DPRK Briefing Book : US Policy
Special Report For The Embassy Of The Republic Of South Korea Players On Korea Policy In Washington, D.C.
Chris Nelson, The Nelson Report, June 22, 2005
1. SUMMARY: the goal of this Special Report is to “identify the next Mike Green and Victor Cha”…that is, the “rising generation” of the next set of influential players in the USG, including the satellite “think tanks” which serve as holding pens, and training grounds, for the next generation of NSC, State, DOD and intelligence officials.
After extensive interviews with players at the senior working levels, it is the reluctant conclusion of this Special Report that the mounting sense of failure of Bush Administration Korea policy has had a toxic effect on not just the policy, but also on the available pool of current and possible future players. In short, there is NO “rising generation” in the useful planning sense, just some scattered individuals. As one of the younger experts mentioned in this Report privately lamented, “there is almost no mentoring going on. Who will sponsor me when it’s time?” There are two reasons:
— first, the sense of failure and futility in US policy drives away potentially qualified candidates, and alienates the current generation of “players”;
— second, that sense of failure has created a “bunker mentality” in the White House, with the result that “loyalty” to this failed policy becomes the “litmus test” applied to possible candidates, rather than competence, throughout the bureaucracy.
The net result: again and again, when respondents were asked “who is the next Victor Cha?”…they seemed genuinely nonplussed to discover that they could NOT readily identify more than two or three individuals who MIGHT be interested in subjecting their careers to such a risk…EVEN ASSUMING these professionals could pass the political litmus tests so stringently being applied by the Bush White House.
One very distressing example of a potentially catastrophic decision, well known to “insiders”: two years ago, the CIA offered the post of National Intelligence Officer for Asia Economic Issues to the highly regarded N. Korea expert Marcus Noland, of Fred Bergsten’s Institute of International Economics. The initial security clearance process took more than a year because Noland is married to a foreign national…a Ghanaian woman.
In the interim, Noland wrote a mildly critical newspaper editorial piece (an “Op Ed” in US slang) about Bush’s Korea policy in terms of how to effectively engage the DPRK. When Noland’s security clearance was finally completed, and his name submitted to the White House for the final step…the mandatory “political clearance”…his Op Ed was brought to the attention of the decision-makers and Noland was rejected on political grounds.
Remember, Bush will be president until January, 2009…this situation is not going to change so long as Dick Cheney is Vice President, Steve Hadley is National Security Advisor, and not even…apparently…so long as Condi Rice is Secretary of State. DOD Secretary Rumsfeld’s negative views toward the ROK and its democratically elected political leadership are too well known to comment upon. The impact of his potential replacement by former Deputy Secretary of State Armitage will be mentioned in the text of the Report.
The final conclusion: there is simply no point in speculating who might be on track for NSC or intel posts beyond 2009, due to the politically-based nature of senior US staff, and the “toxic” problems outlined above.
For the above reasons, this Special Report will concentrate on those players, and commentators, who currently exert some degree of influence on Korea policy (including, of course, N. Korea policy) in either of two ways:
— first, they are direct policy officials themselves, and/or they interact with current Bush Administration officials involved in policy;
— or second, they form part of the increasingly larger class of disaffected “outside experts”, most if not all former officials, who spend their days criticizing Bush policy and…sometimes…attempting to offer “solutions” which, in truth, they know will be ignored by all but fellow critics.
A note on methodology: a list was submitted for our guidance. We interviewed many of them, but made a point of not asking “but what about??”, since the inevitable result would be “Oh, yes…” and therefore a misleading response in terms of your interests. If a person is a player, he or she is a player, and this came out in the interviews. So if someone on the list isn’t mentioned in this Report, there’s very likely a reason for that!
Finally, if ANY of this Report is seen by ANY one outside of the Embassy, it’s humble author is going to have to receive political asylum…
2. THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE:
Secretary Rumsfeld seeks guidance and makes all policy decisions, including those of concern to Korea, through two basic fora, held in his personal office:
— first, what is called within DOD “the Big Table”, a formal gathering of senior officials who review communiqués, statements, and draft war plans, etc.; this is the group which approved dispatch of the 15 F-117 “Stealth” fighters recently to the ROK;
— second, what is called the “Little Table”…a key group of for or perhaps five individuals…this is the group which would get into the specifics of Korea policy, including handling N. Korea, for presentation to the Big Table, if necessary.
The “Big Table” meetings include DOD Spokesman Lawrence DiRita, who also keeps a desk in front of Rumsfeld’s office and functions as his Chief of Staff; the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs; the officer responsible the action situation under discussion; the Director of the Joint Staff; Undersecretaries Doug Feith and Peter Rodman; Deputy Undersecretary Richard Lawless; and surrounding them the military assistants to the senior officials, plus some of the relevant ISA desk officers; a representative from planner Andy Marshall’s office is often present (sometimes the China expert Dr. Mike Pillsbury).
The Little Table is of more direct interest to this Report, since this is where genuine arguments take place and real decisions are made for presentation to the Big Table. On Korea matters, the four or five officials present at the Little Table always include (in addition to Rumsfeld) DiRita, Feith, Rodman, Lawless.
