What I Saw in North Korea and Why it Matters

Uploaded by GoogleTechTalks on 06.04.2011

A group of us here at Google are working to understand what our policy should be; our
position should be on nuclear energy. With respect to, you know, global warming, climate
change, renewable energy and dwindling fossil fuel supplies, and we've been reaching out
to various experts to understand the problems of waste and safety and proliferation. And
in a conversation we had several weeks ago with Sieg Hecker, I learned--I had a dramatic
kind of change in perception of what North Korea was and why they did what they did.
And so we invited Sieg to come and share that with a greater audience. So please welcome,
Siegfried Hecker. He'll tell you about his visits to North Korea and why countries build
atomic bombs. Thank you. >> HECKER: Thank you very much, Chris. Ladies
and gentlemen, both of those of you who are here and also at the remote Google sites,
I welcome you and I thank you for inviting me to give a Google seminar. As Chris had
indicated, I've been talking to a number of the folks from Google about nuclear futures
and nuclear energy. And of course, nuclear energy, it turns out, is the story of promise
and peril. And I've worked on both of those aspects for a good part of my professional
life. I spent 34 years at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of the bomb. And
I was director of that laboratory for about a dozen years. And then a little over five
years ago I came out to Stanford where I continue my work on what I call nuclear risk reduction.
And that is mostly the worry about the peril side of nuclear energy. And what I focus on
are principally issues of nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons policy, nuclear proliferation,
that is the spread of nuclear weapons around the world and nuclear terrorism. But of course
all of that is intimately connected to nuclear energy and I was set to give a talk last week
which I did at Purdue University which I titled, "Nuclear Promise and Nuclear Peril." And of
course, what everyone had on their mind with nuclear peril was Fukushima, Daiichi in Japan.
But what I'm going to focus on today is mostly the issue of proliferation of nuclear weapons
and particularly, North Korea. In my discussions with my colleagues here at Google, I've been
telling them pieces of the North Korea story and so they were interested to sort of hear
the whole North Korea story. Well, I won't tell you the whole North Korea story but I'm
going to try to give you my version of North Korea. The photo that you actually see on
here is in Beijing airport of an airplane, it's actually an Ilyushin, a Russian aircraft,
of my getting ready to go into North Korea, into Pyongyang. We have to fly in through
Beijing and then also fly back out through Beijing. And what I'm going to talk about
today is to give you a sense of the whole program and that is, you know, how did North
Korea get the bomb? What does it actually have? Why did they get the bomb? What is the
threat from the North Korean nuclear program? And then what do we do now? And then hopefully,
if I leave enough time, I will also try to give you sort of a photo parade of North Korea
because I've been allowed to take a lot of photos, and it looks very differently than
what you see on American television. So, that's what I will do. So, let me start with how
did North Korea get the bomb? It began with the Soviets' "Atoms for Peace Program". The
Atoms for Peace Program was initiated by President Eisenhower and the United States in 1953 and
the essence was that at that time only the US, the Russians, and the Brits had nuclear
weapons. All of the technology was highly classified and President Eisenhower said,
"We will share nuclear technology with those countries in the world who are willing to
foreswear nuclear weapons, in other words, not to pursue nuclear weapons but instead
develop Atoms for Peace, for civilian purposes. The Soviets also followed suit and so, as
you might imagine since the world was divided into two, sort of US and Soviet blocs, the
Soviets then helped the countries in Eastern Europe and many of the others including China
initially, and including North Korea to develop peaceful nuclear energy. So, the North Koreans
were trained in Soviet universities. They were trained in Soviet nuclear centers. The
Soviets built the first small research reactor in Yongbyon which is the--still currently
the nuclear facility in North Korea. It's about 90 kilometers north of Pyongyang. And
that was the beginning but it was strictly meant to help the North Koreans with peaceful
applications of atomic energy. However, for those of you who know much about Korea, they
eventually trust no one. They want to go their own path and they did go their own path in
the nuclear arena. And in the 1970s having learned much, having set up their own nuclear
engineering programs, nuclear physics programs at the university, they decided and laid out
a very ambitious program for nuclear reactors and at the same time, in my opinion, they
actually chose a path to the North Korean nuclear reactor program that would also allow
them to develop the option for nuclear weapons and I will say more about that. And then for
a number of very interesting but very complex political reasons in the early 1990s when
the North Korean world first came apart that was the first time they actually worked directly
with the United States in order to take this nuclear program that they were building up
and essentially freeze the bomb component of that program. The reason they reached across
the United States was that, as you remember, in the end of 1991 the Soviet Union came apart.
