semi-luminaries are gathering in Seoul for the 10th Asian Leadership Conference hosted by the Chosun Ilbo. Those who arrived Monday included Prince Andrew of the U.K., former U.S. House speaker Paul Ryan and other prominent figures.

    Some took part in a debate under Chatham House rules and forecast that North Korea will resort to "limited provocations," such as missile launches that do not cross the so-called red line set up by the U.S., in order to demand an easing of sanctions.

    One participant said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could lob an intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan by the end of this year if he believes short-range missile launches cannot gain U.S. President Donald Trump's attention.

    Kim has set the end of this year as the deadline for a resumption of talks with the U.S.

    International experts hold a debate ahead of the annual Asian Leadership Conference at Hotel Shilla in Seoul on Monday.

    Under Chatham House rules, any opinions expressed are recorded anonymously. Eleven U.S. and South Korean diplomatic experts took part in the candid debate. A majority predicted that the stalemate between the U.S. and North Korea will drag on.

    Some voiced concern over the weakened alliance between South Korea and the U.S. The two allies "appear on the surface to be communicating frequently, but they do not communicate at a deep level as before."

    Diplomatic experts voted on the three following scenarios involving the U.S. and North -- return to the state of 2017 when military tensions soared; forge some kind of agreement; or maintain the current state of affairs while holding sporadic talks.

    Eight out of the 11 panelists forecast the present state will continue, while two projected relations will deteriorate and only one predicted that some sort of agreement will be reached. One U.S. diplomat said, "President Trump has always shown a tendency to buck the projections of most people and we have no idea what surprises lay in store."

    The U.S. representatives included Marc Knapper, an acting deputy assistant secretary, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert, former U.S. trade representative Wendy Cutler, Jung Pak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Sue Mi Terry, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    Others were former South Korean Ambassador to Russia Wie Sung-lac, former Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yong, Seoul National University professor Lee Keun, Choi Kang of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, and former Liberty Korea Party leader Lee Jae-young.

    The conference opens properly Tuesday at Hotel Shilla in Seoul. Ryan and former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley delivered keynote speeches, while Prince Andrew and the Chosun Ilbo will co-host a start-up competition called Pitch@Palace Korea 1.0.

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