Diplomat Offers Analysis of North Korea Test

Ambassador Robert Gallucci headed the U.S. delegation in the 1994 Agreed Framework, which was designed to prohibit North Korea from becoming a nuclear state. He discusses implications for North Korea's reported nuclear test.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We're getting different estimates now of the scale of North Korea's nuclear test today.

Russia's defense minister said Monday that North Korea's blast was equivalent to between 5,000 and 15,000 tons of TNT. That would be far greater than the force given so far by South Korea's geological institute.

People all over the world monitored this explosion. The higher range of numbers, if it's true, would make the bomb roughly as large as the one the United States dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.

We're going next to Ambassador Robert Gallucci. He headed the United States delegation that negotiated a framework in 1994 with North Korea that was designed to keep North Korea from doing what it's done: becoming a nuclear state. He's currently dean of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

Good morning, sir.

Ambassador ROBERT GALLUCCI (Dean of Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University): Good morning.

INSKEEP: Could you provide us with a little bit of history, how did it get to this point?

Amb. GALLUCCI: I think the short story here is that a deal that was done in 1994 capped the North Korean program for almost a decade. But at the end of that period, the North Koreans began cheating on the deal with some centrifuge technology from the Pakistanis.

The Bush administration, never really enthralled with the negotiations but willing to keep it going, confronted the North Koreans with their cheating and the North Koreans would not back down. And the Bush administration would not change its position on insisting that they give up whatever they were doing as the initial step. The framework collapsed, and the North Koreans pulled out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and...

INSKEEP: Here we are.

Amb. GALLUCCI: ...to make more plutonium and to fabricate the plutonium they had into nuclear weapons.

INSKEEP: Now, Ambassador, we already knew that North Korea claimed to have nuclear weapons. If it's proven that they have in fact conducted a nuclear test, does that really change the situation?

Amb. GALLUCCI: It does politically. Technically, it would be important to them to have done a test and to - it's something like the metaphor of the missile test they did over the summer. Even - whatever the test turns out to be in yield, they will learn something from that. So there's - it is not technically insignificant.

But the most important thing, I think all would agree, is political consequences, or at least the potential political consequences. In the first instance, North Korea becomes now not an ambiguous nuclear weapons state but an obvious nuclear weapons state, and the implications of that are that they will be thinking in some quarters elsewhere in the region about following suit. This will put pressure on the non-proliferation regime in northeast Asia.

INSKEEP: Meaning other people may want to have their own nuclear weapons now.

Amb. GALLUCCI: Precisely. South Korea and Japan immediately come to mind. Not that anything is going to happen immediately, but it will begin to have some political consequences.

Second, it is quite possible that this will motivate the Chinese and the Security Council to be more cooperative to more stringent sanctions resolutions, which we can expect to be framed pretty straight away.

INSKEEP: Ambassador, we've just got about 15 or 20 seconds here, but does anybody have leverage to force North Korea to do anything differently?

Amb. GALLUCCI: The first country we think of is China. And if China is prepared to use some of that leverage, presumably we could get some movement out of Pyongyang. But China will not want to use so much leverage that the North Korean government would collapse. So this will be a delicate matter for Beijing.

INSKEEP: Does the United States have any cards to play?

Amb. GALLUCCI: The United States has, in a way, all the cards to play. The North Koreans very much want to do a deal with us, and it's going to be up to the Bush administration, as it has been, to decide whether it wants to deal.

INSKEEP: Okay, Ambassador, thanks very much.

Amb. GALLUCCI: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Robert Gallucci helped to negotiate an agreement with North Korea during the Clinton administration, which was intended to keep it from developing nuclear weapons.

And we'll bring you more on this story as we learn more. You're listening to NPR News.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.