When that happened here was a very strong and supportive allay of North Korea. Not only
the Soviet Union but the Soviet Bloc and you find today strong connections from Eastern
Europe to North Korea. And the Russians essentially deserted them overnight and so the financial
help, the technical help, everything that was there beforehand went away. The second
major bloc that dealt with North Korea was China, but this was also a time when China
was worried much more about its own economic rise than it was about the ideology around
the world and the Chinese actually hooked up with the South Koreans because they felt
that that was a better way to go economically. So North Korea at that point felt it really
had no friends left and it actually reached across the United States in order to try to
strike a deal. Well, that was difficult to do but eventually a deal was struck in 1994.
The essence of that deal was that the North Koreans would freeze their plutonium program--and
again I'll tell you more about that. In return the US would actually make sure the North
Koreans get two light water reactors, the ones that are better for electricity than
for bombs and that we would normalize relationships with them. Well, it turns out that was a rocky
marriage from 1994 to 2002, and in 2002 the marriage came apart because that's the first
time the Bush administration sent representatives to Pyongyang and instead of sort of holding
out the peace branch, they accused the North Koreans of having cheated on this agreement.
North Koreans walked away and in 2002 actually began bomb production. And then that continued
for the rest of the Bush administration and indeed, along the way, the North Koreans not
only were able to extract plutonium from their reactor products but they actually conducted
a first test in 2006 and a second test in May of 2009. So, the North Korean nuclear
story is a story of 50 years in the making. It's not something that you do overnight.
It's 50 years in the making and it vacillated back and forth as to whether it was more civilian
or a more defense, and I've written a paper on this subject published in the journal Daedalus
in the winter of 2010 which actually looks at the simple connectivity between technical
capability and between political intent. So, let me just give premiere on the bomb because
in order for you to appreciate what plutonium means, what highly enriched uranium means,
you need at least to know these essentials and if I insult, you know, some of your technical--sorry--but
I thought I should give you that as background. There are essentially two paths to the bomb
and if you look at the periodic table, the two practical fissile materials are uranium
and actually only one isotope of uranium, that is 235 that occurs only seven tenths
of a percent of natural uranium, and the other one being plutonium which is principally man-made
from reactors. And so the two paths are--let's look at the right hand side first. And that
is, you take the natural fissile material, uranium-235, and you essentially throw away
all of the rest of what you've find in mother nature, that is the 238 isotope of uranium.
You do that by a process called enrichment, essentially just concentrating one isotope.
As you might imagine, that's somewhat difficult to do because they're both uranium, they both
have the same chemical properties, in essence. So you have to take advantage of one being
just a little heavier than the other. And that's what you do in a centrifuge. So you
turn the uranium into a gas, you spin it very, very fast. The light stuff stays on the inside.
The heavy stuff goes to the outside. And you just go through in this over and over and
over and that's where the term centrifuges cascades come from. And so, that was what
was done. Actually doing the Manhattan project days in the United States, we did it by a
different technique called gaseous diffusion, but today the technique of choice is the centrifuge.
And what you see on the right hand side are just rows of these centrifuges. The second
path to the bomb is you actually start with the natural uranium or slightly enriched uranium
and you put it in the reactor and you start the neutron reaction, and you fission the
uranium-235 atoms that makes a bunch of fission products, and it makes a bunch of neutrons;
238 picks up a neutron and through a few decays becomes plutonium. And it turns out that plutonium
is even a better bomb material than uranium-235, except now you not only have to make it in
the reactor, which is the top diagram on your left hand side but then you have to extract
it from the reactor products, from the fission products. And that you do chemically and that's
what we call reprocessing it. You do that in a reprocessing facility. Now, it turns
out for the uranium-235, you can make a rather simple bomb. And that is you just take two
sub-critical hemispheres and you put them in a gun and you shoot them together very
rapidly. Okay, when you do that, in essence, if you do it right, that was the Hiroshima
device, about 13 or so kilotons, 13,000 ton TNT equivalent. It destroyed a city. One plane,
one bomb, destroyed a city. That's because of this nucleus stuff. When you split the
nucleus, you get a factor of millions in the energy gain compared to all the other chemical
techniques. And so that's why nuclear is so special. And not only do you get that in nuclear
energy but also you're also get it in the bomb if you do it right, or if you do it wrong,
depending on your point of view. So this gun assembly works for highly enriched uranium,
for a bomb that's typically 80 to 90% enriched. It doesn't work for plutonium for very good
nuclear physics reasons I won't get into. So for plutonium instead, you have to use
what we call the implosion device. And that is, you have a sub-critical mass of plutonium,
pack explosives around it like a [INDISTINCT], you put detonators around and you try to implode
it all very symmetrically, drive it to super-criticality and then it blows up, that's Nagasaki. It
takes about six kilograms for the implosion device of plutonium, takes a few tens of kilograms
for--in highly enriched plutonium. You can also use the implosion device with highly--use
highly enriched uranium in the implosion device but in much simpler way to go, and this would
be the nuclear terrorism lecture, would be to use this gun assembly. So, most countries
that have nuclear weapons today actually pursue both of these. And in the United States, we
did that in the Manhattan project. Okay, so that is the premier then let me just say that
North Korea has mastered the entire plutonium fuel cycle. Fuel cycle, meaning everything
from the time you dig it out of the ground, you mine it--and by the way, they have significant
quantities of uranium ore in North Korea, none in South Korea but quite a bit in North
Korea. So, they know how to mine it, mill it, convert it and then make fuel. The type
of reactors that they chose to build that are called gas-cooled graphite moderated reactors.
