Chaired By: Senator John Kerry
Witness: Stephen Bosworth, Special Rep. for North Korea Policy, State Department
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SEN. KERRY: (Sounds gavel.) The hearing will come to order. We're here today to discuss recent troubling developments in the Korean Peninsula and the road ahead in dealing with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
We're going to hear first from the administration's point man on North Korea and my friend and constituent, Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. We'll also hear an expert panel of witnesses who, together, have more than 100 years of experience dealing with the challenges that we face in North Korea.
North Korea's test of a long-range ballistic missile last April, followed by its second nuclear test last month, are, frankly, reckless and irresponsible acts that do nothing to advance North Korea's security.
I was pleased to see that last night in New York the Permanent Five Members of the U.N. Security Council agreed to speak with one voice and tell North Korea that its conduct is unacceptable.
The draft Security Council Resolution, which we expect to be voted on soon, imposes a sweeping new arms embargo on North Korea and also bans financial transactions linked to the North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
Significantly, it calls upon member states to inspect all cargo to and from North Korea--on the high seas, at seaports, and at airports -- if countries have reason to believe the cargo contains material related to North Korea's nuclear program or other weapons programs.
The Obama administration should be commended for this strong, united outcome, and China deserves recognition as well. As North Korea's ally and largest trading partner, China can play a decisive role in the peaceful resolution of this crisis.
I was in China when North Korea conducted its second nuclear test, and I am convinced, based on the meetings I had and the language used, as well as the body language interpreted, that China shares our opposition to the North's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
We can all be forgiven for feeling that we've been here before. As one knowledgeable observer wrote to me recently, we are now, quote, "hip deep into the third North Korean nuclear crisis." The first crisis ended in 1994 with the signing of the Agreed Framework, which froze the North's production of plutonium for eight years.
In 2002, the Bush Administration confronted North Korea with allegations that it was cheating on the framework, but the Bush administration ruled out direct talks to resolve the issue. The result was the second nuclear crisis: the demise of the Agreed Framework itself, North Korea's withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and the quadrupling of North Korea's stockpile of fissile material.
So today we confront a more dangerous North Korea that says it is determined to bolster its nuclear deterrent in defiance of its neighbors and other members of the international community.
How we deal with North Korea this time around will have grave implications, not just for maintaining peace and stability in Northeast Asia, for our alliances with South Korea and Japan, but it will particularly have an impact on our ongoing nonproliferation efforts with respect to Iran and any other would-be nuclear power.
Step one is to get a unified response from the United Nations. That result appears imminent. But then we must resist the temptation to go into a defensive crouch. The past teaches us that benign neglect is not a viable option. America must lead efforts to stop the current negative cycle of action and reaction and begin the hard diplomatic work needed to deliver results.
As we seek to engage, we should remember the counsel of former Secretary of Defense William Perry, who advised us to deal with North Korea, quote, "as it is, not as we would wish it to be." We should not assume that North Korea sees the world the way we do.
Recent developments should convince us to test our assumptions about North Korea and its motives. For instance, when I was in China discussing this with Chinese leaders, it was clear that there are a number of reasons for North Korea's current actions.
One begs the question, is North Korea really just trying to get our attention, in a fairly sophomoric but nevertheless extraordinarily dangerous way? The fact is they already had our attention.
From day one, the Obama administration made a point of offering to engage directly. Given events of the past six months, it seems equally possible that North Korea is simply consumed with its internal leadership succession issues, or possibly even simply responding to its dislike of the policies of South Korea in recent periods, and that has encouraged it to adopt a brash and defiant posture against external pressure.
The greatest likelihood -- and I expect that Ambassador Bosworth would agree -- is that there's some of all three of these involved in the position that they're taking.
Some observers have concluded that diplomacy with North Korea is essentially hopeless. I completely and bluntly disagree with that, as I'm confident Ambassador Bosworth does. It's an imperfect tool, but the fact is that even with North Korea, when we engaged in diplomacy, diplomacy paid some dividends, and it could again in the future.
So, finally, there is a common assumption that North Korea will sell anything to anyone. North Korea's export of nuclear technology to Syria appears to prove that case. But I believe -- and I think many share this, the president included -- that it's worth testing whether a combination of multilateral enforcement initiatives, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative, combined with cooperative threat reduction efforts championed by Senator Lugar, that those could alter the North's conduct.
As we test our assumptions -- and it's important that we do -- and examine our options, we have to consider not only who is at the table but also whether to attempt to reinvigorate the Six Party talks, launch bilateral negotiations, or devise a new architecture. We also have to consider how to prioritize the many issues that demand attention, including nuclear proliferation, human rights, regional peace and security, economic development, and humanitarian concerns.
I personally believe that we can get back to the Six Party talks, that we should get back to them, and I believe we will get back to them. I also believe that bilateral is an important route to simultaneously take, and I've said so for any number of years.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on each of these questions. Let me just say one quick word before passing to Senator Lugar.
I know I speak for every single member of this committee and for every American when we express how deeply concerned we are, on a purely humanitarian basis -- a basis of common sense and decency -- how deeply concerned we are for the fate of two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who are under detention in North Korea.
We are offended by the severity and excess of the sentence which was pronounced on them, and we hope that common sense is going to prevail and that North Korea will see this not as an opportunity to further dig a hole but as an opportunity to open up and reach out to the world to suggest there is a better way to try to deal with all of these issues.
We urge North Korea to do what is right, and we urge them to do it promptly and unconditionally, and to release those young women custody.
SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing to review the present situation in North Korea. The recent provocative actions by North Korea that you've cited are moving that country toward even greater isolation.
Almost universally the international community had condemned North Korea's nuclear test, missile launches, detention of American reporters, and bellicose remarks. There is wide speculation about the motivations for North Korea's behavior, and some observers point to dynamics within North Korea, surrounding the eventual leadership transition of Chairman Kim Jong Il.
They suggest that an array of top security service officials and military leaders are positioning themselves in the transition entry by pressing for hard-line actions, from threatening to shoot down aircraft to stopping the distribution of American food aid by NGOs and even the World Food Programme.
Regardless of motivation, North Korea has been engaging in a new level of international provocation. It's urgent that the United States and its partners develop policies that are clear and consistent. We should be willing to engage the North Koreans, but there must be greater certainty that provocative steps by Pyongyang will result in predictable and meaningful consequences for the North Korean regime.
I support a full review of United States policy toward North Korea. Secretary Clinton has said that the administration is considering all options in responding to North Korea's latest actions, and I look forward to hearing additional details about this review from our first witness today, Ambassador Bosworth.
A number of points should be considered by the administration as it develops a North Korean strategy. Did the lack of a strong, unified and persistent response by China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States to past provocative actions by North Korea factor into Pyongyang's decision to proceed with the latest nuclear test?