If Korea is the subject, or included in the agenda, Lawless brings what he calls his “Korea Team” of Lawless himself, being a fluent Korea speaker/reader from his multiple assignments as a CIA officer, etc.; Army Major Mike Finnegan and former Congressional staffer Scott Finney; also included before he was seconded to the NSC (and now retired to the private consulting business) was Charles “Chuck” Jones, a highly regarded expert on N. Korea. Jones is still a “player” in the advisory sense, and is an active Loyal Reader to the Nelson Report.
A more difficult to measure “influence” on DOD, and Rumsfeld personally, is the work of some experts at the National Defense University, such as Dr. Jim Przystup, a N. Asia Security expert since his days on the House International Relations Committee in the 1970’s. Przystup worked on the policy planning staff of Paul Wolfowitz in the 1980’s, and the two were classmates in Hans Morgenthau’s last PhD class at the University of Chicago. He was a leading member of “Team Armitage”, the bipartisan coalition of Asia experts who produced “The Armitage Report” which served as the “blueprint” for Bush Asia policy.
He is well known to many players on both sides of the Pacific, especially in Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing, and writes a constant flow of “position papers” which find their way to Rumsfeld and his people. But since Przystup himself is a bitter, sometimes public, critic of the Bush failure to properly engage the DPRK, his “influence” would appear to be non-existent, despite his access.
A similar “where do they fit in?” issue also makes it difficult to assess the impact of the Institute of Defense Analysis’ Katy Oh, an outspoken Korean-American whom all the professionals like and respect, but who is far too “hot” a personality for an Administration job. Also important to watch/listen to are a pair of retired Navy Admirals, “Mike” McDevitt, and Eric McVaden, both of whom write and attend many Asia-focused defense/strategic conferences, and who have made no secret of their dismay at the failures of Bush Korea policy (and the reasons for it). NSC officials are respectful and solicitious in the presence of this group of defense-related experts…but whether they take any advice you can judge for yourself.
Notes on DOD….remember that Rumsfeld’s right arm, DiRita, is married to the recent head of the American Institute on Taiwan, the Republican political activist Therese Shaheen, and that Shaheen is a former, highly successful business partner of Lawless, after he retired from the CIA. She has now reestablished her consulting company.
All of these senior players indulge, from time to time, with attempts to influence the press, particularly working through David Sanger of the N.Y. Times, and Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post, and occasionally through former Timesmen such as Richard Halloran, now a free lancer in Tokyo, who was used for a recent “leak” on force redeployment, which should be seen as a precursor to the upcoming “DOD Report to Congress on China”. Recently, Lawless has decided it’s important to “help” The Nelson Report, and a staffer (SE Asia/China expert Bob Scher) has been assigned to answer our questions on an “on background” basis. Scher is bright and pleasant and doubtless contributes to in-house Korea discussions.
Former Deputy Sec. State Rich Armitage tells anyone who asks that he is a serious candidate to replace Rumsfeld at some point later this year or early next. Many observers think Armitage is using this as a “marketing tool” to drive up his consulting fees. Other observers note how careful Armitage has been not to publicly criticize the Bush Administration…he even went so far as to praise the John Bolton UN nomination despite his well-known, bloody battles with Bolton while at State. This caution is attributed to Armitage’s sincere belief in his viability as a replacement for Rumsfeld.
Were this miracle to take place, and Armitage became SecDef, this might be relatively good news in terms of a serious out-reach to the DPRK, assuming Armitage could advocate that successfully, but there is no chance it would change the fundamental antipathy of the Bush Administration to President Roh and the “sunshine policy”, whatever it might be called.
Remember, it was Armitage himself who institutionalized criticism of then-President Kim Dae-jung, during the run-up to the 2000 elections. The diference between Armitage and Cheney was that Armitage (and Powell) favored continued negotiations with the DPRK, but only under strict conditions, which included a far more aggressive stance against what they all saw as excessive accommodation to the DPRK by the ROK.
A key Armitage protégé; at State, former DAS/China Randy Schriver, has joined Armitage’s private consulting company, but would doubtless follow to DOD, if that came to pass, as would long-time personal aide Robin “Sak” Sakoda, a former military/NSC staffer.
3. THE OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT
Nothing has changed in Bush Two to alter the basic assumption, or presumption, at State and in the “outside critics” circles, that the “real” power on Korea policy, and specifically, any decision on whether to seriously negotiate on equal terms with North Korea, as now aces the Bush Administration, rests firmly in the hands of Vice President Dick Cheney. The most common response to our question, “how do you influence Cheney on Korea?” was, “Are you kidding?”
Having said that, there are two or three key people upon whom to focus. At the “first line of defense” is Steve Yates, formerly of The Heritage Foundation, and a foreign policy staffer for Cheney since March, 2001. He is in line for a senior position at DOD, possibly under Lawless, having repeatedly turned down a DAS slot at the Department of State.
Yates has expressed exasperation at what he sees as himself being ignored by the Embassy since the departure of the prior DCM, a political official and expert, and his replacement by an economics-focused diplomat. The prior DCM visited Yates “once a week”, to discuss Korea and whatever else was on his mind. Yates is not a Korea expert (although he has been a friend to, and reader of, The Nelson Report for more than a decade, since his days at Heritage). Yates, a Mormon, is a China/Taiwan expert, and while conservative and relatively hard-line, is a pragmatist within that universe and not a “neo-conservative”. He is easily approachable, frank, and should be re-cultivated by the Embassy.
