Fletcher in the News

Fletcher Experts Weigh In on North Korea's Nuclear Test

North Korea’s Missile Test: More Than Just an Effort to Get Washington’s Attention

Pyongyang’s missile test Tuesday is evidence that North Korea is inching ever closer to its nuclear goal, warns Ambassador Stephen Bosworth.

The ambassador served as President Obama’s Special Representative for North Korea from 2009 to 2011.

“I’m worried about the consequences of this for stability in northeast Asia, which is a vital region from our point of view and the point of view of the rest of the world,” says Amb. Bosworth. “It puts pressure on people in Japan who believe Japan should become a nuclear weapons state. It puts pressure on South Korea for the same reason. It puts pressure on Beijing and the US.”

Listen to the full conversation (PRI's The World)

North Korea’s Defiant Nuclear Stance Poses U.S. Quandary

North Korea’s nuclear test in defiance of global sanctions drew condemnation and vows of tough action by the United Nations Security Council as President Barack Obama warned of consequences for the regime.

The young North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is asserting his hold on dynastic power, strengthening his deterrent against regime change, and proving to his domestic audience that he will follow the “military first” policy of his father and grandfather, according to current and former U.S. officials who work on North Korea policy. …

… Eventually, said Stephen Bosworth, the Obama’s former special representative for North Korea policy, the U.S. will have to get back to the negotiating table with North Korea.

In addition to having a military objective, North Korea’s nuclear program carries political goals, said Bosworth, now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.

Read the full piece (Bloomberg)

Hit Kim Jong Eun Where it Hurts: His Wallet

North Korea’s nuclear test Tuesday has the makings of an epochal event — unless Washington and Seoul shape up and deal Kim Jong Eun’s regime a substantial, although nonmilitary, blow.

Pyongyang’s blast, two months after its first successful intercontinental ballistic missile test in five tries since 1998, and the regime’s demonstrated progress in long-range missile technology are propelling the totalitarian nation toward bona fide nuclear capability. With that comes the capability to provoke its neighbors with impunity and to extort funds, fuel, political legitimacy and even concessions in U.S. and South Korean military forces and readiness. Another nuclear test, especially of a uranium bomb, would mark a turning point.

Read the full op-ed (The Washington Post)

North Korea Tests Third Nuclear Device, Prompting Emergency UN Meeting

Despite strong international opposition, even from ally and benefactor China, North Korea on Tuesday tested its third nuclear device, prompting an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

The test appears to show an increase in North Korea’s nuclear capability and is likely to further isolate the Pyongyang regime. Analysts say that hopes for improved relations with the new governments in Washington, Seoul, Tokyo, or even Beijing are now on hold – at least for the time being.

“This is meant to get the attention of South Korea, the US, Japan and – dare I say it – China. With leadership transitions going on in all those countries this is a particularly appeasement-prone time,” says Sung-yoon Lee, assistant professor of Korean Studies at The Fletcher School at Tufts University in Boston. “None of those countries want a foreign policy crisis at the moment and will be more likely to resort to damage-control diplomacy.”

Read the full piece (The Christian Science Monitor)

Test Seen as Push by Kim for Credibility

By defying warnings not only from the United States but also from its ally China to detonate a nuclear device on Tuesday, Kim Jong-un was trying to increase his status as a worthy leader among his people in North Korea and as a foe to be taken seriously among the nations his government considers its enemies. …

… With the nuclear test on Tuesday, Mr. Kim appeared to have chosen the defiant path for now, and analysts said there was good reason for that.

“Now is a particularly opportune time for Kim Jong-un to reset his relations with the powers in the region,” said Lee Sung-yoon, a North Korea specialist at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts. “Pyongyang will calculate that after a decent interval of three or four months, its adversaries will return to negotiations, possibly with bigger blandishments in tow.”

Read the full piece (The New York Times)

Is China taking a harsher tone on North Korea?

Before North Korea conducted its third nuclear test this week, China made strong efforts to dissuade Pyongyang, saying that if it went ahead with the test, “it must pay a heavy price.”

After Pyongyang went ahead with the test anyway, China, Pyongyang’s largest trading partner and benefactor, summoned the North Korean ambassador to Beijing in protest. Beijing also joined in the immediate, unanimous condemnation of North Korea’s actions during an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

Because China's support for North Korea has made it tough for the international community to get Pyongyang to back away from its weapons programs, some wondered if these actions signaled that Beijing was taking a harsher stance on the North. But as the UN Security Council prepares to expand sanctions in response to the test, China will still likely seek to limit the strength of any measures taken against North Korea, say most analysts. …

… And despite China's recent reprimanding of the North, without a substantial change to Beijing's policy toward North Korea, conventional multilateral efforts to rein the North will likely continue to amount to little.

"From North Korea's perspective, over the past 60 years they've never had to pay a serious penalty for their provocations, so there isn't a serious incentive to reform," says Sung-yoon Lee, assistant professor of Korean studies at The Fletcher School at Tufts University.

North Korea has said that it will consider further sanctions “an act of war,” which could lead to another missile launch or a fourth nuclear test.

As North Korea continues to pursue its goal of lighter, more deadly weapons that can travel farther, some analysts have suggested the possibility of the international community deciding to implement more serious financial sanctions to freeze North Korean assets and the sources of the illicit funds that sustain the regime.

Read the full piece (The Christian Science Monitor)