Do North Korean officials believe their country's relationship with Iran or Syria will be permitted to develop without consequence if those relationships include cooperation on weapons of mass destruction? What is the nature of the cargo in North Korean planes and ships arriving in Burma, which is sometimes a transit point for further global destinations?
Russia has been transparent in its cooperation with Burma in the development of a nuclear reactor, reportedly for medical research purposes. Is North Korea contributing to the development of Burma's nuclear program, and if so, in what way?
What level of international cooperation exists to scrutinize North Korea's global trading network and its potential proliferation route? And can such cooperation be improved?
Is there a clear understanding of the efficacy and current status of agreements related to the Six Party talks and the North Korea nuclear program? In essence, would any new negotiations be starting from square one?
The United States and China have cooperated closely in the six party process, but our priorities are not identical with regard to North Korea. While the United States is focused on eliminating North Korea's nuclear weapon program, China's primary concern relates to regional stability, a point not lost on North Korean officials.
Given recent provocations, have prospects for more concerted Chinese actions been improved? To facilitate the broadest possible base of support for moving ahead, I encourage the Obama administration officials to actively consult with Congress as they proceed in developing a comprehensive North Korea strategy.
I join with Chairman Kerry in welcoming our ambassador, Stephen Bosworth, Victor Cha, Nancy Lindborg, Evans Revere and Leon Sigal to today's hearing. We look forward to their insights and hopefully their inspiration.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much, Senator Lugar. Those are, as always, thoughtful and important questions you've asked, and I'm confident that we'll get the answers to them in the course of the afternoon.
Let me just say that we do have two panels today, and we'll try to get everybody through here in an appropriate manner.
Victor Cha is former Asia Director at the National Security Council, and he's a professor at Georgetown University. Evans Revere is the president of Korea Society and former deputy assistant secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs.
Leon Sigal is a professor at the Social Science Research Council in New York and author of "Disarming Strangers," which is a diplomatic history of the 1994 Agreed Framework. And Nancy Lindborg is President of Mercy Corps, and has worked inside North Korea to help deliver food aid to women and children in many of the poorest parts of the country. So we're greatly appreciative for their expertise, being here.
And I've just introduced Ambassador Bosworth. As many people know, he is one of our most distinguished veterans of diplomacy in the United States, served in many different posts. I had the pleasure, and Senator Lugar did also, way back in -- (chuckles) -- way back in 1986 -- I worked very closely with Ambassador Bosworth, and Senator Lugar was then chair and worked very closely with him, on the Philippines.
And we had many meetings and many visits to the Philippines as we transitioned to the democracy with Cory Aquino from the Marcos regime. And it was a really astounding transition.
And I will say again, as I have said previously in public, that we were lucky -- fortuitous to have an ambassador of his skill on the ground, helping to move complicated issues as effectively has he did. And it was an enormous privilege to work with him in that period. And I was greatly impressed then and I think we have been ever since.
So we're delighted you're back on the job. This is a region you know well. You're the right person for this job. Thank you for being with us.
MR. BOSWORTH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Lugar. It's a pleasure to be here. I wish I had more positive news to convey, but it is nonetheless, I think, very important that we be in the process of consulting with the Congress, particularly with this committee and other committees as we try to move forward.
I will not repeat what the two of you have said with regard to the situation that we face and what has happened to bring us to the point we are at. I think you've each summarized that very completely and very accurately.
I think I would say, however -- and I have submitted a written statement for the record, and just to make a few comments on that, I would note that the international community has, in our judgment, reached an important moment for the security of Northeast Asia.
If North Korea does not heed the unanimous call of the international community and return to negotiations to achieve the irreversible dismantlement of their nuclear and ballistic missile capacity, the United States and our allies and partners in the region will need to take the necessary steps to assure our security in the face of this growing threat.
In the interests of all concerned, we very much hope that North Korea will choose the path of diplomacy rather than confrontation.
We are seriously embarked upon a four pronged strategy. Regional consultation, U.N. and bilateral sanctions, defensive measures and if North Korea shows seriousness of purpose, diplomatic engagement. First we are consulting with our allies and partners in Asia, especially those who have been involved with us in recent years in the six party talks. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have been in the forefront of this effort, reaching out to leaders in Japan, South Korea, China and Russia, conveying a desire for a strong unified response to Pyongyang that it will suffer consequences if it does not reverse course.
Last week I participated in a mission to the region lead by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg where we reiterated this point. I can say that our partners share our view that North Korea's nuclear and missile threat is a challenge to the international order and a hindrance to lasting stability in Northeast Asia that must be addressed. We found that our Asian partners agree that North Korea's provocative behavior is changing the security situation in Northeast Asia and we agreed to take coordinated steps to get North Korea to reverse its latest provocative steps.
China obviously has an important role to play in influencing the path North Korea follows. On our recent trip we find that China shared a deep concern about North Korea's recent actions and a strong commitment to achieve denuclearization. Our challenge now is to work with China to turn that commitment into effective implementation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Second, we are responding to North Korea's actions with new measures designed to raise the cost to North Korea of going down this dangerous path. We are working with other security council members on a range of measures to prevent North Korea from engaging in the proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear technologies and to dry up the funding for its nuclear and missile related entities and other companies.
Third, we are in conjunction with our allies taking prudent steps to implement defensive measures aimed at enhancing our military capacity and our extended deterrents in the region. On our recent mission, we began to outline a future plan of responses and defensive measures that the United States and its allies will take should North Korea refuse to adjust course and should it continue to implement its announced plans for provocative behavior including future missile or nuclear tests. We are committed to do what is necessary to protect the American people and to honor our commitments to our treaty allies.
Fourth and far from last we remain willing to engage North Korea to resolve our differences through diplomacy. A central tenant of the Obama Administration's approach to foreign policy has been a willingness to engage in dialogue with those with whom we have had difference, sometimes very serious differences. From the beginning this has been the approach we have pursued with North Korea but so far North Korea has not responded in kind.
On our recent trip we made clear that the United States remains open to bilateral dialogue with North Korea in conjunction with a multilateral effort to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. As we have stated repeatedly, the United States has no hostile intent toward the people of North Korea, nor are we threatening to change the North Korean regime through force. We remain committed to the September 2005 joint statement from the six party talks, the core goal of which is the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through peaceful means.
We believe it befits North Korea's own best interest to return to serious negotiations to pursue this goal. The United States position remains unchanged, we will not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state. In short, Mr. Chairman, diplomatic outreach will remain possible if North Korea shows an interest in abiding by its international obligations and improving its relations with the outside world. If not, the United States will do what it must do to provide for our own security and that of our allies. We will work with the international community to take defensive measures and to bring pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs. The choices for the future are North Korea's.
