Victor Cha on Countering the North Korean Threat and New Steps in U.S. Policy

February 9, 2017

NCNK member and CSIS Senior Adviser and Korea Chair Dr. Victor Cha testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, February 7 to discuss the threat posed by North Korea and offer recommendations for policy priorities for the United States.

Dr. Cha began his testimony by noting that a North Korean crisis could be a defining challenge for the Trump administration. Dr. Cha argued that any new strategy must be based on a full reading of the past record and reflect new realities and assumptions, including inter alia that North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons and that Chinese cooperation will only be limited to those measures that “do not risk collapse of the [North Korean] regime.” At its core, Dr. Cha argued that a new policy toward North Korea, “must entail a higher level of risk acceptance” not only in military strategy but also in diplomacy. The tendency to minimize risk, Cha argued, has restricted options and allowed North Korea to significantly develop their nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

By the way of specific recommendations, Dr. Cha testified that the United States has no choice but to expedite the deployment of THAAD with South Korea and that it should regularly rotate new assets and capabilities to enhance extended deterrence on the peninsula. He also argued that sanctions should be continued and expanded, including potentially sanctioning North Korean slave labor exports as well as third-parties willfully aiding North Korean illicit activities. On China, Cha noted while Chinese cooperation is necessary, U.S. policy cannot be subcontracted to China and that the U.S must consider secondary sanctions on Chinese entities in violation of sanctions. Relatedly, Cha suggested that engaging Russia in the UN Security Council could offer a way to put pressure on North Korea and China. Finally, Cha argued that the new administration must condemn North Korea’s human rights record given that North Korea’s nuclear program is “intertwined with its abuse of its citizens.” While Cha did not provide specific recommendations on diplomatic overtures, he reiterated that a new policy must also entail greater risk taking in diplomacy.

Ambassador Robert Gallucci, Sue Mi Terry, and Anthony Ruggiero joined Dr. Cha in testifying before the Committee. Their full written testimonies, as well as a video of the hearing, can be found here.