Ploughshares Fund Executive Director and Chief Opearting Officer Philip Yun recently had a chance to moderate a discussion at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco — a rare visit with the US and South Korean Ambassadors. The two ambassadors discussed the economic and political relationship...
Last week’s announcement that the U.S.-South Korea nuclear cooperation agreement would be extended for two additional years dashes the hopes of those South Korean hawks who seek to make their country a nuclear weapons state, at least for the time being. Indeed, the prospect of a nuclear-armed South Korea was so alarming to some that The New York Times ten days earlier published an editorial that came out against a nuclear cooperation agreement that would allow South Korea to enrich uranium and reprocess U.S.-sourced fuel rods to separate plutonium. For many readers, this might have caused a double take when North Korea has been leading the headlines as the region’s nuclear problem. What’s going on?
Since its most recent nuclear test on February 12, 2013, there has been a lot of attention to and activity around North Korea. The test – it’s third and most “successful” to date – elicited a predictable response in the passage of additional U.N. Security Council sanctions the. But the fact that the sanctions passed unanimously – with China’s consent – is significant, although it is still unclear if this marks a shift in Chinese policy toward North Korea. In short, the North’s latest behavior seems to have raised the game with respect to the stability and security in Northeast Asia.
Say what you will about North Korea. It’s “backwards,” impoverished, isolated, led by an enigmatic, secretive leader, or even that it is “the land of no smiles” whose people live a life on the edge of survival.
Nuclear terrorism ranks at the top of many national security experts lists of possible nightmares. It’s hard to overstate the damage that could be caused by even a small nuclear weapon in one of the world’s major population centers. But just as terrorism has become a global phenomenon, efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism has to be a global effort. Thankfully, it is.
Sung Kim, an experienced and competent professional who has worked on Korean issues for years as a senior U.S. diplomat, has been nominated to the post of U.S. Ambassador to South Korea. Our ally Seoul has indicated its support of the Kim nomination.