Thank you again for inviting me to testify today. Before I respond to any questions you might have, I would like to mention an important humanitarian matter that is unrelated to the political and security issues I have just addressed. The conviction and sentencing this past Monday of two American journalists in Pyongyang. As Secretary Clinton has said, we appeal to North Korean authorities on humanitarian grounds to release these two women and return them to their families. Due to privacy act considerations I am not able to answer questions about our detained citizens in this public hearing, but the Department of State and the Secretary of State appreciates the interest we have received from members of Congress. I can assure you we are pursuing every possible approach in order to persuade the North Koreans to release and send these women home.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, I look forward to the questions of the committee.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much.
SEN. : Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman, will there be an opportunity for the committee to be briefed in an executive session with regard to the two detainees?
SEN. KERRY: Sure, absolutely. If you want a briefing, I think the easiest thing would be if you just want to get on the telephone and call Secretary Steinberg I'm confident that you'll get your briefing or call the ambassador outside of this proceeding and he'd be happy to brief you.
SEN. : Certainly. Thanks.
SEN. KERRY: I see we have a vote that has started. What I think we'll do Senator if you're willing I'll ask, you run over and vote you probably get back here by time and we could that way not interrupt the proceedings. Thank you.
Mr. Ambassador, you used some appropriately strong language and I want to see if we can flush this out a little bit. You talked about consequences. You've talked about the challenge to order, you talked about how this must be addressed, you talked about how these are provocative steps, several times using the word provocative steps, you've said they must reverse their actions, and our policy is a verifiable denuclearization, I think you've been very clear about how we react to this, what our goal is, but I want to try and understand a little better what the range of consequences might be and what's, what is coming together, maybe you could even share with us some framework of these discussions in New York and give the committee and those listening a sense of what we're anticipating.
MR. BOSWORTH: I will certainly be happy to try, Chairman. With regard to the discussions in New York, as you can appreciate, this has been a primary focus of our efforts. We expect the security council is now considering a new resolution that if adopted would impose unprecedented new measures to address the threat posed by the DPRK's missile and nuclear proliferation activities. And to compel that country to commit itself to political dialogue and denuclearization.
These measures will give the international community some new tools to work on the problem of North Korea. It would include if adopted first a total ban on arms exports and a major expansion of the band on arms imports. New financial sanctions to limit the ability of the DPRK to fund it's WMD and ballistic missile related activities. Enhanced inspection act provisions for ships suspected of carrying proscribed goods such as weapons of mass destruction or ballistic missile parts.
Designation of new entities and goods for sanctions, and, within the U.N. Security Council itself, improved mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of these sanctions, which I think is very important.
So that, I think, outlines a range of the actions that would take place -- will take place and from which, in order to obtain relief, the North Koreans will have to begin to comply with their earlier commitments and obligations.
SEN. KERRY: And if they don't?
MR. BOSWORTH: These measures will go forward. As I stressed, our strong preference is to engage in serious, effective diplomacy with North Korea. And this is not something that the United States is doing on a unilateral basis. We are acting very much in concert with our two treaty allies, Japan and the Republic of South Korea, and in concert with our partners in the six-party process; namely, China and Russia.
SEN. KERRY: What restraints are there at this point on the diplomatic route being pursued? Has there been a rebuff of that? Is there a lack of communication and response? Is there some indication of this opening in the near term?
MR. BOSWORTH: I think there has been no lack of communication of our concern and what we are prepared to do. North Korea has been listening, we have some degree of confidence. So far we've had no effective response from North Korea other than their assertion about a month ago, before their nuclear test, that they were going to test another nuclear device because the U.N. Security Council had failed, as they had demanded, to apologize to North Korea for its earlier actions.
But so far there has not been any demonstrated willingness to engage with the international community either through the U.N. or directly through the six-party process.
SEN. KERRY: What if this particular round of sanctions elicits even further provocative response?
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, obviously we are prepared to respond appropriately. And I'm really not, at this time, able to go much beyond that. As I said in my prepared remarks, the United States will do what it is necessary to do to defend U.S. national security and the security of our allies in the region.
SEN. KERRY: Have the Chinese -- I know, from my conversations when I was there, they've been in touch. Has there been any visit or any kind of high-level personal diplomacy in this effort at this time?
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, the Chinese have been engaged in various kinds of diplomacy over the last several months with the North Koreans. I'm not at this point prepared to comment on what they might have done recently or might be doing in the future; only to say that we and the Chinese are agreed that we each have, respectively, a very important role to play in trying to defuse the situation through diplomatic interaction.
SEN. KERRY: Would you concur that the Chinese response with respect to this particular test was both quicker and more intense and palpable than it has been in the past?
MR. BOSWORTH: Yes.
SEN. KERRY: Would you further characterize the Chinese concern in any way that might help us understand the options as we go forward?
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, I think it's very fair to say that we found, on our trip to the region and in bilateral consultations here and elsewhere with the Chinese, that they are deeply concerned about the prospect of North Korea continuing forward with its nuclear program and with its ballistic missile program.
SEN. KERRY: Have there been conversations similarly -- obviously there have been in terms of the resolution -- but in terms of various other potential options and attitudes with respect to Russia?
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, Russia, too, has shared that deep concern and has been actively collaborating and working together with us in the U.N. Security Council.
SEN. KERRY: Fair to say that the P-5 is probably more focused and energized and united on this than it has been in the past?
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, I'm not a veteran of U.N. activities, but I could say that I'm impressed by the degree of focus that the P-5 has brought to this particular problem, including, of course, the other two who are actively engaged in this; namely, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
SEN. KERRY: What would it take -- is there some precondition that is not public -- I'm not asking you to make it public -- but is there any precondition with respect to how the United States gets back to the table? Or if North Korea came back tomorrow and said, "You want to have six-party talks? Fine," would we be there? Would they start?
MR. BOSWORTH: We have made it very clear that we're prepared to go back to the table any time the North Koreans are. We are not the ones who have announced a withdrawal from the six-party talks. That's been the North Koreans.
SEN. KERRY: And would it be bilateral and multilateral that we would do that?
MR. BOSWORTH: The president and the secretary have made it clear that we're prepared to engage bilaterally and multilaterally -- bilaterally within a multilateral context. And I think we're prepared to be quite ambitious in both areas.
SEN. KERRY: In the past, those talks were, I believe, unifocused on the nuclear issue. Would there be a willingness this time to be more diverse with respect to the topics that might be discussed? Would it be all topics open?
MR. BOSWORTH: I think, in fact, all topics would be open. The nuclear issue remains the core, from our point of view, and I think that of the other -- our partners in the six-party process, remains the core of our focus. But my own belief strongly is that to deal in the long term with the problems that North Korea poses requires that we broaden our focus beyond the nuclear question alone.
North Korea is a very weak state, despite its boisterous activities in the area of nuclear technology and missiles. And in order to achieve the kind of stability in Northeast Asia that is important for not only the countries of that region, but indeed the countries of the world, including specifically the United States, I think we have to address how we can help North Korea achieve greater economic success. As long as it remains as weak as it is, there is a risk that it will generate instability throughout the region.
