The Impossible State Podcast: Episode 6: Verification
July 3, 2018
H. ANDREW SCHWARTZ: North Korea is The Impossible State. It’s a place that’s stumped leaders and policymakers for more than three decades.
(Begin recorded segment.)
REPORTER: New evidence that Kim Jong-un could still be tweaking, making improvements to his nuclear facilities despite his promise to President Trump to draw down his nuclear arsenal.
MR. : This is a process. It’s a process that’s going to take some time.
(End recorded segment.)
MR. SCHWARTZ: It has a complex history, and it has become the United States’ top national security priority.
(Begin recorded segment.)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I mean, I’ve read horror stories. It’s a 15-year process, OK, assuming you wanted to do it quickly. I don’t believe that. I think whoever wrote that is wrong.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I got along really well with Chairman Kim. We had a great chemistry. I made a deal with him. I shook hands with him. I really believe he means it.
(End recorded segment.)
MR. SCHWARTZ: Each week on this show we’ll talk with the people who know the most about North Korea.
In this episode of The Impossible State, we’re calling it “Verification.” We’re talking with Rebecca Hersman. Rebecca is the director of the Project on Nuclear Issues at CSIS. She led policy on WMD proliferation at DOD as a key leader on landmark agreements like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Rebecca joins us in the studio to talk about the challenges of verifying North Korea’s denuclearization plans and whether or not the regime is living up to its agreements it made at the Singapore summit.
Rebecca, I want to talk to you about denuclearization. President Trump initially called for a rapid denuclearization of North Korea. Then he talked about a phased denuclearization. Now that we’re out of the limelight from the summit, what should we be focused on now when it comes to dismantling their nuclear program?
REBECCA HERSMAN: Well, moving the limelight aside is probably pretty important to let the diplomatic and technical and operational experts try to get about the business of defining exactly what is going to be denuclearization in the context of North Korea.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Right.
MS. HERSMAN: Is it going to be just dealing with their nuclear weapons program? Is it going to be all things nuclear? Is it going to be all things WMD? Is it going to include their chemical or biological programs? How will we account for their missile programs? So we have this huge matter of scoping.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Their space program, too, right?
MS. HERSMAN: Well, it’s tough to have a space program and not have a missile program and figure out where the lines are in between, right? The difference between a ballistic missile program and a space launch program is virtually nil.
MR. SCHWARTZ: This is not easy, which is why you need the experts to be able to come in now.
MS. HERSMAN: Yeah. Well, and it’s the hard work, right? It’s the hard work of setting about those scopes. What they need are really good guidelines from the lead negotiators – in this case, Secretary Pompeo – to say here are your right and left limits, now go figure out where the big problems are how to move the big rocks. So I think that that’s what they’ve got to really work on, is agree on some of the basics about scope. That’s what’s hard.
Now, you know, I don’t really think it’s a bad idea that we did a very top-down, summit-driven kind of leadership-driven approach. But it does mean that a lot of the ground work that would normally have been done to lead up to that kind of encounter that we had in Singapore doesn’t seem to have been done at a level of detail. So now, as the limelight shifts and the president turns his attention to Europe for a little while, we’re going to have to do that.
And we need to be prepared for the fact that it’s going to reveal problems. It’s going to reveal areas of disagreement or misunderstanding between what we thought denuclearization is or was and what the North Korean regime thinks.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Well, what do we think it is?
MS. HERSMAN: We think that it represents a strategic turn away from nuclear weapons and their means of delivery. Now, the mechanics of how do you verify that, how do you account for it, how do you assess a declaration and remove and destroy it, how do you monitor it forever into the future, and how do you draw lines between it and certain legitimate civilian activities, now, that’s where the – you know, that’s where the really hard work lies.
At the political level, the big challenge will be deciding whether, in fact, that larger strategic choice has happened. And I think the jury’s still out.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Do we have any idea what they think denuclearization means?
MS. HERSMAN: We only know the things they’ve said over the years, which do not necessarily make a person optimistic that we have the same idea.
MR. SCHWARTZ: There have been pretty provocative things they’ve said.
MS. HERSMAN: Yeah. Well, I mean, they’ve said things like it’s the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which is generally meant to include aspects of our nuclear umbrella and those –
MR. SCHWARTZ: Over South Korea.
MS. HERSMAN: Over South Korea, exactly, that it somehow involves us backing away from that. So, you know, we’ll have to see. I think, you know, ideally, in a – in a future world where there’s a peace treaty and cooperative agreements, you know, maybe the U.S.-ROK alliance can change. But we’re certainly nowhere near that point today.