Prior to Yates, an ambitious young career staffer, Samantha Ravitch, handled Korea issues. She has departed for a very hush-hush consulting operation called The Long Term Strategy Project, but is known to keep in touch with Cheney’s inner circle.
Cheney’s Chief of Staff, “Scooter” Libby is well known to the Korea side. He is literally Cheney’s “right hand”. Nothing of importance would ever take place in terms of Korea policy, or anything else, without Cheney involving Libby. Also worth keeping track of is former Cheney/Libby staffer Victoria “Tori” Newland, now on diplomatic posting. She keeps in touch with Libby and Cheney, associates confirm.
Deputy chief of staff John Hannah is not considered by Korea players to be a Korea player.
Yates frankly warns that “the Vice President has long experience in Korea affairs and he does not need ‘outside’ expertise”. Our Translation (not Yates’ words): Cheney doesn’t reach out, and he doesn’t listen much to anyone not already an associate. He deals with the sitting officials at the NSC, CIA, etc., as professional resources, and reaches his own judgments…as is well known from the Iraq War intel situation.
State Dept officials suggest Cheney does have one “fishing buddy” to whom he occasionally reaches out…businessman John Turner of Wyoming, described as a “Teddy Roosevelt environmentalist Republican”.
It is interesting to note that at State, the perception is that Cheney’s “in house academic”, Aaron Freidberg, is a player on Korea policy, but we do not get that impression from Yates. Yates himself meets regularly with the NSC’s Green and Cha, and the regularly posted State Department officials. He says he does not have time to “reach out” to any academics, think-tankers, etc., nor even to read their papers in the event they are sent directly to him.
** this is a common lament or complaint throughout the bureaucracy. Even with Capitol Hill staff, they report little or no time for “outside” reading, and that they spend all their time on official briefing papers, or CRS reports…and the daily press, of course.
4. THE WHITE HOUSE/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL:
What you see is what you get…on Korea, there is no “secret brain trust” for George Bush, beyond VP Cheney, DOD Sec. Rumsfeld, Sec. State Condi Rice, and now, National Security Director Steve Hadley, and Deputy Advisor J.D. Crouch. Of course important decisions are discussed with or in front of Chief of Staff Andy Card and political chief Karl Rove, but only from a “how will this play?” standpoint, rather than the policy per-se, our sources all maintain.
This means that the working papers on policy decisions are handled through the chain of command….anything from State is vetted through Director for Asia Policy Victor Cha, his “boss”, Senior Director for Asia Policy Mike Green, and through their bosses, Hadley and Crouch.
Outside advisors are few to non-existent, but our Survey revealed a consensus that when time permits, Green and Cha still listen to, and occasionally reach out, to two younger “think tank” experts, Scott Snyder and Gordon Flake, and to the more veteran Marc Noland. A more nuanced relationship is that between Green and CSIS’s Kurt Campbell, Green’s old boss at DOD in the Clinton Administration, where Campbell was DAS for Asia, and operated similarly to Lawless in the current regime.
Campbell frankly has tried to assume the role of Green’s “protector” within the Asia profession, as Green has become more and more vulnerable to “community disgust” with his role as a “salesman” rather than an objective analyst of the effectiveness of Bush Korea policy. Green, an old friend, has privately told The Nelson Report that he does not intend to remain at the NSC much past this Fall, but that reports of his imminent departure are incorrect.
It is considered highly unlikely that Cha is senior enough to be a viable candidate to succeed Green as Senior Director. Far more likely is a “seconded” official from State, or the CIA, as was the case when Green succeeded now-Amb. Jim Moriarty, a China expert.
Hadley is known to listen to former Reagan National Security Advisor Richard Allen, and the venerable CIA/diplomat Jim Lilley. Former Amb. Don Gregg “is on the outs, now, because he has been openly critical of the failure to engage”…a comment made prior to the Op Ed of June 22 in the Washington Post, authored jointly by Don Oberdorfer, basically challenging Bush to take up Kim Jong-il’s “offer” to return to the 6 Party Talks, as relayed by Unification Minister Chung.
Green is known to make a private show of consulting with Gregg, Oberdorfer and other “old hands” from time to time, but there are no substantive results from this, and Green is known to have exasperated even close friends with his determination to “stick to the script”, rather than engage in frank discussion. State Department colleagues say that even in very small closed meetings, Green “sticks to the party line” rather than having a serious talk about how to restore policy effectiveness.
The good news is that the NSC’s non-proliferation chief, Bob Joseph, who constantly allied with Bolton and Cheney’s office to block any attempt by Green and State toward a more forward looking Korea policy, is gone. The bad news is he’s gone to State to replace Bolton, and been replaced on the NSC by another non-proliferation ideologue, John Rood.