They're patterned after the one's that the Brits build in the early 1950s, the first
one of which was Calder Hall reactor. Turns out the benefits of this type of reactor is
you can feed in natural uranium. You don't have to enrich it a little bit first as you
do with light water reactors. So that means the North Koreans, since they did this on
their own, I mean they copied the Calder Hall reactor but they did it strictly on their
own with no more help at that time from the Soviets, from the Chinese, from nobody. And
so, they didn't need enrichment, they were able to make their own fuel, used metallic
fuel for these reactors instead of ceramic fuels because you need a higher uranium density
since all you have is seven tenths of a percent of the fissile isotope. And so, they know
how to make fuel. Second, they built reactors. They finished one, the small one, five mega-watt
electric. That's very small. It doesn't produce much electricity but it produces one bomb's
worth of plutonium a year if you can extract it. And so, that--they've had that reactor
operating since 1986, off and on over the years. They had a 50-megawatt within one or
two years of completion when they signed this agreement with the Americans in 1994, that
was then halted. Now to tell you, later through my visits, I found out its dead. It can't
be resurrected. They had a 200-megawatt electric reactor that actually would have produced
quite a bit of electricity for North Korea. That was just in the beginning stages of construction.
They halted that. That's also not salvageable today. The back-end, the reprocessing facility,
it's just a complicated chemical engineering facility where you deal with all of this hot
nucleus stuff that you've heard about related to Japan except, in this type of facility
you handle it in hot cells with remote handling where that radioactivity is essentially separated
from the workers. They know how to that. They patterned that facility after a facility in
Belgium. Again, they built it by themselves. North Koreans are terrific engineers. They
built this whole complex then by themselves. So, that's the Yongbyon nuclear complex. So,
what do they have? It's sort of the bottom line slide. On the basis of my visits and
my discussions with the North Koreans, and on the basis of looking with Google earth
as to whether that there's a plume coming out of the cooling tower of the Yongyon reactor,
we pretty much know how many days it's operated. We can estimate what power level they operate
at and we know what sort of reactor they have, what fuel they put in, and you can calculate
how much plutonium they've made. So this is actually the part we know the best. And then
some of the holes they filled-in in my personal discussions with them. So they have to date,
24 to 42 kilograms sort of four to eight bombs worth. So--and they indeed do have the bomb
because they exploded two of them, one didn't work so well. The second one, as far as I'm
concerned was successful. Now, my view is, that that--since they've had have let's say,
one and a half test, the bombs that they have are most likely primitive bombs. In other
words like our Nagasaki bomb which had delivered, you know, it was huge 10,000 pounds, had to
be delivered by a plane. It's very difficult to miniaturize these things and it takes nuclear
testing, it takes computational capability and I just don't believe they've had the opportunity
to get there yet. Now, they have no plutonium in the pipeline even though they could still
run that reactor, they've chosen not to run their reactor. It's an interesting part of
the North Korean story. They shut it down the last time in July of 2007. They've not
restarted it. However, they could--again based on my visits, it would take about six months
to get their reactor up and operating. And the reprocessing facility, it's in cold stand-by--it's
in stand by but they could operate it also. Now, uranium enrichment, we've suspected them
of doing uranium enrichment over decades but we never really had the smoking gun. And that
was the story of my last visit in November of 2010. They finally decided to show me what
they've done in uranium enrichment. Quite frankly, I was expecting not much, sort of
a couple of dozens centrifuges, maybe in a garage or somewhere, and instead, I'll show
you that they now have a small industrial scale centrifuge facility. And I'll tell you
what it's for. And then I'll also tell you what the potential problems are. I mentioned
that here, is even though they've built this current facility that I saw to make low-enriched
uranium, that stuff that goes into light water reactors, sort of 3 to 5% enriched in the
isotope 235 instead of 80 to 90 which is what you--they use for bombs. And so, we don't
know about the highly-enriched uranium weapons because this is a new twist that we simply
didn't expect for them to have come this far. Will there be another nuclear test? When we
were just working in the plutonium world, I thought maybe one more. But as you can see
with that much plutonium, if they would do six tests we'd be finished. You know, the
problem would be solved. I thought they might do one more. Now, if they make highly-enriched
uranium, we may see highly enriched uranium test. So, we're not sure. So, how would we
know all this stuff? It helped that shows up okay, that you can at least see photos
from my six first trips to North Korea, I've taken seven all together. In 2003--and what's
really interesting in working with the North Koreans, is you might imagine they only let
me in if they feel I can do them some good. I mean, because otherwise, why let me in into
their nuclear facilities. So, for each of these visits, they've had a very special message.