MR. SCHWARTZ: How do you think the negotiating model should unfold or will unfold.
MS. HERSMAN: I think this is really one of the big questions. You know, in most negotiations at least one thing is known; it’s you know whether you’re kind of pursuing a comprehensive, you know, negotiation, you know, kind of as a classic arms control, right? Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. And what that means is you kind of hold out till the end so you can make sure that all the pieces fit together and both parties are invested in the outcome.
Now, there is another model that we use in other approaches that’s more incremental – you know, you take a step, I take a step, you take a step, I take a step. A lot of those things are done when we’re looking more at transparency, we’re looking at confidence-building, and you’re trying to get to a place where perhaps you could later than have a more comprehensive approach.
We seem to be doing a little bit of everything here. Nothing’s really agreed till it’s agreed. We have a comprehensive outcome that we’re stating. And, yes – yet we seem to be moving very incrementally. That’s going to be important to clarify because if, in fact, we need this comprehensive approach, you have to be thinking very, very hard about what to give away upfront.
MR. SCHWARTZ: And the structure’s important.
MS. HERSMAN: Well, the structure does – you know, describes a lot about what you want to do.
Now, one of the reasons why we might want to be incremental is because it will take a while. You know, everyone can talk about wanting to go fast, but it will take a while to really nail down a broad, comprehensive agreement, not to mention implement it. So there’s a lot of reasons why we might want to start taking some steps to buy down the risk from North Korea more immediately, so that would put you in favor of a more incremental approach. It runs the risk of you give away some things that you don’t really know what the end looks like. If it’s done well, though, it means we might at least reduce some of the more immediate risks in terms of the risks that we face from their ballistic missile program and their nuclear weapons.
MR. SCHWARTZ: So explain to me in real terms how something like that would work.
MS. HERSMAN: Well, I think if we were taking more of a confidence-building approach, we would – we would negotiate things that, you know, what makes you feel better, what makes me feel better.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Well, what makes them feel better that we can give them?
MS. HERSMAN: So I think they want to feel more confident that we will not come after the regime, and that they have a fundamental right to exist that will not really be challenged. I think that’s their top priority.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Right.
MS. HERSMAN: I think their second priority is to see a path to economic viability –
MR. SCHWARTZ: Sure.
MS. HERSMAN: – and normalization inside the international community.
Now, we can do some of those things, I think, to move along that line, but what do we get in return? I think we want to see measurable decreases in their nuclear capability, capping not just of testing and stuff. I want to see capping of their production so that they can’t continue to produce weapons-usable material or continue to produce long-range ballistic missiles. Then I want to see some reductions in their overall capacity.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Are they doing anything right now that’s particularly worrying to you?
MS. HERSMAN: Well, I think – they’re doing a couple things that are worrying me. On the one hand, I’m not seeing much action from the North Koreans in terms of following through even on some of these notional concessions, you know, whether it’s the return of remains or other things, to help us be more confident. And yet, on the other hand, as you can see in reports from 38 North and others in recent days, that they seem to be sort of going along their merry way working on building up some of their facilities. That’s not the end of the world –
MR. SCHWARTZ: So they’re – right, that’s an important thing.
MS. HERSMAN: Yeah.
MR. SCHWARTZ: It’s been reported that they’re not stopping; they’re actually building more.
MS. HERSMAN: Yeah, we don’t really know what they’re doing at that facility and whether it really constitutes something markedly more dangerous, but it certainly isn’t giving the right impression.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Right. We’re not feeling confident because we know that they’re continuing to do something.
MS. HERSMAN: Yeah. I don’t want to see them keep adding. I want to see them start subtracting.
MR. SCHWARTZ: When should we be able to see some of that?
MS. HERSMAN: Well, this is why I think at least getting some observers and some monitoring on the ground in some facilities immediately is the most important thing because, you know what, that’s a phone call.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Sure.
MS. HERSMAN: It doesn’t take any time. You can say if – if we could say I want you to declare and allow immediate inspection of even just one – not your comprehensive declaration, just as a gesture of goodwill I would like to see one of your uranium enrichment and uranium production facilities, and I would like to have a monitor on the ground – I mean, that’s – the time is – it’s the time of a phone call and a plane ride.
MR. SCHWARTZ: And do you think that –
MS. HERSMAN: So why can’t we do that right now?