5. CAPITOL HILL:
Congress, especially the House of Representatives, has been a thorn in the side of Korea policy since the early days of the Clinton Administration. The immediate cause was great skepticism about the wisdom and utility of the 1994 “Framework” agreement with N. Korea, and the coincidental take-over of the House by the Republicans of Newt Gingrich.
This left then-Asst. Sec. East Asia Stan Roth, a career HIRC staffer for Democratic Rep. Stephen Solarz, without powerful allies at the committee management level, and created a situation where Roth basically stopped briefing the Committee on sensitive subjects, including N. Korea, missile sales to Pakistan, etc. Roth personally told us that he felt he had to stop, since “they leak everything I tell them” to The Washington Times. (Roth, now an official with Boeing, still quietly talks to many of the players mentioned in this Report.)
The antipathy which built up during this period was a leading factor in the birth of “The Blue Team”, at the time an informal group of CIA, DIA, DOD, and even State and NSC officials concerned that the Clinton Administration was not being honest with Congress, or with itself, about the activities of China, N. Korea and related issues.
As the decade drew to a close, President Clinton and Sec State Albright engaged in increasingly “personal” diplomacy with N. Korea, culminating in Albright’s extraordinary “dance” with Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, and the perhaps more useful “missile freeze”. But Clinton’s obvious “rush to create a legacy” fed all of the inherent Capitol Hill mistrust, and helped crystallize the “Team Armitage” critique of both Clinton, and then President Kim Dae-jung’s Sunshine Policy which has proven so damaging to today’s US-ROK-DPRK relations.
Many of the Capitol Hill players today had their initial exposure to Korea issues during this period, and so inherited a built-in skepticism, often a blatant mistrust, of both North and South Korea. For them, Clinton’s 1999-00 use of the national security waiver to continue funding the Framework’s obligation of KEDO support was the “last straw”, and they ignored the implications of Clinton’s acceptance of intelligence that the DPRK was likely engaged in some form of secret nuclear research.
This is what formed the basis for the 2002 US charges from Deputy Secretary Armitage, via Asst. Sec. Kelly, of a “secret HEU” program which has been central to the current US-ROK-DPRK deadlock…yet Armitage et al never acknowledged the Clinton contribution to stability (via the Framework) and accused him of ignoring the HEU evidence (equally untrue).
House International Relations Committee: Rep. Jim Leach, Asia Subcommittee chair is well known, knowledgeable, and deeply concerned about the failure to engage…his concerns are shared, and fully staffed, by chief of staff Jamie McCormick, and a detailee from State, Doug Anderson. All three are determined to pursue balance and not to over-focus on emotional human rights and “commie bashing” activities which Committee chair Henry Hyde is occasionally prone to, but which form the principal focus of Rep. Dan Burton and Rep. Dana Rorabacher.
HIRC Chairman Hyde, retiring in 2006, uses Dennis Halpin on Korea, especially human rights issues, and the committee’s Deputy Chief of Staff Walker Roberts, a sensible professional. Halpin is a deeply religious Roman Catholic, who lived in Korea as a child and is very committed to Korea policy.
There is at least some possibility that either Burton or Rorabacher might get themselves selected as Chairman succeeding Hyde…a terrifying prospect to serious foreign policy players. Rorabacher’s current foreign policy staffer is career human rights activist, and Dalai Lama worshipper, Paul Berkowitz, who is seen by colleagues as over the top emotionally involved.
HIRC members and staffers are an often strange mix of help/mischief on Korea, depending on their focus on human rights. For example, Rep. Tom Lantos is sometimes very difficult on human rights, but incredibly brave in challenging the Administration on its refusal to directly engage the DPRK, as per his fact-finding mission last year. Lantos is ably assisted by staffer Peter Yao, and the two meet once a month in NY with DPRK Amb. Han.
Lantos considers himself personal friends with Sec. Rice (the Stanford connection…it’s in Lantos’ District) and he confers with her privately on a constant basis, and “pulls his punches” when criticizing Bush, rather than her. Also very sophisticated (if cynical) is staffer David Adams, a HIRC professional who take care of Democrat Gary Ackerman.
In the House Leadership, Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi takes a human rights activist approach to Korea and her staffer is ex-Intelligence Committee staffer Mike Sheehy, who is viewed as sensible by colleagues.
On House Armed Services you want to pay attention to Rep. Ike Skelton and his staffer Erin Conaton, and, of course, Rep. Kurt Weldon and his staffer, Doug Roach. Colleagues say that while Weldon is “difficult”, Roach is a sensible professional. Ditto Conaton.
Republican Rep. Joe Pitts is a sometime player on Korea, through a respected staffer, Karin Finkler. HIRC’s Rep. Faleomavaega could be useful but is a blow-hard who wastes everyone’s time, rather than staying properly focused. Unfortunately, Chairman Leach often has trouble getting a quorum of Members and so must indulge “Faleo” at hearings.
THE SENATE: by definition, all senators are important, if not as important as they see themselves. But the key players and staffers are generally well known…no surprises here: On Foreign Affairs, Chairman Lugar is ably served by Keith Luse, as is Ranking Democrat Joe Biden by Frank Januzzi.