Now, you might wonder how I get to go to North Korea. Well, I don't go as a U.S. government
official, it's what we call track two diplomacy, non-official, non-governmental. I worked for
Los Alamos for 34 years but one of the beauties of working for Los Alamos; I was actually
an employee at the University of California because it run the laboratory for the government.
So, I was never a government employee. But the North Koreans know I have good link to
the U.S. government. I mean, that's what they want to use. So, they sent me a message with
each of these visits. The first one and the last one were the most fascinating one. The
first one--I actually show a picture, so you've heard about spent fuel pools at Fukushima
Daiichi, I'm sure. This is the spent fuel pool and we're looking down into this spent
fuel pool in Yongbyon because they were trying to tell me that the fuel rod that used to
be stored in there that held the plutonium that's been sitting there for eight years
is now gone. And they've extracted the plutonium. Wasn't quite that easy to figure out but the
bottom line was one, when they showed me their reprocessing facility, they sat me down in
the conference room then they said, "Well, Dr. Hecker, we've now shown you our deterrent."
And I said, "Deterrent? Hey, wait a minute," you know, "I mean, you showed me the reactor
reprocessing facility. It looks like the fuel rods are gone," you know, "you have them,
but," you know, "I haven't seen anything." They said, "Well, how would you like to see
our product?" And I'm in the conference room now, right? And I said, "You mean the plutonium?"
And they said, "Well, yes." I said, "Well, I've worked at Los Alamos for 34 years. Yes,
sure bring it in." So, they did into the conference room. A metal box about this big and I opened
it up. They opened it up. Inside was a white wooden box. They slid off the top and there
sat two jars, two marmalade jars, believe it or not. Screw on tops and inside was a
plutonium powder and the other one had plutonium metal. They said that's our product. So, I
finally wound up--I didn't have any detectors. I had nothing with me because I figured I'd
never get in if I bring anything. So, I had my eyes and finally I asked them if I could
hold it? Because plutonium's very heavy. The density of unalloyed plutonium is 20 grams
per cc and it should also be slightly warm because it is radioactive. And when I tell
my students that story, you know, they all say, "Oh my God," you know, "you held a plutonium.