MR. SCHWARTZ: Right. Why can’t we do that right now? And do they seem open to that? Do we have any idea if they’re open to that?
MS. HERSMAN: I don’t know. I don’t know if they’re open to it. I hope we’re asking.
One thing we have to be careful of, you know is kind of perfect enemy of good type problems. I can understand someone saying, yeah, Rebecca, that’s a good idea, but the problem is, you know, we want to go in all the facilities. And I’d say, yeah, I want to go in all the facilities too, but can we just start with one, you know, as opposed to one facility that’s building up its buildings, could we at least go in and see one thing we haven’t been able to see before? And that’s why I focus on the uranium.
MR. SCHWARTZ: And you go to start somewhere.
MS. HERSMAN: You got to start somewhere. And if they seem to, you know, be open about that, they let you into that facility, they probably don’t realize how much we could learn from being in there.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Well, let me ask you this. Sig Hecker, former director of Los Alamos Weapons Laboratory in New Mexico, now a Stanford professor, argues that – and Sig Hecker has also been the only American who’s been to North Korea and seen some of their facilities, four times – says that the best the United States can hope for is a phased denuclearization that goes after the most dangerous parts of the North’s program first. He also says in a wide-ranging report that they issued just prior to the summit that disarmament, the whole process could take up to 15 years. What do you make of that? This is – this is really a long and unwieldy and complex process that we’re about to engage in if we’re going to achieve any meaningful change in North Korea.
MS. HERSMAN: I think we really do have to recognize that we need to be in this for the long haul. This is an enormous program. Individual sites are, you know, kind of multi-acre facilities, right –
MR. SCHWARTZ: sure.
MS. HERSMAN: – with hundreds of buildings. And there are hundreds of sites, especially if we need to take into account a full range of programs of weapons of mass destruction.
MR. SCHWARTZ: So within each site there could be hundreds of buildings, right, is what you’re saying? So there’s – this is a vast complex they’ve created over the existence of this North Korean regime.
MS. HERSMAN: And that’s before you even get to the fact that we don’t know where many of these locations are; that many of them are deeply buried in mountains and tunnels; that you have everything from production facilities, storage facilities, weapons facilities, assembly facilities, testing facilities. So it’s a massive complex. So of course it’s going to take years. We have to be just realistic about that.
That said, there are ways to engage in some processes to do some rapid dismantlement to quickly reduce the risk associated with the North Korean nuclear program. And that part of the prioritization is critical.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Wouldn’t we be worried about a clandestine program that they may have? There’s no trust between us. How do we go about this?
MS. HERSMAN: Right. So, no, there is no trust, and there really shouldn’t be, right at this point.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Sure.
MS. HERSMAN: There’s no basis for it. We don’t necessarily have to proceed on a basis of trust. We should work on proceeding on a basis of fact. So the first place we would start is with getting a declaration from the North Koreans.
MR. SCHWARTZ: And we don’t have that yet.
MS. HERSMAN: No. They’ve done no kind of declaration, and that’s pretty much always a first step.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Have we asked for that yet?
MS. HERSMAN: I don’t know, because that would be part of the negotiation process.
MR. SCHWARTZ: OK.
MS. HERSMAN: And it would be a critical first step. Now, you can’t decide what you’re declaring – you can’t make a declaration until you’ve set the scope, right? So this goes back to this other question about what is required to be declared.
Once they begin to do that, then the real back and forth about how much do we think has been realistically declared; how comprehensive is it; how would we look at it; and how would we begin even initial stages of bringing in some monitoring, whether those are kind of human inspectors or technical means, to begin to observe what’s going on in various locations. And recognize you’re not going to – no declaration is right the first time. You have to be prepared for a lot of back and forth. Maybe deliberate, maybe inadvertent, but you have to approach it with great skepticism. And then just start getting people on the ground. That’s my general point, would be I’ll know this is serious when there’s people on the ground actually starting to monitor things rather than reporters going to watch, you know, some used-up tunnel get blown up.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Right, as they did recently.
MS. HERSMAN: Yeah.
MR. SCHWARTZ: So, when you say people on the ground, do you mean an international organization, a U.S. organization? Does it matter?
MS. HERSMAN: It potentially matters, and this is actually another one of the really important scoping aspects of this overall agreement that remains very unclear. Who will be parties to this negotiation?
MR. SCHWARTZ: Right.
