Jamie Metzl: Is Kim Jong Un More Dangerous than His Dad?

by PSA Staff | November 12th, 2014 | |Subscribe

PSA Board Director and former Clinton administration National Security Council official Jamie Metzl weighs in on the changing calculus for the North Korean leadership. For further information about Kim Jong Un, check Dr. Metzl’s CNN commentary.

North Korea’s Changing Calculus

It is no coincidence in my opinion that American detainees Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller were released by North Korea just as President Obama is arriving in Beijing for the APEC Summit. With North Korea-China relations more strained than they have been in years, the US moving towards a potential deal with Iran, the North Korean economy in shambles, and a resolution just being introduced to the UN General Assembly calling for North Korea’s leaders to be referred to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, Kim Jong Un and his cabal are being squeezed as never before. Absolute terror remains a very effective means for North Korea’s leaders to maintain control of their population, but it’s hard to see how the status quo can be maintained for too long. It may be that North Korea sees this too, and has come to realize both that the costs of its global pariah status is increasing and that an Iran-like deal (where they negotiate over a long time and ultimately give up enough of their nuclear program to make the world happier and secure aid but not enough to limit deterrence) could be to their advantage. Don’t expect a Burma-like about face any time soon, but a lot seems to happening in North Korea and Asia more generally (including the new Xi Jinping-Vladimir Putin alliance) that will pose new challenges to America and our allies, but could also create new opportunities.

The Confusing State of the World

by PSA Staff | January 27th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Tara Sonenshine is former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, a former PSA Board of Directors member, and currently a distinguished fellow at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. This article was originally published in the Washington Times

Pseudo-states and Strange Bedfellows Blur Borderlines

Were it not so deadly serious, it would be satirical. The United States is losing its sense of geospatial positioning. We may be one of the few “countries” left in the world — replaced by a series of pseudo-states, groups and strange bedfellows.

Imagine having to teach geography in 2014, let alone understand it. That spinning globe we used to use, with color-coded countries and bright borders, national flags and easy-to-pronounce places hardly seems useful. We may need a 2014 Guide to Groups within Countries.

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Remarks by Senator Sam Nunn to the American Nuclear Society

by PSA Staff | January 13th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Sam Nunn is the Co-Chairman and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and former US Senator from Georgia. Mr. Nunn is a member of PSA’s Board of Advisors. This speech was originally published on NTI’s website.

Remarks by Senator Sam Nunn to the American Nuclear Society

Thank you, Jim Rogers, for your introduction and for your outstanding leadership.  I particularly want to thank Jim and all gathered here today for the work of this Society – helping the world benefit from the peaceful uses of nuclear science.

On this Veterans Day, I would also like to recognize one of our nation’s most outstanding public servants and veterans, former Senator Pete Domenici.

I am delighted to join George Shultz, who addresses every challenge with energy, optimism, keen intellect and wisdom.  He is always looking to the future – with one exception.  When George attended Henry Kissinger’s 90th birthday party, he reflected, “Ah, Henry — to be 90 again!”  I also thank Sid Drell for proving many times that a brilliant theoretical physicist can make a profound empirical difference in the security of his country and the world.

All Americans should be grateful for the remarkable work that the people in this room have done to improve and ensure safety and efficiency in the nuclear field.  Preventing accidents is absolutely essential.  The future of nuclear energy depends equally on security:  preventing the theft of weapons-usable materials—either highly enriched uranium or separated plutonium—that could lead to a terrorist nuclear attack.  Nuclear energy also depends on avoiding a dangerous future where a state acquires technology for peaceful purposes, then uses it for nuclear weapons.  Safety, security and nonproliferation are the three key links in the chain to assure the benefits of the atom for humanity.

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Reinvigorating the US-Japan Alliance

by PSA Staff | February 22nd, 2013 | |Subscribe

The author, Jamie Metzl, is Co-Chair of PSA’s Board of Directors. This article originally appeared on Project Syndicate. Metzl is a former member of President Clinton’s National Security Council team and a current Senior Fellow of the Asia Society.

Reinvigorating the US-Japan Alliance 

NEW YORK – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s current visit to the United States provides an ideal opportunity to reinvigorate the long-standing US-Japan bilateral alliance in the face of an increasingly aggressive China and persistent tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

For a half-century, the US-Japan alliance has been a cornerstone of Asian and global peace, security, and stability – and Japan has been an outstanding global citizen. Japan developed the economic-growth model that other Asian countries later emulated so successfully; actively contributed to global economic development; participated in the United Nations and other multilateral institutions (including paying a disproportionately high percentage of UN costs); and has helped to set a global standard for environmental protection and sustainable development.