We're also prepared, as we have indicated in the past, to talk with the North Koreans about the normalization of our own relationship with them. And we're prepared to talk with them -- together, of course, with our partners in the region -- about new arrangements that might be put in place to replace the armistice of 1953.
All these things are effectively interlinked. But again, the core of our concern and the sine qua non of making progress is serious engagement by the North Koreans on the issue of denuclearization.
SEN. KERRY: And in my opening comments, I observed the sort of multiplicity of motives with respect to Kim Jong Il's choices here. I wonder if you might comment on your perceptions as a veteran of --
MR. BOSWORTH: I have, at my pain, learned not to project my views of why North Korea does things very actively. I think sometimes it's very difficult for people on the outside, including myself, to understand their motivations. I would only say, Mr. Chairman, that I think the various motivations that you've put forth all make sense to me.
SEN. KERRY: Well, I appreciate that.
Senator Wicker, did you already vote?
SEN. ROGER WICKER (R-MS): (Off mike) -- thought I might try to squeeze a question or two in, if you walk slowly, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. KERRY: I must find out how much time there is in the vote.
SEN. WICKER: Well, I understand the clock has --
SEN. KERRY: (Inaudible) -- how slowly I'll walk. (Laughs.) We'll try to figure that out. I've certainly gone over my time, so I'm happy to do that.
We only have 2:40 on the vote. I'm happy to -- as you know, there's always a little --
SEN. WICKER: Sure. I'll risk it, if you don't mind, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. KERRY: I'm delighted. So if you would turn it over to Senator Lugar when he gets here, and I'll go vote and come back, and we'll just try to keep going.
SEN. WICKER: Thank you, sir.
SEN. KERRY: And I'll tell them you're on your way.
SEN. WICKER: Thank you. Please.
SEN. KERRY: Are you going to vote against? No. (Laughter.)
SEN. WICKER: I'm going to vote yes, as a matter of fact.
SEN. KERRY: (Off mike.) (Laughter.)
SEN. LUGAR: Let me mention that there are other countries that are involved that we haven't touched upon -- at least I have not heard them in the course of our talks thus far -- such as Germany and Italy, others who are involved in commercial relations among our NATO alliance.
As I recall -- and this may be an oversimplification of affairs -- but at another juncture of difficulty in negotiations, maybe before progress at the six-party talks, there were measures taken through the banking systems of various countries in the world in which apparently North Korean assets, deposits, perhaps of the leadership or of others, were obstructed from being (of value ?) to them.
That seemed to have a greater effect at that point than many of the threats or pressures that were coming through diplomacy, whether it be through the U.N. or through other nations.
Can you give us some insight, as you take a look at that particular method, with regard to the current North Korean financial situation, or that of its leadership, as to what kind of pressure is involved in these terminations in the banking system of the country?
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, that's a subject that we continue to examine. It is a subject which is covered in part at least in the U.N. Security Council resolution, which is now pending adoption in New York, and it is one with which we are exchanging views with our partners and allies in the region.
Beyond that, I'm really not able to go very far at this point, Senator. Obviously we're looking at all mechanisms which would enable us to help to persuade North Korea to come back to a negotiating framework.
SEN. LUGAR: Not belaboring the issue; can you describe from your own experience or your own history of this situation really how those financial instruments worked? In other words, as the public takes a look at this hearing and tries to understand something of that complex nature, why was this effective, if you believe it was, in the past with regard to North Korea?
MR. BOSWORTH: I can't really go into much detail on this, not because I'm reluctant to comment, but because I was not involved in these efforts at that time. But I think we are looking at the possibility of additional measures which will be very carefully targeted and which would, as you suggest, address the issues posed by specific North Korean deposits and holdings outside of the country.
Now, obviously, this becomes very complicated because North Korea would have relationships with banks and financial institutions of other countries, and we have to be sure that we are coordinating this with those governments. But this is clearly under the -- particularly under the pending U.S. Security Council resolution, this is an area of activity that we are going to look at very seriously.
SEN. LUGAR: Is it your judgment that, if the Security Council resolution that currently is being discussed were in fact to be favorably voted upon, that other countries such as the ones I have mentioned or other European countries, others who have these dealings, would feel bound to observe that? In other words -- or could they find exceptions that would allow their commercial interests, their banking interests to proceed?
MR. BOSWORTH: I think on the whole my -- my view is that they would be inclined to cooperate very strongly with the U.N. Security Council resolution. And as I mentioned, the new resolution would, if adopted, create new enforcement opportunities within the -- within the Security Council itself.
SEN. LUGAR: In recent days it has appeared that, after threats to South Korea, that commercial establishments six miles, we're told, from the DMZ would be shut down -- that is, the Korean cooperation on both sides -- the North Koreans have relented in that pressure. Is that your observation, or what information can you give us in terms of the South Korean and North Korean commercial?
MR. BOSWORTH: I'm not sure I understand exactly what you're referring to, Senator, if it's with regard to the industrial zone at Kaesong. Then there are -- there have been a number of conversations between the North and the South under way for some time. We follow those with interest, and I think we would be happy to get back to you as to where we think those are going.
SEN. LUGAR: I mention then that that may well be the name of the site that I have in mind, because it appeared that at a moment in which the North Koreans certainly had been very aggressive with regard to the South Koreans, even threatening military action, there still appeared to be some talks or negotiation proceeding, which was interesting in view of all the other provocative activities.
MR. BOSWORTH: My impression is that is correct. And I too find it of some interest, and I think it hopefully will demonstrate a willingness on the part of North Korea to look at its own self- interest and make decisions based on that.
SEN. LUGAR: What is your impression, still following the economic sanction activity, about the economy of the country? Normal reports are that obviously many people throughout the country are sorely deprived and many may be near starvation or surely in malnutrition much of the time, and this has lead the international community to be cautious about economic sanctions, particularly when they came with humanitarian situations such as food, basically.
But in the event that economic sanctions were to become complete, what is the likely course of activity in the country at that point? Is there an economy that is sufficient to at least -- to prevent revolt or others before they die at least having something to say about it?
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, as you suggest, Senator, the North Korean economy is in a desperate condition. It has been steadily going downhill since probably the early 1990s and its industrial output, for example, is only a fraction of what it might have been, what it was in the 1980s. Its agricultural output has also been very, very difficult. It's been inadequate to meet the needs of its own citizenry, and North Korea has depended heavily on international contributions of foodstuffs to feed its own people.
Now, as you I know are aware, North Korea, about two months ago asked our humanitarian agencies and organizations who were there to provide -- to deliver the food that the U.S. had agreed to make available were asked to leave by the North Korean authorities. So that food, that quantity of food, is no longer being provided.
