September 26, 2013

Financial sanctions key to denuking N. Korea: former U.S. official

Source: Yonhap News Agency

"The whole process (of the six-party disarmament forum) has value, but none of this is likely to succeed in getting North Korea to give up its nuclear program unless we are willing to threaten the regime of Korea North in a way that internally threatens it -- taking away their money and forcing them to fight among themselves," said David Asher, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in an interview with Yonhap News Agency on the sidelines of an academic forum on North Korea.

The forum was hosted by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

Asher was a senior advisor to former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James Kelly under the administration of former President George W. Bush. The former president led a series of hawkish sanctions against what he tagged "rogue states" seeking weapons of mass destruction, including North Korea.

He was one of the authors of the administration's sanctions policy to cut transactions of Macao-based Banco Delta Asia bank in 2007, which was suspected of being used for stashing funds for the regime of then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

"If we want, or have any hope trying to get them to change their nuclear posture, let alone give up their nuclear weapons, we are gonna have to aim at the financial heart of Kim Jong-un's regime, .... and personally I consider that to be a feasible potential strategy," said the ex-official.

The communist country is continuing to engage in illegal activities and weapons proliferation for its financial survival because "they literally don't have enough means to generate wealth internally to satisfy the need of the regime," he added.

The absence of a banking system in the North forces it to rely on the international financial system for survival and in many previous cases the U.S. has been proven to be able to target part of the international financial system, he said, adding that it "is something the U.S. can do uniquely because 95 percent of all global dollar wire transfers go through New York."

   "My personal view is that the Kim dynasty needs to be credibly threatened in order for them to ever make a strategic choice. They see the nuclear weapons system as a thing that will save them. They need to see the nuclear system as a thing that will destroy them," noted Asher.

Asher's highlight on financial sanctions against the North comes amid quickening efforts by China to resume the six-way forum, involving two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

The multilateral forum launched in 2003 held its last meeting in late 2008, as the North walked out of the dialogue and continued to develop its nuclear programs.

With the North's third and latest nuclear weapons test conducted in February, the country is believed to be in the final stages of completing the development of a nuclear-loaded long-range missile, or intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Asher defined Washington's disarmament efforts through the six-party talks as "overt failure" in his report given to Congress' foreign affairs committee.

The U.S. has shown strong reservations about China striving for the resumption of the six-party talks, saying that the North should first prove its seriousness toward denuclearization through concrete actions in order to sit down for the multilateral disarmament-for-aid negotiations.

"North Koreans were lying every minute they attended the six-party talks, but we continued to move forward because of what was at stake, including, most importantly, for the Republic of Korea," Asher said.

He claimed that the U.S. was aware of the communist country's continued uranium enrichment program while the dialogue went on. "Everything we saw in Syria, what was going on in Iran and Burma, all of that was the procurement of technology for enriched uranium programs."

   Citing North Korea's science technology agreement signed with Syria in 2002 and Iran last year, the expert said that "the only technology North Korea can possibly share with Iran that would have any value would be related to weapons of mass destruction."

   The North has demonstrated in Syria that they would engage in proliferation even in the midst of the six-party talks, the pro-sanctions expert said. "Why should it be different now?"



  • David Asher

    Former Adjunct Senior Fellow

    David Asher is a former Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), where he specialized in Economics and Security as well as Asia strategy. His cu...