As Abe arrives in Washington, DC, Japan and the US are both facing significant internal and external challenges, including rising tensions in Asia. In recent months, Chinese aircraft have repeatedly violated Japanese airspace over the East China Sea, and a Chinese naval vessel locked its weapons-targeting radar on a Japanese destroyer and helicopter.

Likewise, a Chinese military intelligence unit in Shanghai has reportedly hacked – and stolen from – a multitude of US businesses. And North Korea conducted its third nuclear test earlier this month, sending shock waves through the region.

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Strengthening our “Balance of Alliances” in Asia

by PSA Staff | October 2nd, 2012 | |Subscribe

This article was written by two Spring 2012 Participants in PSA’s Congressional Partnership Program.  All CPP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Hill Staff who were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.

Over the past year the United States has launched an effort to “rebalance” its strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific region. While there are many policy issues that divide Republicans and Democrats, America’s role in actively shaping a more peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific is one issue that enjoys strong support amongst both parties. After a decade of focusing our time, energy, and resources on counterterrorism and the Middle East region, we welcome a strategic rebalancing of our efforts to a region that will play a leading role in defining the 21st Century. However, the elements of this new focus should not just focus on the “balance of power” in the region, but also take into account the “balance of alliances” the U.S. enjoys. Approaching the region using an alliance-centric lens can help the U.S. position itself to play a major role in ensuring the region’s continued prosperity and peace.

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Academics Suggest Science Diplomacy Strategy with North Korea

by Dr. Stuart Thorson and Dr. Hyunjin Seo | December 30th, 2011 | |Subscribe

Stuart Thorson is Donald P. and Margaret Curry Gregg Professor at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. Hyunjin Seo is assistant professor in the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas.

It has now been over a week since the announcement of Kim Jong Il’s death. We learned the news in Seoul and observed shocked but calm South Koreans diligently following events.

The sense of calmness in Seoul reflects that there appears to be an orderly transition of power within North Korea. Of course, no one knows for sure what exactly is going on and what is going to happen in North Korea. That said, we hope, once an appropriate period of mourning is concluded, that steps toward positive engagement in such areas as humanitarian food assistance and nuclear talks that were underway at the time of Kim’s death will continue to move forward.

However, hope is not enough. We must recognize that even in places such as North Korea the future doesn’t simply happen. Rather, the future there as elsewhere is, to a significant degree, the result of a complex interplay of ideas and action. U.S. history provides a clear demonstration that among the most powerful of those ideas are notions of widely available education and open scientific inquiry. One need look only to the actions associated with U.S. support for these ideas in the countries of Western Europe following the Second World War. Or perhaps even more relevantly, consider programs such as the U.S. State Department funded Minnesota Project which developed sustained medical, engineering, and agricultural support to a South Korea suffering from the consequences of the Korean Conflict. Or the Fulbright Program which has served to help in the transformation of higher education throughout much of the world.

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Ambassador Linton Brooks Speaks on Nuclear Challenges

by Lori Shah | September 30th, 2011 | |Subscribe

On Monday, September 19th, Partnership for a Secure America along with the Stanley Foundation and the Hudson Institute hosted Ambassador Linton Brooks in a series of events at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center, which focused on the nuclear challenges facing the United States. Ambassador Brooks, currently a senior analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was the lead US negotiator on the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) and also served as Director of Arms Control for the National Security Council and as an administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

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Obsession with Nuclear Deterrent Doesn’t Add Up

by Matthew Rojansky | February 3rd, 2010 | |Subscribe

Volha Charnysh

Retired Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral James Lyons argued in a Washington Times opinion piece on Monday that the US should “halt our participation in the START negotiations until we bring balance back into the equation.” The equation to which Lyons refers is that of nuclear deterrence: by maintaining the ability to destroy any potential nuclear-armed adversary, the logic runs, we can ensure that none will attack the United States. Unfortunately, a focus on the conventional logic of deterrence doesn’t fit in a world where the most urgent threats to US national security are posed by terrorists and other non-state actors who are difficult to identify, much less deter.

