Talking Foreign Policy: North Korea Summit.

Author:Scharf, Michael P.

"Talking Foreign Policy" is a one-hour radio program, hosted by the Dean of Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Michael Scharf, in which experts discuss the important foreign policy issues. The premier broadcast (airdate: March 1, 2012) covered the controversial use of predator drones, humanitarian intervention in Syria, and responding to Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons. Subsequent broadcasts have covered topics such as the challenges of bringing indicted tyrants to justice, America's Afghanistan exit strategy, the issue of presidential power in a war without end, and President Obama's second term foreign policy team. This broadcast focused on the U.S.-North Korea Nuclear Summit.

The purpose of the radio show is to cover some of the most salient foreign policy topics and discuss them in a way that can make it easier for listeners to grasp. "Talking Foreign Policy" is recorded in the WCPN 90.3 Ideastream studio, Cleveland's NPR affiliate. Michael Scharf is joined each session with a few expert colleagues known for their ability to discuss complex topics in an easy-to-digest manner:

* The ethicist: Shannon French, director of Case Western Reserve's Inamori Center for Ethics and Excellence;

* The Asian Studies expert: Professor Tim Webster, the Director of East Asian Legal Studies at Case Western Reserve University;

* The international law guru: Milena Sterio, Associate Dean of The Cleveland Marshall College of Law; and

* The negotiator: Paul R. Williams, president of the Public International Law and Policy Group.

Archived broadcasts (both in audio and video format) of "Talking Foreign Policy" are available at: The transcript of the May 24, 2018 broadcast appears below.

Talking Foreign Policy: North Korea Summit

May 24, 2018 broadcast (1)

Michael Scharf: The United States and North Korea--two countries that fought a brutal war and never made peace. No sitting U.S. President has met with his North Korean counter-part; (2) but a few months ago, North Korean president Kim Jong-un warned that the whole of the United States was in range of his country's nuclear weapons, and President Trump responded by calling Kim "Little Rocket Man" and threatening to annihilate his nation. (3) Then, in a dramatic turnabout in March, the two leaders agreed to hold a historic Presidential Summit. (4) But on May 24th, President Trump announced that the Summit was off. (5) In this broadcast of Talking Foreign Policy, we've assembled a panel of experts on peace negotiations, national security, human rights, and Asian affairs to discuss the prospects and pitfalls for a U.S.--North Korea Summit, right after the news.

Welcome to Talking Foreign Policy. I'm your host Michael Scharf, Dean of Case Western Reserve University School of Law. In this broadcast, our expert panelists will be discussing the prospects for a U.S.-North Korea Summit. For our program today, we've assembled a panel of experts on peace negotiations, national security, human rights, and North Korean-U.S. diplomacy. Joining us from a studio in Washington D.C. is Dr. Paul Williams, 6 the president of the Public International Law and Policy Group--a Nobel Peace Prize nominated NGO that has provided legal counsel in a dozen peace negotiations over the past twenty-two years. (7) Welcome to the show Paul!

Paul Williams: Thanks, Michael. It's my pleasure.

Michael Scharf: And in our studio in Cleveland, I'm joined by Dr. Shannon French, (8) a former faculty member of the U.S. Naval Academy who now directs the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve University. She's also director of the nation's first ever master's program in Military Ethics. (9) Thanks for being with us, Shannon.

Shannon French: Thanks, Michael. Happy to be here.

Michael Scharf: Also here with me is Professor Milena Sterio, (10) the Associate Dean of Cleveland Marshall College of Law and renowned international law expert. It's good to see you again, Milena.

Milena Sterio: It is great to be here.

Michael Scharf: And, finally, we have Professor Tim Webster, (11) the Director of East Asian Legal Studies at Case Western Reserve University. Welcome, Tim.

Tim Webster: Thank you, Michael.

Michael Scharf: So, let's begin with a short refresher on U.S.-North Korean relations. When the Korean conflict ended in 1953, there was no peace agreement--only an armistice. (12) Milena, as an international law expert, can you tell us the implications of that?