MS. HERSMAN: Will it just be a bilateral? Will it be multilateral? How will you have – create oversight? Who are the participants? What will be the role of international entities such as the IAEA or, if you’re addressing for example their chemical weapons program, the OPCW? Will you look to have internationally recognized inspectors that bring a certain imprimatur? Or will we try to rely exclusively on maybe P5 inspectors and monitors? Will it be like the UNSCOM in Iraq, which basically was constructed for that purpose and hired for that purpose? Or will they tap into something that’s more ad hoc? Those are a lot of, you know, unanswered questions.
MR. SCHWARTZ: President Trump seems to want to go it alone. He doesn’t seem to want to create a P5 or an UNSCOM. He wants to do this in a bilateral way. Is it possible? Do we have enough experts in this government and enough manpower to do this?
MS. HERSMAN: I’m less concerned –
MR. SCHWARTZ: Is it smart? Yeah, is it smart? Yeah.
MS. HERSMAN: You know, right. I’m less concerned about the manpower because for something this important we’re going to find the manpower. I find it a bit hard to believe that the North Koreans would agree to that many Americans crawling over all their facilities, and it would definitely run this risk of creating this very much of a kind of he said, she said dynamic to absolutely everything.
Usually one of the reasons why you want to multilateralize something like this is to help build in that credibility, to have mutual reinforcing voices. So, for example, let’s say your monitors are discovering some violations or inappropriate activity. It’s going to be a lot better down the road if five – if representatives from five countries who are seen as independent and, you know, reliable are making that case rather than, again, just this kind of he said, she said dynamic that’s part of a bilateral agreement.
But you also – it doesn’t have to be one model. You can have an agreement overall that has roles for multilateral entities, has components of it that are multilateralized, has components that are bilateral.
MR. SCHWARTZ: So you’re saying we actually – to get this done, because this is so multifaceted, you probably have to break the process up. So, for instance, the question of will North Korea be able to retain the ability to produce civilian energy by nuclear means, that’s a big question.
MS. HERSMAN: It’s a huge question. And let’s face it: If one of our goals – as the impression I get from the president’s statement – is to give North Korea the opportunity to be economically successful, having a reliable, you know, source of energy – remember, this is a country that can’t keep its lights on, you know, 24 hours a day; where the population lives under, you know, some outrageous conditions. So, actually, reliable energy that’s cost-effective for their economy is –
MR. SCHWARTZ: It’s a big deal.
MS. HERSMAN: – is huge to their ability to survive. So it will be a difficult case to make that they will not be allowed to have any nuclear energy at all. So, you know, we could –
MR. SCHWARTZ: How do you keep those separate? How do you allow a rogue nuclear state like North Korea to maintain the ability to process nuclear energy for peaceful purposes versus getting them to dismantle and decommission and decontaminate plants that handle radioactive materials?
MS. HERSMAN: So keep in mind there are ways because the IAEA and the NPT, right, has largely existed to create the ability to do that.
MR. SCHWARTZ: The IAEA being the International Atomic Energy Administration, right?
MS. HERSMAN: Yes, which, you know, was created as part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. And remember, those pillars of the Non-Proliferation Treaty are about not proliferating, but also making peaceful nuclear energy available to countries that meet their international obligations.
MR. SCHWARTZ: But North Korea would have to become a signatory to the NPT again – they once were –
MS. HERSMAN: They would.
MR. SCHWARTZ: – to retain this ability.
MS. HERSMAN: I think at a minimum, yes. At a minimum, I think North Korea would have to become a true card-carrying member of the NPT, meeting its obligations and assuming responsibilities under the Additional Protocol as a non-nuclear state.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Well, why would we – why would we believe them? Iran was once part of that.
MS. HERSMAN: Why would we believe North Korea? Again, I think we have every reason to be skeptical, and we should.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Yeah.
MS. HERSMAN: I think one of the things we need to do is think about technically how would you break down pieces of this program. It’s very difficult to prove a negative. It’s very difficult to guarantee irreversible – you know, an irreversible nuclear program. In fact, it’s really impossible. But you can make it vastly harder.
So, for example, if they are allowed to have a nuclear energy program but that it only relies on low-enriched energy sources, OK. You know, it’s a lot harder to build a weapon that way. If you can’t do reprocessing, if you can’t do high-level enrichment, if you – all your fuel sources have to be processed outside of the country. There’s a lot of things that could be negotiated to try to put some boundaries on that. And the real trick is the long-term monitoring and the long-term presence of the IAEA.
And the other thing I would stress – and this is something we should be doing right away – is beginning – I would start with the material accounting.
MR. SCHWARTZ: What does that mean?