Lyons asserts that Russia has “embarked on an aggressive modernization program to field new nuclear weapons” and seeks a “breakout” capability, allegedly so that it could quickly build and deploy new weapons after withdrawing from any new arms control treaty. China, he adds, may be emboldened if the US commits to nuclear reductions, triggering a panic among our East Asian allies. Our looming nuclear weakness, the Admiral concludes, is exacerbated by the proliferation threats of North Korea and Iran.

Each of these assertions twists reality, but even if true, none would justify withdrawing from bilateral arms control, which is essential to protecting Americans from the clear and present danger posed by proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials to those most likely to use them against us. In recent Senate testimony, the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, himself a retired four-star Admiral, called the possibility of terrorists acquiring nuclear capability a “top concern,” and noted that traditional means of deterrence would likely be of “less utility” against such a threat. For that reason the President has committed to stopping proliferation at its source, by halting the spread of nuclear weapons to new states, and securing fissile materials. These efforts depend greatly on US-Russian cooperation, since our two countries possess over 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons and material. A new agreement to replace the expired START treaty is an absolutely essential first step. (more…)

Goodbye to 2009: The year in review

by David Isenberg | December 22nd, 2009 | |Subscribe

This is my last post for 2009 I thought I would write about Afghanistan but on second thought I will, no doubt, be doing that quite a lot during 2010. Thanks to the Obama Administration’s surge strategy Afghanistan will, from a blogging viewpoint, be the gift that keeps on giving.

So, as we contemplate whether 2010 will be better or worse let’s take a moment to consider 2009. In the spirit of Dave Barry’s classic annual year in review column let’s acknowledge, albeit with some poetic license commentary by moi, a few of the significant events that made, however briefly, the headlines.

Although it started on Dec. 28 2008 the month of January saw massive Israeli air strikes and a ground force invasion of the Gaza Strip. Heavy fighting took place in Gaza City between the Israeli forces and Hamas. At least 1300 Palestinians were killed. On Jan. 17 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced a unilateral ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, declaring that Israel has achieved the goals it set when launching the military operation. On Jan. 21 Israel completes its troop withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Also that month President Barack Obama signed executive orders closing the US detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within a year; closing the CIA’s secret prisons; requiring a review of military trials for terror suspects; and requiring all interrogations to follow the non-coercive methods specified in the Army Field Manual.

Of course, nobody knew back then that the camp would end up in Illinois. One can only hope that the inmates are not too acclimated to the Caribbean climate to adjust to a midwest winter.

On Jan 27 Hama declared that it previously was just kidding and broke the ceasefire by attacking an Israeli frontier patrol. Israel immediately responded that it lacks a sense of humor and renewed its air strikes on the Gaza Strip border with Egypt.

On Feb. 3 Iran launched its first domestically built satellite into orbit. Iran stated that the satellite is meant for research and telecommunications purposes, but Western states express concern that the technology could be used in the development of ballistic missiles. The U.S. intelligence community, estimating that Iran will show the same swift progress with its missiles that it did with its nuclear program, predicted the next flight will be in 2040.

On Feb. 6, renewing their classic rivalry, a British and a French nuclear submarine collided in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Political leaders from both countries sighed in relief that it was merely submarines and not their respective football fans that collided. (more…)

Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons for sale

by Volha Charnysh | September 14th, 2009 | |Subscribe

Charnysh_NK

To succeed, a state should specialize in products in which it has a comparative advantage, according to economist David Ricardo. Ricardo focused on tangible goods traded in the international market. However, states also possess another, by no means less marketable characteristic – reputation. A cause of many conflicts and wars, international standing is a commodity by itself because it can be turned into commercial advantage. The importance of reputation goes beyond attracting potential investors and trade partners. Studies show that concerns over reputation can ensure a state’s compliance with treaties and international norms, including the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

No state can thrive on international standing alone. However, reputation can reinforce or undermine the value of other marketable commodities and even influence the state’s export decisions. While comparative advantage in manufacturing arms offers a great source of export income, selling wrong arms into wrong hands can tarnish a state’s international reputation and offset its profits with resulting sanctions and embargos.

What can North Korea export, given its lack in valuable resources and technological expertise? North Korea’s highest-valued commodities include armaments as well as minerals, metallurgical products, and textiles. Its main customers are South Korea and China. (more…)

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All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.