It is a measure of the cooperation between Lugar and Biden (strained but not broken by the Bolton fight) that they have twice sent Luse and Januzzi together to N. Korea on fact finding missions, and allowed them to write an official Report to the Committee. Had John Kerry been elected president, Januzzi, a former FSO, was certain to have been made a high State Department or NSC official, perhaps Asst. Sec. Asia. He is still quite young and will be even more “eligible” in the event the Democrats return to the White House in 2009.
Also important in the Biden committee operation is former long-time Senate Intelligence staffer Edward (not “Ed”!) Levine, a serious student of nuclear proliferation and weapons technology, with wide ranging contacts throughout the “community” on these issues.
On Senate Armed Services, a well-known professional staffer very involved in N. Korea nuclear assessments is Evelyn Farkas. Farkas was the staffer who prepared the question asked to the head of DIA by Sen. Hillary Clinton which produced the dramatic DIA assertion that the DPRK definitely has nuclear armed missile capability.
On Senate Appropriations, there is no limit to the difficulties created by the Republican Leadership’s Mitch McConnell, chair of Foreign Operations, through his dedicated human rights staffer, Paul Grove. Grove has tried very hard for the Assistant Secretary/Human Rights post at State, and may yet be a candidate.
Also in the “trouble” category is Sen. Sam Brownback and his staffer, Hanah Royal. Staffer Sean Woo, the principal author of the original version of the N. Korea Human Rights Act, is now reported to have moved to the staff of the House Helsinki Commission.
Other Senate staffers to pay attention to on Korea matters include Sen. Chuck Hagel’s new person (a veteran of the “Bolton Wars”) former State Department non-proliferation expert (and Armitage staffer) Rexon Ryu (pronounced “U”). Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Korea-focused staffer, Michael Schiffer, was in Japan on a fellowship and may have returned…we need to double check on his whereabouts.
6. WHO PLAYS THE KOREA GAME IN THE THINK TANKS:
Bear in mind that there are relatively few “pure Korea experts” at play in Washington power circles, for the reasons mentioned at the outset of this Special Report, but primarily because the mix of issues which make Korea policy so important these days include the broader category of arms control, non-proliferation, North Asia policy writ-large, China relations, Japan relations, etc., etc.
So this means, for example, that former State Department Policy Planning chief Mitchell Reiss, now returned to The College of William & Mary, was for two years a major player in the bitter internal battles at State between John Bolton and Armitage/Powell because of his strong personal expertise in non-proliferation.
Reiss took the job at Policy Planning for the explicit purpose of helping Armitage/Powell against Bolton/Cheney and he was convinced that he could help turn the tide against the hard-liners. He failed, and became embittered in the process. However, Reiss is a canny political player, and was careful to keep his views private, with the result that he retains the trust of Secretary Rice, and has been appointed Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, with Ambassadorial rank.
This means that while Reiss remains an important “background player” offering expertise and encouragement to the more public dissidents, he is careful not to go “on record” through OpEds or other means, despite the steady collapse of Bush Korea policy.
In discussing with the “Korea policy community” who should be on our list of “players to watch in the think-tanks and universities”, the choices were surprisingly unanimous, and distressingly limited. It turns out that you know them all…there were NO surprises, no “new people” about whom you asked “who”?!
Bear in mind that our group is perhaps insular and certainly self-selected, our criteria for selection was to seek out those scholars, experts, and former officials who retain contact with, or who actively attempt to influence the current officials in the Administration, and on Capitol Hill. A principle method of such “outreach” includes newspaper and electronic media interviews, and OpEds.
The sad sorry fact is that every official we contacted, and this includes Capitol Hill staff, frankly confessed to NOT having the time to read a long paper, or to attend a conference for more than perhaps one interesting panel…if ever any of that. This is particularly true for NSC staff, who spend their days like squirrels in a cage.
The net result of this is that think-tank/scholar “influence” is more often indirect, and the result of an accumulation of “pressure” or information via the press and the editorial pages. It is quite rare that a particular “OpEd” itself becomes part of the policy debate…the exceptions being when a very high ranking former official such as Bush One National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft decides to co-author with former NSC non-proliferation expert Dan Poneman a piece demanding direct bilateral US-DPRK talks.
An outstanding example of this phenomenon came on the day this Report was completed, when former Amb. Don Gregg joined the highly respected former Washington Post reporter/expert, now at Johns Hopkins’ SAIS, Don Oberdorfer, in an OpEd revealing that they had personally delivered a private letter from Kim Jong-il to President Bush in late 2002 which Bush clearly ignored…and demanding that he appoint a Special Envoy now to explore the possible opening presented by the recent Kim interview with Unification Minister Chung.
The general category of “non-proliferation expert” has a major player who often is “under the radar screen”, the Naval War College’s Jonathan Pollack, who maintains a constant “on background” conversation with interested news media and current government officials deeply involved in assessing N. Korea’s nuclear program. Pollack often serves as a “filter” to declassify the views and findings of such prominent scientists as David Albright and Sig Hecker, when those gentlemen do not care to step into the spotlight, due to the tendency of the Bush Administration to strike back at “enemies”.
A similar role is played by The Nautilus Institute’s Peter Hayes, the Arms Control Association’s Paul Kerr, and British scholar/N. Korea expert Aidan Foster-Carter, all of whom write “Op Eds” and/or provide a constant stream of “on background” advice to Washington-based players and think-tankers.