MS. HERSMAN: So that means how much weapons-usable nuclear material do they have? How much, and where are they producing it? In those production facilities, that’s where I believe we should try to force at least – even before there’s an agreement. You know, we’ve done some goodwill. We’ve suggested we’re going to pull back on some of our exercises. The goodwill I want to see from North Korea is them voluntarily opening some of their facilities, especially a uranium-enrichment facility, and bringing in some of our international inspectors to take a look at that.
MR. SCHWARTZ: So this means not only telling us what they have, but showing us.
MS. HERSMAN: Absolutely.
MR. SCHWARTZ: And giving us some access to monitor the radioactivity of their country.
MS. HERSMAN: Well, the thing we really want to start monitoring is what are their production facilities like, how much do they produce, and to start getting an estimate of how much total weapons-usable nuclear material we have. By getting an accounting of that, we know what needs to be removed because that actually is the – you know, it’s the long pole in the nuclear weapons tent, right, is those weapons-usable material.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Sure.
MS. HERSMAN: If we can get a cap on that, then we’ll start to know what is even the possible number of weapons they have.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Right.
MS. HERSMAN: And we can prevent their ability to keep acquiring weapons-usable material so that number does not continue to grow.
MR. SCHWARTZ: So this also begs the question, how would we make sure that they don’t proliferate, that they don’t sell it to somebody else?
MS. HERSMAN: Well, again, knowing how much you have and the boundaries of the problem is the first step.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Right.
MS. HERSMAN: Then what we want to do is remove that fissile material as quickly as possible.
MR. SCHWARTZ: How would we remove it?
MS. HERSMAN: The United States has a lot of expertise in removing weapons-usable material.
MR. SCHWARTZ: You said before we got on this program, before, it’s not – this stuff, you can’t just stick it in a pickup truck and drive it away.
MS. HERSMAN: Indeed, but it’s also true that the Department of Energy has numerous programs that they have engaged in to remove nuclear material from around the world. That was done as part of President Obama’s series of summits among other programs and before. So there’s lots of technical ways to safely remove and store weapons-usable nuclear material. When you get to weapons, that becomes a whole different thing because that’s obviously much more dangerous, more technically complex. But the weapons-usable material itself – that uranium or plutonium that is used as the – as the core, as the pit for that weapon – that can be removed, can be done safely. We have vast experience in doing that.
MR. SCHWARTZ: We haven’t heard this from the administration yet, what the process is, and we may not. It’s not exactly the administration’s style to tell us what their process is when it comes to negotiating or, you know, anything like that. But there is established processes that we have for removing – for declaring and removing and moving forward.
MS. HERSMAN: Yes. I mean, we have in the government a lot of expertise in a lot of different sectors in dealing with these types of problems. I think the biggest challenge we face is, first of all, the larger political question, right, of what have we really agreed to, what have they really agreed to, and what negotiation – negotiating process is really underway. Those are big questions.
But below that surface we have people and programs and activities and resources from the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program in the Department of Defense, to a range of programs in DOE, to tremendous partnerships in the international community on things like chemical weapons, to working through expertise in, you know, the BWC. So we have a lot of resources, both nationally and internationally, to engage if they know what job they’re being asked to do, and I think a lot of different ways to do it. The big challenge will be racking and stacking all those different activities, putting them in the right order, prioritizing them, and figuring out how to make rapid gains quickly to buy down this threat as fast as we can.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Now back to Sig Hecker from Stanford. He’s argued in his report that the only safe way to disassemble North Korea’s nuclear warheads would be to have the job done by the same North Korean engineers who built them. Do we even know if those guys are around?
MS. HERSMAN: No, I don’t think we know that at all. I’m sure that North Korea has its own, you know, weapons and munitions specialists. I am sure that we would want their input on the best and safe handling practices of their weapons. The flipside is I don’t know that we’d want to trust them entirely –
MR. SCHWARTZ: Sure.
MS. HERSMAN: – in terms of their processes and procedures. Managing, accounting for, locating, securing, storing, disabling, and potentially removing their nuclear weapons will be among the most important, the most difficult, the most complex tasks of all.
MR. SCHWARTZ: All right. So this begs the question, how much is all this going to cost? And how much is it going to cost the United States? Is the world going to chip in? You know, if we’re – if we’re going it alone with this, we can’t expect our allies to chip in, I guess. Maybe we can. I don’t know. What’s the deal here with the cost?
