Fri, 06 Jun 2003

Multilateral cooperation crucial in N.Korea issue

Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, United States

The Pacific region today is truly peaceful for one of the first times in its history. We must work to sustain that achievement as the region undergoes what are likely to be major changes in the first decades of the 21st century.

In the defense area, the issue for the United States is how best to sustain the American commitment to this region in the face of the global demands on our defense resources. We are looking first and foremost to our allies and partners. But second, we want to take maximum advantage of the remarkable capabilities that new technology affords us to make our military posture more agile, more flexible and more effective.

We are taking a fundamental look at our military posture worldwide. We face a very different kind of threat ...But our forces also have dramatically different capabilities ... It is appropriate to look now at how those forces are postured, how we can get the most effectiveness out of them, while maintaining the same basic commitment to stability and deterrence in this region.

The main drivers for this posture review effort are three- fold. First, we have adopted, evolved and battle-tested an entirely new range of long-range, high-precision systems which exponentially increase our war fighting capabilities.

Secondly, we have learned to organize ourselves, with intelligence collection systems and new approaches to information management, pioneered by the landmark Goldwater-Nichols Act that the Congress passed more than 15 years ago.

Third, we place a great premium on mobility and on the ability to move from existing hubs at great speed and to use temporary basing solutions as needed. Many studies have been done ... Before making decisions we need to consult both with our own Congress and with affected allies and friends in the region.

In Korea, where our alliance has endured for over 50 years, we have launched a bilateral posture review effort, the Future of the Alliance study. That initiative was agreed to at our December 2002 Security Consultative Meeting.

Our agreed goal is to jointly assess our transformation plans and determine how best to strengthen the deterrence value of our alliance. In discussions with South Korean officials, my basic message will be that change is positive, that we are determined to enhance the quality of our alliance with the Republic of Korea and to strengthen deterrence on the Korean peninsula and stability in North East Asia.

Fifty years ago this July the guns went silent on the Korean peninsula. For the ensuing half century the strong alliance of the U.S. and the Republic of Korea has preserved the peace on the basis of effective deterrence. This formula has allowed South Korea to prosper, rising from the ashes of a devastating war to become the world's 11th largest economy and a thriving democracy.

We are further guided by two principal considerations. First, deterrence remains a key objective of our common defense posture.

Second, the changes we make should help to sustain a strong alliance by reducing unnecessary burdens on both sides and ensuring that the alliance will remain relevant into the future.

And while many of the basing and mobility issues that confront us in other nations do not exist in our current relationship in Japan, other issues frame the joint assessment that has recently begun there.

Australia has once again demonstrated its seriousness and resolve in the war on terrorism. Australia's central role in Iraq, its support to coalition efforts in Afghanistan and its commitment to fight terrorism at home proves once again how valuable it is to have an ally that takes security and its commitments to the common defense seriously.

And as the Philippines struggles with its own terrorism threat, we have redoubled our commitment to assist that ally to develop its security programs. We can build on established relationships to maintain an active security posture in Asia and to encourage broader multilateral cooperation ... to enable countries of the region resolve problems peacefully.

Nowhere is that challenge greater than in confronting the problem posed by North Korea's nuclear program. North Korea's behavior over the past year threatens regional and global stability. ... We are dealing with a state that has little regard for the commitments it undertakes or for the delicate nature of the northeast Asia security environment. This is not and cannot be a bilateral issue, as Pyongyang would like it, limited to a two-way dialog between North Korea and the U.S.

As Pyongyang proceeds with its uranium enrichment program and moves to reprocess plutonium, it creates a new danger -- the capacity to export fissile material and even entire weapons systems. All responsible countries must step up to the challenge. A consensus is beginning to take shape that the only way we will be able to solve this problem peacefully is through a carefully managed multilateral approach to Pyongyang.

Is there a peaceful solution to the North Korean dilemma? I believe there is. If we accept the challenge posed by Pyongyang's aggressive and anti-social behavior -- its missile exports, its drug sales, its disregard for its international commitments -- and confront Korea with a way forward, on verifiable terms acceptable to the countries of the region, we have a chance.

I believe the U.S. and its allies and partners in northeast Asia can agree on an outcome that serves all of our interests.

North Korea is heading down a blind alley. Its pursuit of nuclear weapons will not protect it from the real threat to its security, which is the threat of an implosion brought on by the total failure of its system.

Indeed, the diversion of scarce resources to nuclear weapons and other military programs only exacerbates the weaknesses of the underlying system. Twenty-five years ago, under Deng Xiao Ping, China pointed the way for how a failed communist system can undertake a process of reform without collapsing. That is the course North Korea needs to pursue if it is to avoid the kind of collapse that is viewed with apprehension throughout the region.

If North Korea abandons the provocative course on which it is embarked and ends the wasteful diversion of resources to military capabilities that it does not need and cannot afford, it will find the door open to all kinds of cooperation with the Asia- Pacific region. Successful multilateral diplomacy will be necessary to confront North Korea with the fundamental choices that it faces.

The Pacific is as perhaps more important, than any region in this world. It is very likely that the most significant source of economic growth in the next 50 years will occur right here. One can imagine a bright future ahead if the power generated by this increasing economic growth can be increasingly applied for peaceful rather than military purposes.

The writer is also a former envoy to Indonesia. The above is a condensed version of his presentation at the Asian Security Conference in Singapore, held from May 30 to June 1. The event was organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.