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Two-Minute Take: Undeclared North Korea

November 16, 2018 3 minute Read by Victor Cha
New research released this week by Beyond Parallel and CSIS revealed 13 of an estimated 20 North Korean missile operating bases that are undeclared by the government. Bush Institute Fellow Victor Cha gives his two-minute take.

What is the significance of CSIS’s findings, and how do they impact the Unites States’ diplomatic process with North Korea?

Our findings will not be new to those inside of governments, but they do show the general public that the DPRK weapons programs extend far beyond the items they have been "selling" to us (i.e., the nuclear test site and satellite launch facility) in return for a lifting of sanctions. These operational missile bases remain undeclared by North Korea yet threaten the United States, South Korea, and Japan. In this regard, we are trying to ensure that the public policy discussion about this remains well-informed.

President Trump downplayed the findings, tweeting they reveal nothing new. Last week, he said: “The sanctions are on. The missiles have stopped. The rockets have stopped. The hostages are home.” What aspects of the situation is he failing to assess?

Our study shows that while the missile tests may have stopped, they still have over a dozen operational missile bases from which they could launch ballistic missiles. Thus, the tests have stopped but the threat is still there and growing. Moreover, he refers to the return of U.S. hostages, but the human rights abuses continue in North Korea without any accountability being required of the North Korean leader to the international community and the UN, the latter of which has recommended referral of Kim Jong-un to the ICC for crimes against humanity.

*Shortly after Dr. Cha’s interview, the media reported the first North Korea weapons test since November 2017.

What does CSIS’s report mean for the idea of complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization (CVID)? 

It is hard to imagine CVID without an addressing of these operational missile bases that we have studied, in addition to the nuclear weapons programs. To address one without the other does not make us necessarily safer. North Korea would only like to offer those things that they no longer need. We need to focus on the entirety of the program and a full declaration from the regime, rather than a piecemeal approach.


Author

Victor Cha
Victor Cha

As a Fellow in Human Freedom, Victor Cha is helping lead an initiative on the problem of human rights in North Korea.  In addition, he is a senior adviser and the inaugural holder of the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and Director of Asian studies and holder of the D.S. Song-KF Chair in the Department of Government and School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. From 2004 to 2007, he served as Director for Asian Affairs at the White House on the National Security Council (NSC), where he was responsible primarily for Japan, the Korean peninsula, Australia/New Zealand, and Pacific Island nation affairs. Dr. Cha was also the Deputy Head of Delegation for the United States at the Six-Party Talks in Beijing and received two Outstanding Service Commendations during his tenure at the NSC. He is the award-winning author of Alignment Despite Antagonism: The United States-Korea-Japan Security Triangle (Stanford University Press, 1999), winner of the 2000 Ohira Book Prize; Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies, with Dave Kang (Columbia University Press, 2004); Beyond the Final Score: The Politics of Sport in Asia (Columbia University Press, 2009); and The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future (Ecco, 2012), selected by Foreign Affairs magazine as a 2012 “Best Book on Asia and the Pacific.” His next book is Powerplay: Origins of the American Alliance System in Asia (Princeton University Press, forthcoming). He has written articles on international relations and East Asia in journals including Foreign Affairs, International Security, Political Science Quarterly, Survival, International Studies Quarterly, and Asian Survey.

Dr. Cha is a former John M. Olin National Security Fellow at Harvard University, a two-time Fulbright Scholar, and a Hoover National Fellow, CISAC Fellow, and William J. Perry Fellow at Stanford University. He holds Georgetown University’s Dean’s Teaching Award for 2010 and the Distinguished Research Award for 2011. He serves as an independent consultant and has testified before Congress on Asian security issues. He has been a guest analyst for various media including CNN, ABC Nightline, NBC Today Show, CBS Morning Show, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, BBC, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and National Public Radio. He has a cameo role (as himself) in the action film Red Dawn (Contrafilm, MGM, Vincent Newman Entertainment) released in November 2012. Dr. Cha holds a B.A., an M.I.A., and a Ph.D. from Columbia University, as well as an M.A. from Oxford University.

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