We are concerned on humanitarian grounds about the condition of the North Korean population. It is not good. Now, the country is covered by such secrecy that one doesn't know exactly what the condition of all the population might be, but it is clear that diet is inadequate in terms of caloric intake, and if they have a particularly -- if they have a harvest that, for example, is not as good as it should be or as they hope it would be, then the conditions deteriorate even further.
So we and our partners and other countries in the U.N. Security Council are very conscious of the need not to further punish the people of North Korea, and that is very much one of the things that guides us as we try to shape a policy that will respond to what the North Korean government is doing and give us some possibility for improvement.
SEN. LUGAR: I thank you.
I note that the presence of Senator DeMint. From the absence of the chair, I recognize the senator for his round of questioning.
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R-SC): Thank you, Senator Lugar.
Mr. Bosworth, thank you for being here. I would like to ask some questions specifically about the designation as a state sponsor of terrorism for North Korea and what that designation might due to leverage some American goals.
As you know, well, the new administration has not hesitated to point out mistakes of the last administration. Yet, when asked about reinstating the designation of a terrorist nation, the administration has appealed to the decision that Bush made last year about this time.
As you know, the Bush administration, in an attempt to entice North Korea back to the negotiating table, took North Korea off the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and I think -- I'm sure as you know that that designation allows us to freeze assets and pressure them in other ways. Since then, it's been very obvious the North Koreans have not honored that in any way and, in fact, they have expedited, expanded their development of nuclear weapons. They've tested large nuclear weapons, tested more missiles, and have promised to test a missile that could reach our shores.
Last week, about eight senators sent a letter to Secretary Clinton asking her to put North Korea back on the state sponsors of terrorism (list). We've yet to receive an answer. One that we heard in the press was that there is no evidence that there has been new terrorist activities since they were taken off the list, but the point is is they never ceased their terrorist activities.
The most recent Congressional Research Service pointed out that North Korea has and continues to collaborate with Iran, Syria, as far as weapons distribution and supporting terrorism.
Nothing has changed about North Korea except that we've taken the pressure off of them. It does appear that one of our best sources of leverage at this point is to put that pressure back on them and to do it quickly because North Korea has not responded to our talk, our goodwill, in any way except to expedite their whole mission of being able to threaten most of the world.
So what is the hesitation to put North Korea back on that terrorist list?
MR. BOSWORTH: Thank you very much, Senator.
As Secretary Clinton has said, we take very seriously the calls by members of Congress to redesignate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. As a legal matter, in order to be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, the secretary of State is only authorized to make a designation based on a determination that the government of a given country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. Now, I could say unequivocally we will follow the provisions of that law completely.
I would note that a redesignation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism would not result in any new material penalty to the North Koreans, since many of the activities that we're talking about are covered under other sanctions applied to North Korea under other provisions of U.S. law, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means for delivering those.
SEN. DEMINT: It does send a message to them and the world, and I think highlights what we know has been going on and continues to go on. There appears to be little doubt, as I look through this Congressional Research Service report, that whether it's supporting activities of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or material support to the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Shi'a militants in Iraq, that this is a serious provocation. And it seems that we're holding our punches by not calling it what it is.
And my encouragement would just be for us to take this seriously because when we lightened up on North Korea by taking them off the list -- we did lighten up on them -- we in a sense rewarded bad behavior hoping we'd create good behavior, and we got worse behavior than we had before. It makes absolutely no sense to continue with this. And I think it basically amplifies a growing sense of Americans are a paper tiger, full of talk and no action.
It appears that this is maybe one of the few things we could do at this point that could actually put some pressure on them. And if you say we're already doing all of the things such as freezing of their assets and the other economic sanctions that go along with this, the message it sends to the world is that we're getting serious, at least in my mind.
MR. BOSWORTH: I appreciate your thoughts, and we will reflect on that and get back to you. I think as I said earlier, the question is based on a legal determination as to whether a given country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. Now, we don't like in any way what -- many of the things that North Korea is doing, has done, and we will continue to object to those and we will continue to sanction those as appropriate under U.S. law.
SEN. DEMINT: Well, I appreciate you bringing up the law, because that threshold of law was met by North Korea in both the Bush administration and the Obama administration. It missed. Nothing ever changed; that this was only changed as an enticement, not because they ceased any of the activities. The legal threshold for being on the state sponsor of terrorism was met. They've been on that list since 1988, and there has never been any reason to take them off from a legal perspective. It was a diplomatic move to take them off.
So I hope we don't use that as an excuse not to move on this, but I will yield to your research on the issue. I'm just looking, as I'm sure you are, as a way to appear more serious than rhetoric, that what they're doing is a danger to the whole world right now.
Thank you again for being here with us. I yield back.
SEN. LUGAR: In the absence of the chair, I recognized Senator DeMint. But I'll yield the chair now to Senator Feingold and recognize him for his questions.
SEN. RUSSELL G. FEINGOLD (D-WI): Well, I thank you, Senator Lugar.
Let me just do a round here myself. I'm very pleased that this hearing is being held. It's been quite some time since the committee has explored this issue, and one that I think we can all agree remains one of the greatest challenges to our national security.
Although we did appear to make some initial headway at the end of the last administration, it's clear from North Korea's recent provocations that we have not yet found a lasting solution. As the situation on the Korean Peninsula continues to deteriorate, the United States needs to take a central role in determining how best to engage Pyongyang and also send a clear message that North Korea cannot use illicit weapons programs to demand concessions for the international community, nor can it arrest American citizens on apparently trumped- up charges and then find them guilty in a closed-door trial. These actions will only invite further isolation, greater hardship for the North Korean people and, of course, continued rejection by the international community.
I'm pleased that President Obama is seeking to engage meaningfully on this issue, that the administration is working with many of our friends and allies in the region and at the United Nations to craft a strong, multilateral response. The stakes are far too high for an ad hoc, uncoordinated policy, and we must make clearer that violations of international law and basic human rights actually have serious consequences.
Ambassador Bosworth, I believe North Korea continues to be, of course, a critical threat to our national security and to the security of our friends and allies in the region. Accordingly, we have to prioritize this issue as long as North Korea continues these provocative and dangerous actions.
Noting that you were recently quoted as saying, quote, "I don't think it's useful to try to persuade the North Koreans to do what they don't want to do, and that in the end they will see that having dialogue is in their interest," how do we drive negotiations forward in a way that is genuinely appealing to Pyongyang without simply waiting for the North Koreans to rejoin the talks while they may well be continuing to produce nuclear weapons?
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, I think first of all, we do -- our best hope of making progress on these issues is, as you suggest, to work jointly with the major countries of the region and our principal allies in the region. This is not a unilateral American effort. And through the frequent consultations with the other parties to the six-party talks and through the U.N. Security Council, we have made multilateral action the centerpiece of what we are trying to do with the North Koreans.
As for how one makes progress over time, I would counsel only patience and perseverance. And I think we have to remain steady. We have to continue to indicate that some of the things that they are doing are dangerous and unacceptable to us, and we have to be prepared to respond as we are now responding through the U.N. Security Council resolution, through bilateral sanctions, and through consultations with our partners in the region.