MS. HERSMAN: I can’t even put enough zeroes because I still don’t know what the scope is of what we’re trying to accomplish.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Right, so it’s an enormous amount of money.
MS. HERSMAN: But it’s an enormous amount of money.
Now, that said, we, the United States and the international community, we spend billions on really important things.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Yes.
MS. HERSMAN: And this is really important, right?
MR. SCHWARTZ: Without a doubt.
MS. HERSMAN: Like, I mean, think how many defense billions we spend to try to be available to respond to a threat from North Korea. So we can and should spend billions to try to reduce that threat. The thing is we want to do it credibly, responsibly. We want to do it verifiably. And I would say I think we would want to do it multilaterally, again, because I think it makes the process more credible, I think because it makes dealing with problems in the future more reasonable, but also because we can share the cost. Every other country in the world is threatened by North Korea as well. They are a destabilizing force in the globe, and so those countries are vested. And more important most of the countries that we work with around the world, whether in Asia, Europe or elsewhere, they want to help with, you know, these types of nonproliferation and disarmament challenges. They want to be part of the solution, and they’re willing to contribute.
MR. SCHWARTZ: So you mentioned at the beginning of this podcast that now that we’re out of the limelight we should be focused on the real work, and that includes North Korea declaring what they have. What else should we be doing in these early days following the initial meeting between President Trump and Kim?
MS. HERSMAN: Well, I think the scenario I’m most concerned about is where there’s enough kind of premature or perhaps just early concessions on our part that the incentives on the North Korean side are just to drag this out and see how much they can get before we even get started.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Right.
MS. HERSMAN: So I think one of the most important things is finding ways to build a lot of pressure, to keep the pressure to keep the North Koreans at the negotiating table, rather than seeming to kind of let this, you know, sand slip through our fingers. That’s not easy, but I think we’ve really got to, you know, kind of figure out how to keep the pressure on at the political level so that they remain motivated to engage at that sort of diplomatic and technical expert level.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Do you think we have less leverage over them now or more leverage over them?
MS. HERSMAN: You know, that’s an interesting question. I was going to automatically say less because we seemed to be giving away some of the leverage, especially in terms of our own relationship with the Republic of Korea to the south and the sort of dissipating pressure on the pressure campaign and the sanctions.
That said, I think a hopeful glimmer might be maybe Kim Jong-un really is invested in not completely losing face with President Trump. So maybe that aspect of the pressure remains. And figuring out how to keep that and yet let the experts get to work, I think that’s the real trick.
MR. SCHWARTZ: No matter what, this is going to take years. It’s going to happen over multiple administrations, whether it’s – whether President Trump serves a second term or not. It’s certainly going to extent through, if he serves a second term, his second term, or a future president. This is going to go on for quite some time.
MS. HERSMAN: Yes.
MR. SCHWARTZ: So there needs to be some bipartisan agreement around this. Do you think that the administration and the Congress can come together on this matter?
MS. HERSMAN: That is a really hard question. And here’s the thing – and I hope this isn’t true because actually this is so important that regardless of party, if there’s actually a chance to make the world safer from North Korean weapons of mass destruction, we need to put party aside and do it.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Right, it shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
MS. HERSMAN: It shouldn’t. But the reality is the turning away of the Iran deal, which really was quite a comprehensive and verifiable deal, that will be challenging to replicate in this case with North Korea. The way that was done has made the political environment around this issue particularly toxic. And I am very concerned about that because, you know, it’s just really taken away any kind of notion of bipartisanship on these issues. It will be really, really difficult to put the anger aside about withdrawal of the United States from the Iran deal and what that means on that side, and then look favorably –
MR. SCHWARTZ: And what that means internationally.
MS. HERSMAN: What it means internationally, what it means with our partners, and recognizing how difficult it will be. If you get into the details of the Iran deal – the details of the verification procedures, the details of the disclosure procedures, the details – multiyear or -decade procedures of involvement of the IAEA and their programs for a country that didn’t actually have its nuclear weapons yet, right –
MR. SCHWARTZ: Yeah.
MS. HERSMAN: – I don’t know if we’ll get a good – a deal that good here. And then, how politically do we get behind it? I think this is a really, really big problem.
MR. SCHWARTZ: If you have a question for one of our experts about The Impossible State, email us at email@example.com.
If you want to dive deeper into the issues surrounding North Korea, check out Beyond Parallel. That’s our micro website that’s dedicated to bringing a better understanding of the Korean Peninsula. You can find it at beyondparallel.csis.org.
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