Milena Sterio: Sure. So, the Korean armistice agreement, which was signed in 1953, was an agreement signed by the armies of North Korea, China, and the United States, and that brought an end to the hostilities to the war that was going on in Korea at the time. (13) However, it was not a peace treaty signed by the respected governments. Meaning that there were lots of unresolved issues that did not end with the armistice. (14)

Michael Scharf: And then in the aftermath, there was a massive military build-up on both sides. There were landmines placed in the demilitarized zone, and there was a lot of negative rhetoric, right? (15)

Milena Sterio: Exactly, and there was supposed to be a peace treaty. The idea at the time was basically to end the conflict, sign the armistice, and then negotiate a peace treaty. The problem is that that peace treaty was never actually negotiated. So up to this date, there is no peace treaty for Korea. (16)

Michael Scharf: So, let's fast-forward to the year 2002. That's the year that North Korea admitted to having a nuclear weapons program, and it withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. (17) Paul, can you tell us what the significance of that would be?

Paul Williams: Well, Michael, that was hugely significant. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is essentially the cornerstone of global nuclear security. (18) By exiting that treaty, North Korea was essentially signaling that it was going to go nuclear, so to speak; and it did. (19) And by exiting the treaty, all bets for verification, for monitoring--those doors were all closed, and North Korea was essentially able to aggressively pursue its nuclear program. (20)

Michael Scharf: Well why would it want to do that?

Paul Williams: Deterrence? The end of the conflict between the U.S. and North Korea, as Milena had mentioned, was an armistice, it wasn't a peace deal. American troops remain in great numbers in South Korea and have engaged in annual war gaming near the border. North Korea wanted to basically have a nuclear weapons capability in order to, one, protect itself; and two, to reshape the geo-political environment on the Korean peninsula and in Asia. (21)

Michael Scharf: It turns out, it wasn't just bluffing, because in 2006, North Korea announced its first successful nuclear weapons test. (22) And in the following years, North Korea announced a number of additional successful tests, including the underground explosion of a hydrogen bomb. (23) Then it turned to testing long-range missiles. (24) Milena and Paul, how did the international community respond to these developments?

Milena Sterio: One of the things that happened is that the United Nations Security Council adopted several resolutions related to North Korea. There actually have been a total of twenty-one resolutions on North Korea since the 1950s, but nine resolutions which imposed crippling sanctions against North Korea over the past twelve years or so, the last of which was just a few months ago. (25) The sanctions ended up being tightened up over the years and imposed on several sectors of the North Korean economy, including on North Korean exports. And the idea, obviously, of sanctions is to try to persuade without use of force the North Korean government to cease and desist from developing a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Michael Scharf: So that was the stick. Paul, can you tell us about any carrots that were attempted?

Paul Williams: Yeah, in addition to the sticks that Milena had mentioned, the international community launched the six-party talks--which included the United States, North Korea, South Korea, as well as China, Japan, and Russia. (26) And it was an off and on negotiation--and I should note that when the negotiations were off, the North Koreans were testing their nuclear weapons, their missiles, their rockets. (27) And in fact, just a year prior to the announcement of these talks, the North Koreans had done significant testing. (28) And every year since 2013, they've tested their nuclear weapons capability or further refined it, while at the same time saying they were interested in negotiations and talks to end that program. (29)

Michael Scharf: Alright. So, then after Donald Trump was elected president, the leaders of the two countries began to use ever more threatening rhetoric in their conversation over Twitter and press releases. Let me provide a few quotes to give the listening audience an idea of what I'm talking about. So first, the president of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, he said:

The whole of the US mainland is within our nuclear strike range. The nuclear button is always on my table. The US must realize that this is not a threat, but reality. (30) Now, Donald Trump responds: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un just said the 'nuclear button is on his desk at all times.' Will someone from his depleted, food starved regime please inform him that I too have a button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my button works! (31) Trump also said, "Kim Jong-un of North Korea, who is obviously a mad man who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!" (32) And Kim responded, "I will surely and definitely tame the deranged US dotard with fire." (33) And at that point a lot of people looked up the word "dotard." [Laughter] Trump then responds, "They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen." (34) And now, let me asks the panelists, how...

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