We also have to be prepared to continue to indicate that, for us, engagement and dialogue and diplomacy remain the only real way to solve this problem. Now, that does not mean that you acquiesce in everything that North Korea wants; far from it. But I think that if we remain patient and persevere in our policy that the chances of eventual progress are good.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Ambassador, there have been numerous press reports that Kim Jong Il has selected his youngest son to be a successor, and some analysts speculate that the recent nuclear missile tests were part of an effort to ensure a smooth transition of power to his preferred heir. Do you think our ability to move forward with negotiations is limited while Kim Jong Il remains in power? And more specifically, what impact do you think an impending transition of power would have on North Korea's nuclear development program and willingness to participate in negotiations? And also in this regard, if Kim Jong Il's youngest son has, in fact, been selected as the heir, give me a little sense of what you think it might mean for our policy toward North Korea.
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, first I would note that there's been, as far as we are aware, no formal designation of anyone as Kim Jong Il's heir. So to some extent this is a reflection of speculation in the press, which may or may not prove to be founded or unfounded.
In the meantime, what I think I would say in response to your very good questions is to quote someone who was quoted earlier by the chairman, and that is Secretary Bill Perry when he was secretary of Defense, who advised that we should deal with North Korea, "as it is, not as we would wish it to be." So regardless of who is in power in North Korea, who is the president, who is the leader, I think we have to deal with North Korea on the basis of what it does, not what we think would be a likely alternative.
SEN. FEINGOLD: I understand the United Nations, a draft resolution has been agreed to that would expand and toughen multilateral sanctions toward North Korea. And I recognize you're probably able to share very little of that because it's an ongoing discussion. But I'm interested to hear what specific mechanisms existing or otherwise will be used to enforce both new and existing sanctions. And I'm raising this concern because the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718, which passed in 2006, appeared to be a strong multilateral tool and that it banned atomic explosions and long range missile launches by North Korea, and imposed limited financial sanctions as well and a partial trade and arms embargo Pyongyang.
However, as you well know, the measures have been widely ignored and unenforced, and thereby basically rendering the multilateral effort rather toothless. Ambassador, what steps are we taking to ensure that this new resolution, if it does pass, does not have essentially the same fate?
MR. BOSWORTH: One of the things that would be provided by this new resolution, assuming it is adopted, is that the DPRK Sanctions Committee will have an enhanced mandate to focus on compliance, investigations and outreach and also a panel of experts would be established as under other sanction regimes to support the committee's effort to monitor and improve implementation. And I think it is obvious that for the U.S., for our government, a position of urging all U.N. members to comply fully with this new resolution will be a very important part of our response to what North Korea is doing.
Sanctions resolutions are useful and important, largely to the extent to which they are implemented. And I very much believe that we will push to ensure that other countries implement these resolutions as fully as we do.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you, Ambassador.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you, Senator Feingold.
SEN. ROGER WICKER (R-MS): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Ambassador for being here. You certainly have your work cut out for you.
In your testimony you mentioned your findings on your recent trip include that China shares a deep concern about North Korea's recent actions and a strong commitment to achieve denuclearization. There is a widely held view, Mr. Ambassador, that if China really had the resolve to squeeze their North Korean neighbor on the issue of denuclearization they could accomplish this in a way that really no other country on the globe can do.
Did you find their concern to be deeper and their commitment to be stronger than before the missile test and the nuclear test? And would you speak to this widely held view that I mentioned, that China really could accomplish this if they were of a mind to?
MR. BOSWORTH: I think first it's very fair to say that we found China very concerned, acutely concerned about what North Korea has done and is doing both in the nuclear field and in the area of missile technology. They recognize perhaps more than anyone else that these moves by North Korea can have a very deleterious effect on security arrangements throughout Northeast Asia and specifically on the Korean Peninsula. And they realize that this is not in their interest.
I can't speak for the government of China, obviously -- only to say that our impression as we came away from these very intensive consultations in Beijing is that North Korea sees the current situation and the evolution of that situation in very much the same way that we do.
Now as to what China is or is not prepared to do and what its potential for action might be, I'm very reluctant to comment in a public forum about that. I think that's largely up to China, and I would say we'll have to judge China on the basis of what it does over the next several months.
But China is also a country which has grave concerns about instability in the region. And I think we'll continue to work with them very closely, and to try to ensure that we continue as we have to date to operate very much on a common front, and indeed with our other partners in the region.
SEN. WICKER: Apart from multilateral approaches to China, can you tell us specifically, are you able to tell us specifically at this open hearing what bilateral actions China has already taken before these tests to resolve this situation with regard to the nuclear weapons, nuclearization?
MR. BOSWORTH: I really am reluctant to get into that because it has to do with what China's doing as a sovereign country in its own interest. But I would say that we are satisfied that China is moving in all of its connections within the region and specifically in its connections with North Korea to give focus and reality to this effort that this isn't a subject on which there are bilateral communications. But beyond saying that in a general sense, I really don't want to become too specific.
SEN. WICKER: Okay. Do you reject the assertion by some that in some respects North Korea serves as a counter-balance for China and that it's not all negative with regard to China?
MR. BOSWORTH: Again, I can only comment on the basis of what we learn when we talk to the Chinese. And in that sense I think I am convinced that they are acutely concerned about what North Korea is doing and see no advantage to them or anyone else from what North Korea is doing.
SEN. WICKER: It's clear to me that you're quite satisfied at this point with the response of the Chinese government in response to these two tests.
MR. BOSWORTH: We are very committed to continuing our close consultation with the Chinese as we move forward. And I think we each are of the belief that that kind of consultation and coordinated action is essential if we are going to bring about the kind of solution to this problem that we think is desirable and needed.
SEN. WICKER: The third option we have as the United States is enhancing our military capacity. What are our options for doing that? Can you discuss those publicly?
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, we already have a very strong defense posture in the Western Pacific.
SEN. WICKER: How will we enhance that?
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, again, I don't mean to be evasive but I'm not going to get into the business of my colleagues in the Defense Department, and of course the president's business ultimately to decide how we might do that if it's so desired.
SEN. WICKER: Mr. Ambassador, are we making, are we taking any small steps? Have we taken any small steps over time that has improved the U.S., North Korean relationship in any respect? And I ask you about employment across the border. In my home state of Mississippi we've entertained medical doctors from North Korea, and I don't know if that accomplishes much except for an exchange of ideas. It would seem that those are two small steps that we're taking. Is there any reason for us to be encouraged at all by some other things that are going on?