A similar role is played by Stanford professor John Lewis, who recently, very publicly “advised” Secretary Rice on his recent DPRK trip and conversation with Kim Jong-il, and who may well have helped convince Rice, a former Stanford colleague, to try a food aid approach (announced today…June 22) and to be careful to show respect by not always personally insulting Kim.
Lewis also briefed the NSC’s Green and Cha, and seems to have been the conduit for the DPRK desire to be “treated like an established nuclear power”, eg Pakistan, which the Administration has subsequently, very publicly rejected. (Lewis is close to journalist Dan Sneider, mentioned elsewhere in this Report.)
Consensus Younger Think Tank Players of Importance: everyone asked mentioned Scott Snyder of the Asia Foundation, who will join journalist Dan Sneider, son of the former US Ambassador to the ROK, in a one-year fellowship at Stanford University for 2005-6. Each will write a book on US Asia policy, Sneider’s most likely on the current DPRK crisis. Snyder has been resident in Seoul for many years.
Everyone mentioned The Mansfield Center’s Gordon Flake as a balanced, tough but fair minded young expert/player, who is also one of the rare exceptions to the “rule” that the NSC staff won’t reach out to anyone…it is well known that both Green and Cha still seek Flake’s advice, and as a result, while Flake is openly critical and pessimistic about aspects of Bush policy and strategy, he shares the hard-line assessment that no good will come from the DPRK.
Also mentioned regularly, but not unanimously, is Flake’s Mansfield colleague Weston Konishi, one of the truly “younger generation”. However, Konishi is known to be a Democrat, as is CSIS’s Derek Mitchell, a protégé of Kurt Campbell. So both Konishi and Mitchell should be put on the “post-2009 list”.
At The Hertage Foundation everyone likes Balbina Hwang, and they note that she should be considered as a possible successor to Victor Cha at the NSC, due to her impeccable Republican credentials. But Hwang is still seen as relatively inexperienced, and it is not clear that Mike Green appreciates her criticisms. And, she has made no secret of her very strong criticisms of the Bush failure to properly coordinate policy with the ROK…she wrote early-on about the US-ROK “disconnect” which The Nelson Report also covered, despite strong personal denials from Green, in private e-mails.
The head of the Asia Studies group at Heritage, former DAS/DOD Asia Peter Brookes, is seen as too simplistically hard-line on N. Korea (as on China) to have any serious influence on any officials or think-tank comrades not already, themselves, totally hard-line. Brookes remains a player to be reckoned with, however, because he is a tireless self-promoter through his regular syndicated column in the conservative New York Post, a Rupert Murdoch newspaper. Brookes and Hwang do not get along well, for the above reason, and it is not clear whether he would support her in the event she became a “candidate” for the NSC or a job at State.
John Tkacik, the resident “China expert” at Heritage is also functionally a total hard-liner on N. Korea. He frequently writes and speaks on N. Korea policy, through his personal, strong advocacy of the dubious Bush Administration line that “China can control North Korea and is responsible for bringing the DPRK back to the 6 Party Talks”. Tkacik, who recently survived a terrible cancer scare, and is a deeply religious Catholic, focuses on both human rights and strategic issues. He is a former FSO who served in China, and is militantly pro-Taiwan independence, and in Bush Administration terms, is a neo-con hard liner. He is very critical of the Bush pressure on Taiwanese political leaders who want independence.
The Council on Foreign Relations Korea Task Force has, over the years, bred such important offshoots as Team Armitage, and a “future” player on N. Asia security/Korea issues is Eric Heginbotham, son of former State Department economic official Erland Heginbotham. Eric is a Democrat, and thus not a “current candidate” for Administration work. Also on the CFR “future list” is researcher Ashle Baxter, currently assigned to N. Asia economics expert Dr. Ed Lincoln.
Very “under the radar screen” of the NSC are the very useful activities of former Atlantic Council Korea expert Stephen Costello, a very active player on behalf of Korean government officials.
Difficult to categorize, but of great impact are the educational activities of former DOD intelligence expert Paul Chamberlain, under contract to the Embassy, and former Korean Economic Institute director John Bennett, who runs a private email “clipping service” featuring the daily English language press from Korea…sort of a private FIBIS…for past and current Korea policy activists. And often sought out for advice is KEI’s Joe Winder.
Others to “keep an eye on” include Raelyn Campbell, now in the private sector with NBR, Scott Rembrandt with the Korean Economic Institute, and Jim Schoff, with the IFPA. These are very young, junior people, not likely Bush Administration players.
What about The American Enterprise Institute? Of course by definition Amb. Jim Lilley as a player whenever he wants to be, but his advanced age and declining health prevented him from accepting the Special Envoy on Human Rights position (which remains to be filled!) at State. AEI’s Nick Eberstadt is well known to everyone, and personally liked due to his sense of humor. However, functionally he is seen as rigid, didactic, and unwilling to admit that his frequent predictions about very specific actions or motives of Kim Jong-il turn out to be totally wrong.
AEI, with “The Dark Prince”, Rumsfeld advisor Richard Perle, is a hotbed of “hard liner” advice on everything Asian, but whether its various denizens are eligible for NSC or State Department jobs is open to question, given the apparent determination of Secretary Rice and Asst. Sec. Chris Hill to rely on seasoned FSO’s whom they personally known from earlier…often non-Asia…assignments. Vice President Cheney’s office would seem the most likely venue for AEI personnel in Bush 2.
Finally, there is the very important category of “former officials and experts who are public dissidents and therefore whom the Bush Administration pretends do not exist”: you know them, and it is hardly necessary to list former State Dept Ambassador to the “New York Connection” Jack Pritchard, now at Brookings, former Clinton “Framework” veterans Bob Gallucci (Georgetown University) and Joel Wit (CSIS) to stick to specifically Korea/N. Asia players.
We also should not forget Bill Drennan of the Peace Institute, and former Policy Planning expert John Merrill, as highly respected experts who influence their colleagues. And we mentioned Framework veteran Dan Poneman in an earlier section of this Report. A N. Asia expert with a particular focus on Korea, and China/Taiwan affairs who writes, travels, and is highly regarded for “adult supervision” of his colleagues is Alan Romberg, former State Dept. spokesman at The Stimson Center.
But the most important of what we would term the “shadow cabinet” of former officials must be ex-Amb. Bob Carlin, who has managed to keep his reputation for intellectual integrity intact despite the “stigma” (to Bush hard-liners) of actual, personal, deep, hands-on experience in North Korea, and its top officials. Unfortunately for rational debate, this is a trick with Selig Harrison has been unable to master, with the result that while Harrison can frequently influence the debate (his OpEd at the beginning of the year challenging Bush intelligence claims on the DPRK being a classic example) even the Clinton Administration usually discounted his expertise as, shall we say, not entirely unbiased.
In this regard, it will be interesting to see what happens to the recently fired KEDO chief Charles Kartman, widely respected, but “on the outs” by definition with the hard-liners.
We also must mention former Principal DAS/State for East Asia Don Keyser, deeply involved in Korea and China/Taiwan until he was falsely accused by the FBI and his career destroyed, just as he was about to be appointed head of The American Institute on Taiwan (AIT). Keyser was incredibly active as an e-mail “supervisor” for any Capitol Hill, journalist, or Washington person whom he thought needed “adult supervision.”
Even while under house arrest, Keyser has kept up a constant stream of emails, including forwarding relevant press clippings, with a particular focus on Korea policy, often accompanied by pungent commentary. What role the recently (very unjustly) “retired” Principal DAS/Korea Evans Revere chooses to play from his new position at The Mansfield Center remains to be seen.
7. THE PRESS:
A very short list, again. No one in the influential national news media is a “Korea expert” per se, except Dan Sneider (mentioned below) and Don Oberdorfer, who no longer practices daily journalism. However, because of the non-proliferation, and China policy/Asia policy associations, certain reporters well known to you write all the time on aspects of Korea policy.
The best and most reliable “insider” is a genuine Korea expert, Dan Sneider, who is syndicated nationally through the San Jose (Ca.) Mercury News. Sneider is the son of the Carter-era Ambassador to South Korea, speaks Korean, and has a deep understanding and sympathy for the issues and the people involved. He is highly critical of Bush policy, but is a deliberate “player” who has managed to maintain good relations with the NSC’s Green and Cha, and virtually anyone mentioned in this Report.
Because he enjoys no Washington, D.C. or New York City outlet, however, Sneider’s written influence is indirect, via having his pieces sent around by email, or by influencing the writing of his friend David Sanger of The New York Times.
Sanger is a difficult case to analyze, since he is a tireless and often brilliant reporter, but who is deeply cynical about what is required to secure a coveted place on the front page of the world’s most important newspaper. Ever since his days in the Tokyo Bureau in the late 1980’s, Sanger has been notorious for catering to established power centers for the “official news”, and for not seeking alternate or critical sources who might contradict the officials, and this “kill” the story.
On Korea policy, Sanger’s proclivity has produced an endless series of damaging and frequently false stories which, themselves, are “true”…it IS true that “senior Administration officials today said”…or that “US intelligence officials feel…” that the DPRK is ready to test a bomb, or to defy the US, or to…take your pick. Until or unless forced to by his editors (or peer pressure) what Sanger does not do is seek out Jonathan Pollack or Bob Carlin or Joel Wit, or Jack Pritchard…or any of the known “dissident experts” likely to shoot-down the story, or at least diminish its importance. This is a huge problem with major policy implications and the Embassy should forcefully address it.
Far more intellectually honest is The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, and a rising star is the Post’s defense reporter, (Ms.) Dafna Linzer. Neither are “Korea” experts, but they write constantly about Korea policy. Previously very interested, and still occasionally active on Korea is former Times reporter Barbara Slavin, of USA TODAY. Slavin is very tough minded, and makes no secret of her loathing of the Bush Administration. She no longer receives “special attention” from The White House, despite political chief Karl Rove’s view that USA TODAY is the most important national newspaper, due to its circulation in every small town in America.