MR. BOSWORTH: I think, Senator, that one of our strengths as a nation is our willingness to engage in humanitarian activities aside from political considerations. So I would applaud the efforts of any American entity to try to bring about some improvement in the very desperate condition of the North Korean people. That's the basis on which the U.S. government has provided food aid over the last several years. It's the basis on which a number of private, non-governmental organizations have operated within North Korea. And we have never, and I don't believe we'll ever in the future, try to use these activities as leverage for political ends.
We deal with North Korea on an official government-to-government basis, but I personally think this is, I can speak for everyone in the administration and indeed in the U.S. bureaucracy: this willingness to engage in humanitarian activities is one of the hallmarks of our country and one that gives me great pride.
SEN. WICKER: If I might, Mr. Chairman, we would no doubt engage in humanitarian efforts for the sheer good that it does. Do you have any information that you can share with the committee about who gets the credit among the North Korean people?
MR. BOSWORTH: I mean, I have no specific information. It's mostly anecdotal. I have reason to believe through my conversations with some of the U.S. organizations that have been doing this over the years that by and large the North Korean people understand from where this assistance is coming. And in some cases I think in recent years the food that we've provided even comes with an American flag on the bag, which is still there when it's distributed to the people of North Korea.
So I think that the North Korean people probably understand better than we may expect the humanitarian impulses of the United States and its people.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you, Senator.
SEN. BENJAMIN CARDIN (D-MD): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for you being here.
I just want to underscore the point that Senator Wicker made at the beginning of this hearing about the two journalists. And I understand the limitations of this hearing. I must tell you, I think most of believe it's just another example of the gross human rights violation by North Korea in taking human pawns to use in some way as they see it for negotiations with the United States or with in regards to their other issues.
And it's something that we just need to continue to raise and point out that how outrageous that type of action is.
Now, with Korea's human rights records, it's deplorable generally. The State Department's 2008 Human Rights Report documents a laundry list of the regime's oppressive practices. I have the opportunity to chair the Helsinki Commission, and we deal on a regular basis on human rights. And one of our points is how we can use those reports in a more effective way to try to help the people of these repressive regimes.
And I just want you to perhaps share with us what we can do to try to advance human rights in North Korea. I know we have a long list, but I hope part of it is to try to improve the government's functioning as it relates to basic rights of the people of North Korea.
MR. BOSWORTH: I think I can assure you, Senator, that human rights concerns remain very much on the agenda of our prospective relationship with North Korea. And in the case of the detained journalists, we are exploring all possible ways to bring about their release on humanitarian grounds. Beyond that, as I indicated in my prepared remarks, I really am not able to go, given Privacy Act considerations, in other things.
SEN. CARDIN: And my question was more general than just the two journalists.
MR. BOSWORTH: Yes.
SEN. CARDIN: I certainly want you to do everything you can to secure their releases, and we've all expressed, I think most of us have expressed our views on it. But it goes beyond just these two journalists. I mean, the human rights records of North Korea is just outrageous, one of the worst countries in the world.
MR. BOSWORTH: Without question. And we are moving under legislation that was I believe passed last year. We're moving ahead to designate a new special envoy for North Korean human rights. And I would expect and hope that that could be done in the next several weeks.
SEN. CARDIN: Let me raise one more issue in my time, and that is obviously the risk of North Korea becoming more sophisticated in nuclear weapons is obvious, and they are testing to try to deliver that type of a nuclear weapon is a major concern. But it's also the transfer of that technology or weapons to terrorist organizations or to non-state actors that have to be a major concern.
I heard you in response to Senator Kerry's question talk about potential sanctions that would block the export of weapons. I just really want to get a sense from you as to how effective we can be to make sure that that type of technology is not exported to terrorist organizations or non-state actors.
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, we will do everything possible to monitor that situation, and if we believe that there is evidence or that there is an indication of proliferating activities, we will respond in a very strong fashion.
I would note that this is a very difficult thing to do, obviously. And it is one of the major reasons, not the only reason, but one of the reasons why for the Obama administration the ultimate goal remains verifiable denuclearization because if the Korean Peninsula is denuclearized, then there is really no risk of proliferation.
But we are not prepared and never will be prepared to settle for a policy which only concentrates on proliferation and ignores the root cause which is the nuclearization of North Korea.
SEC: Well, I certainly agree with that. If they have the capacity, the proliferation issue is going to be there. We know that. The best way to deal with that is the stated policy of the Peninsula being without nuclear weapons. So I fully agree with you. I just wanted to underscore the point, it's not only the direct threat of North Korea having nuclear weapons capacity, but what it could be as a supplier to other regions and other organizations, including terrorist groups.
We know that there's already been some smoking guns here, and we just need to understand the risk factors and need to take appropriate actions. And I think proceeding through the United Nations Security Council makes a great deal of sense and working with our partners and trying to get a more effective help from the major countries in the region including China is our best chance to secure an effective policy to accomplish our goals of removing this threat.
MR. BOSWORTH: I agree with that.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much, Senator Cardin.
SEN. ROBERT CASEY, JR. (D-PA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And Mr. Ambassador, we're grateful for your service and grateful for your testimony today.
I wanted to raise primarily two issues, maybe three, but the first one centers on China. I was noting in your statement in pertinent part you said that China has an important role to play in influencing the path that North Korea follows. You spoke of your trip and that China shared a, quote, "deep concern about North Korea's recent actions," unquote. Our challenge now is to work with China to turn its commitment into effective implementation of Security Council resolutions.
I was going to ask you about Resolution 1718 passed in October 2006 and the enforcement thereof. Since that was passed, as you know and we can easily track this, China's aid, its trade, its investment in North Korea has expanded. How can the Obama administration and your playing a central role in this encourage China to enforce U.N. sanctions and take a more assertive posture towards North Korea? Any thoughts on that?
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, I think what happened with regard to 1718, and this is no excuse but what happened was that soon after that was passed we found ourselves back in multilateral negotiations with the DPRK. Now I think as we go forward, in fact as has already been the case over the last two months, the subject of implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, both the existing one 1718 and now of course prospectively the new one, is very much a subject of active consideration in our relationship not only with the Chinese but with all other countries of the region.
So I think you can expect that as we move forward we are going to continue to be very concerned about implementation, and I would expect that other countries will be as well.
SEN. CASEY: Anything that you would recommend? I know you're not in this business of recommending what Congress should do, but any suggestions about how Congress can be helpful on that narrow question of the enforcement of that resolution?
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, I think, I'm never hesitant to recommend what Congress should do. But I do think --
SEN. CASEY: That's okay. (audience laughter) For today.
MR. BOSWORTH: I do think that Congress has a role in this and that as the Congress expresses its views, those can hopefully be reinforcing of the positions that we're taking in bilateral government-to-government relationships with our partners.
SEN. CASEY: And also on that issue, well may I move on. I wanted to move to the question of the six-party talks. What's your sense of the likelihood of the six-party talks being reengaged in the near term, A, and, B, if you'd comment on, I know in the statement you talked about, and it was helpful for us I think to have set forth a four-pronged strategy, one of them, the fourth one being if North Korea shows a serious willingness for diplomatic engagement. How do you see that playing out, or I guess optimally how would you like it to play out in terms of the role that any further or near-term six- party talk reengagement as well as any kind of bilateral strategy?