More in the “bomb thrower” category is journalist Jasper Becker, who turns out highly emotional, not particularly balanced “OpEds” which are violently critical of N. Korea on human rights grounds. He is not wrong, obviously…but his influence on policy is to reinforce the hard-liners at the expense of the pro-engagement forces, to the extent they have survived in the Bush Administration.
Clearly a major “bomb thrower” is The Washington Times and its defense reporter, Bill Gertz. Gertz is the willing agent of The Blue Team…the coalition of dissident anti-communist hard-liners who work to oppose what they see as “soft” US policy on China and N. Korea. If David Sanger is dishonest by omission, Gertz is dishonest by deliberate commission…he is willing to print anything which is critical of communists and those in the US whom he and/or The Blue Team feel are “soft”. He is exceptionally dangerous for this reason and should be treated with extreme care by the Embassy.
Magazine reporters should not be ignored. A major player for now is The New Republic’s Joshua Kurlantzick, who has been both interested in, and concerned about problems with Bush Korea policy. He makes frequent trips to the region, and often seeks advice and introductions. A rising player of interest is The Washington Monthly’s Soyoung Ho, the daughter of a retired ROK diplomat. Ms. Ho is very active and very ambitious, and should be helped as appropriate.
Last and perhaps least, for better or for worse, The Nelson Report, prepared daily by yours truly (who began with UPI in New York in 1967), has established a position of influence by sheer persistence and focus, and the reach of its information sources throughout the Asia policy and trade community…in and out of the Administration, and across the world. God bless e-mail. Nelson was on the HIRC Asia Subcommittee from 1977 to 1981, and a frequent visitor to Korea, and the region, and later served on the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. Since 1983 he has produced what is now called The Nelson Report. “Everyone” talks to him, even, sometimes, still, Mike Green.
8. THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE:
Again, no surprises here, but also something of a problem since the political appointments process has stagnated and many key Assistant Secretaries, and hence their staffs, have not even been named, much less confirmed. You well know those already in place:
Secretary Rice has a “personal brain trust” consisting of Deputy Secretary and former USTR Bob Zoellick, her former Stanford colleague Bob Zellikow, Nick Burns and the new Policy Planning chief, Steve Krasner. There are reasons to believe we should add Asst. Sec. Asia Chris Hill to this list.
East Asia veterans are worried and depressed by this line-up, since with the exception of Zoellick, there is no one with recent Asia experience, and there is some reason to think that Rice continues to operate under a false “model”, since she and Zellikow co-wrote a book about German unification, and it appears that she thinks of Korea unification as potentially very similar.
Even more worrisome is the clear determination of Hill, with Rice’s endorsement, of “cleaning out” the East Asia Bureau. Hill has made private remarks which show this is deliberate, and not coincidental. “Evidence” includes the shabby treatment handed out Principal DAS/Korea expert Evans Revere, and his replacement as Principal DAS/Korea chief by Hill’s fellow European expert, Kathleen Stephens. No one doubts Ms. Stephens’ intelligence or commitment, but her experience in Korea is very limited, and more than 20 years ago.
The “good news” is that Hill and Stephens are ably assisted by a genuine Korea/Japan/N. Asia expert, Jim Foster, who has spent many years living in Japan, and is fluent in that language. Even Foster has the “Euro” background, however, since he came to the Korea Desk after several years in Brussels.
There is also “good news” in the sense that the special envoy for dealing with the DPRK at the “New York channel”, Amb. Joe deTrani, enjoys the full support of the entire “dissident Korea community” mentioned in this Report, all of whom try to help him avoid the fate of his predecessor, Jack Pritchard, who was forced into retirement by hard-liners in the Cheney/Bolton operation.
That’s it for the good news. The bad news is that while it’s good that Undersecretary John Bolton has been replaced by his NSC ally, Bob Joseph, the fact is that Joseph is a pale copy of the same sort of anti-DPRK hard line as Bolton. The good news is that Joseph is not as effective a dirty player as Bolton, and will be closely watched by Rice, who despised Bolton for his disloyalty to Powell and Armitage.
Tom Fingar, a pillar of strength at INR, has been promoted and/or stolen by the new National Intelligence chief, John Negroponte. How or whether Fingar will continue to play a role in resisting the hard-line over-kill on Korea remains to be seen. Evan Feigenbaum was (unfortunately for rational Korea policy) turned down in his effort to transfer to the NSC, and his future role is also uncertain.
As for the rest of State, the sorry fact is that the selection process is paralyzed and/or unknown. As of this writing, none…not one…of the functional Assistant Secretaries has been nominated or confirmed…all those bureaus are under “acting” professionals. We simply don’t know who they will be.
A final note…we have confirmed that Alexander “Sandy” Vershbow, currently Ambassador to Russia, will be the nominee to replace Hill in South Korea. We have been in personal email contact with Vershbow, and State sources confirm that they are working on his briefing/confirmation materials. It may be coincidental, but Vershbow requested to be put on The Nelson Report list about three months ago.
As you know, Vershbow is an established non-proliferation expert, but is also a career Euro player, having previously served the Clinton Administration as Ambassador to NATO. Parenthetically, we should mention that the likely next Japanese ambassador to South Korea, Shotaro Oshima, is a long-time Loyal Reader and former colleague in the US-Japan trade wars.