MR. BOSWORTH: Optimally I would like to see the North Koreans signal strongly that they are prepared to return to a negotiating mode.
SEN. CASEY: Right.
MR. BOSWORTH: The other members of the six-party process, including very importantly the United States, are all prepared to go back to the six-party process. I think it has proven to be an effective mechanism. Now it's not perfect, and anyone who has been engaged in multilateral diplomatic efforts will tell you that as you expand beyond two, the process becomes ever more complicated by a quantum factor.
But nonetheless, the six-party process provides a platform within which each of us can examine what the others are doing where we can resolve issues, where we can coordinate efforts with regard to a common purpose and with regard to North Korea.
And so I am hopeful that at some point, hopefully -- preferably in the not too distant future -- North Korea will come back to the table. And I think I can say that all other members of the six-party process share the desire of the United States to see that happen as soon as possible.
SEN. CASEY: And getting back to a question Senator Cardin raised by the selling or exporting of technology that relates to nuclear weapons, do you have any sense -- I know we all have a concern; that's obvious -- but do you have any sense that the North Koreans at this moment are engaged in any kind of a strategy to sell that technology? Do you think it's most just in -- the concern mostly is about what they're doing internally?
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, I think that there's no question that the North Korean's are aware of our attitude on this subject. Beyond saying that, I believe that they know there would be consequences for any such activity. I really don't want to go much further in my statements.
SEN. CASEY: Fair enough.
Finally -- I know we have a minute left; I'll be real brief on this -- the North Koreans, I guess, recently announced that that they suspended the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War. Is there any practical affect to that? How do you see that?
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, I don't -- first of all, it is not welcome news, obviously. But the practical affects of it at this point, I think, are not vast. We would like to see them come back into the armistice framework. There are some mechanisms provided by the armistice that will be very helpful and I have no reason to, at this point, believe the North Koreans are going to reject those mechanisms.
As I indicated earlier in response to a question, looking out beyond where we are now and in a broader focus, I think the Obama administration believes that it is time to begin talking seriously with the effected countries about a permanent replacement for the armistice of 1953. That was a long time ago and it is in some ways concerning and lamentable that a state of war still technically and formally exists on the Korean Peninsula.
SEN. CASEY: Thank you very much.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you, Senator Casey.
Before Senator Shaheen, I just want to say a matter of committee process: We have Prime Minister Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe coming at 4:30. So we're going to try to compress into this. After your questioning, Ambassador, we're going to switch the panels. I want to particularly have time to hear from the second panel of experts.
And if I could ask you, Ambassador, to pass by the dais on your way out so I can just grab you for a moment, we'd appreciate it.
And finally, Senator Boxer asked me to mention that she shares the concern about the imprisonment about Laura Ling and Euna Lee and she will be circulating a letter among senators that she invites them to join in signing with respect to the administration's approach and we look forward to that.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ambassador Bosworth, thank you for being here and for your service. To be parochial, I would point out that you're a graduate of Dartmouth and you do us proud in New Hampshire.
MR. BOSWORTH: Thank you.
SEN. KERRY: You can't steal him. He still lives with us. (Laughter.)
SEN. SHAHEEN: Ah, we're working on that.
According to recently released reports, North Korean exports jumped 23 percent last year compared to the previous year and imports jumped 33 percent.
To follow up a little bit on what Senator Casey was referencing with respect to China, what do these statistics say about our ability to isolate North Korea economically? And what effect have sanctions really had on the country?
MR. BOSWORTH: Well, I think first of all, Senator, it's important to note that those are percentage increases off very low base levels. Now, I haven't personally analyzed the data sufficiently to be able to tell you exactly what it means.
I think one thing that it probably reflects -- particularly on the import side -- is a very high price for oil over the last most of 2008. And I think that probably has inflated the figures.
I would say that in all likelihood, as we go forward -- and particularly as the new U.N. Security Council resolution comes into force -- as we continue our efforts to coordinate with China in particular, but other countries in the region, that I would be surprised to see those rates of increase continue in 2009 and beyond.
But it is true, nonetheless, that North Korea has an economy which is many ways is only barely above the level of subsistence. So that makes it difficult to change its behavior through the use of economic sanctions -- not impossible. And certainly, carefully targeted sanctions are a very important part of, if you will, our tool kit in dealing with North Korea. But we should not be under any illusions that these, in and of themselves, are going to bring about a sharp reversal of the current situation.
SEN. SHAHEEN: Well, you talked about the effort to get North Korea to come back to the table. What's it going to take to do that? And is there any reason to believe that there is an interest or a willingness on their part of come back to the table, to want to engage again in any kind of discussions or negotiations?
MR. BOSWORTH: I think that at the moment, there is no evidence that they are prepared to do that now.
I am, however, as I indicated earlier, of the belief that they eventually will come back to the table. Then I think the challenge is, in part, on us to ensure that we engage with them in a realistic fashion and that we begin considering negotiating measures which will in fact be much more irreversible than some of the measures that have been negotiated with them in the past.
Now, I don't under estimate the difficulty of doing that. It is going to be very difficult indeed. But we need a greater sense of irreversibility and a greater sense that things that they agree to now they're not going to fall away from in the future. As some of us have indicated, we have no desire nor willingness to pay twice for things that North Korea is willing to do.
SEN. SHAHEEN: So how do we enforce that kind of irreversibility?
MR. BOSWORTH: We enforce it largely through the negotiating process itself and what we are willing to provide in return and we'll have to see. There is no -- you know, there is no magic process by which you do this. It's all very hard work. And I think in this case, it all requires very close coordination with the other affected countries of the region.
The U.S. really can't do this on its own. We can be a leader in the process, but we very much need the active collaboration of the other countries involved: our allies South Korea and Japan; our partners, China and Russia.
SEN. SHAHEEN: Is there any reason to believe that if the leadership mantel passes to Kim Jung Il's son that it will result in any kind of a change in the leadership there with respect to decision- making?
MR. BOSWORTH: I have no reason to speculate one way or the other on that. As I said earlier, quoting former Secretary of Defense William Perry, I think we have to deal with North Korea as it is, not as it might be at some point in the future.
SEN. SHAHEEN: And is there any information to suggest that there might be disagreements within the North Korean government regarding their nuclear policies?
MR. BOSWORTH: No.
SEN. SHAHEEN: Thank you.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you, Senator Shaheen.
Senator Corker we welcome. I know he's already indicated to me he's not going to ask questions.
So we thank you, Ambassador Bosworth, very, very much. We wish you well in the days ahead. We want to stay in close touch and I know we will. I look forward to chatting with you for a moment.
MR. BOSWORTH: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.