How come you're still alive?" Well, for those--I'm sure you know, the plutonium is only alpha
reactive. And so as long as you have it in the plastic bag or in a jar or whatever, it
doesn't get you. You don't want to breathe it or inhale it--I mean, inhale it or digest
it. And so, the plutonium was okay. And it was plutonium. And so, each one of these visits
they had a certain message that they wanted to get across. And over these seven years,
I've been able to visit their nuclear facilities four times, talk to their nuclear people especially
in each of those visits, and get a reasonably good sense of what they have in the--in their
plutonium program. That was the story in 2004. In 2007, what you see here is actually a glove
box and I'm in the middle of that crew, on the lower left. I do actually see where they
made the plutonium and that was fascinating. I learned a lot just from going through the
plutonium laboratory. The one on the right, they actually showed that they had disabled
most of their plutonium facilities in 2008 which they did. And then we come to visit
number seven which was just this last November. And when I arrived there they said, "We will
convert this center, you know, from a plutonium facility to a light water reactor and pylon
enrichment facility." So, that's what we're doing. And they also reminded me. They said,
"You know, we said that in 2009 after--again, they had an altercation this time with the
Obama administration, they walked away from everything again from these six party talks,
the four neighbors, North Korea and the US, and they said, "We're going to do our own
light water reactor. And that of course means we have to actually do uranium enrichment
because that's what you need for light water reactor fuel." And they said, "Nobody believed
us including you Dr. Hecker. And so, we're going to show you." So, they did. So they
first took me on the left hand side. The arrow points to where they were just beginning the
construction of the light water reactor. On the right hand side, the building with a blue
roof, which interestingly enough no one had picked up until that time. It was only after
I told people I was in this building that then--when they looked down with digital globe,
and they saw this blue roof, I said, "Yes, that's the one. That's where I was and that's
where the uranium enrichment was being done." So with the light water reactor, particularly
in light of what happened now in Japan, and I wrote these all before Japan ever happened,
I've published several papers on my visit to North Korea, what I found and what concerns
me. And this was one of my biggest concerns. When I saw how they were constructing that
small--it's a small light water reactor, experimental light water reactor; it would not meet U.S.
or Western safety standards. The way that they were constructing this concrete containment
shell with a small concrete mixer, you know, in the winter time, it's just not the way
to construct the reactor. They also did it with the whole new reactor design team. It's
tough to forge that stainless steel. It's even tougher to go ahead and weld it in place.
They did weld with their old reactor but this is very different. It's a different technology.
And what I used to say, the western world learned, in fact the whole world learned from
the examples of Three Mile Island and then Chernobyl. And nuclear power operators around
the world got together and said, "Look, we have to run these things safely because otherwise
we will have no nuclear power." And they did. They had a fantastic safety record for all
those years. Then of course, Fukushima Daiichi happened, you know, where a national catastrophe
was much beyond anything that the system was designed for. And the one thing, at least,
that I've learned from that and that lessons learned will yet to be drawn because, of course,
the situation is not yet completely stabilized. But one of the lessons is, for sure, you have
to have technical expertise in-country. You know, both the authorities and the technical
people have to know what they're doing in terms of emergency response. You have to have
the right equipment available. You know, I'm sure you followed that, you know, with the
fire trucks, the hoses, the sea-salt spraying and all of these things. Well, let me--I want
to give you examples of North Korean preparedness for natural disasters and it doesn't give
you a lot of faith. So, I was mostly concerned about the safety their reactor and I made
this view-graph long before Japan. One can also be concerned that this light water reactor
could make plutonium. But it turns out it wouldn't make any sense to make plutonium
that way because they already have their reactor that makes good bomb-grade plutonium. Light
water reactors make bad bomb-grade plutonium. And of course, what they now have is they
can say, "Look, we have a light water reactor. We need to enrich because that's what we need
to do for nuclear energy." And so, that's what they say. This is a photo I took in August
of 2007, as we were leaving Yongbyon after the rain, torrential rains all day long, and
if you look carefully, what you see is on the other side of the river, there's a whole
parade of people, from children to adults that are carrying rocks and sand in dishpans
up to the road to throw it on the roads so that we could get back out of there and back
to Pyongyang. That was their Emergency Relief and Disaster Management. And it turns out
they lost several hundred people in North Korea during that flood. They have about 50
centimeters of rain in various parts of the country. They lost 10% of their crops in essence,
because they don't have much in terms of Emergency Relief and Disaster Management. Okay, now
just to give you a little bit of what was associated with this uranium enrichment. Since
it was a big surprise, in the middle on the right hand side is Ambassador Ligon [ph],
the second in-charge of the six party talks. And he said, "Dr. Hecker, you will have very
big news when you go to Yongbyon." I still didn't know what it was. The big news was
something like this, and I had to make this up because they wouldn't let me take any photos
this time. This is a slightly doctored photo from one of the US Centrifuge Plants, but
that's in essence what a centrifuge facility looked like. It was truly mind boggling. In
about 2,000 centrifuges I looked up from the second floor of an observation window and
it just these beautiful rows of centrifuges, three of them in pairs. And not only that,
but the whole facility looked totally different than all the other facilities at Yongbyon.
The other facilities looked sort of Soviet 50s or 60s style. And just to give you an
example, on the lower right, is the reactor control room that I visited several times,
sort of Soviet style. And what you see on the upper left is actually, you know, computers
flat screens. This was in Kim Il-sung University e-Library. And the control room of this centrifuge
facility looked like that, not like the old control rooms. So, it had four computers,
flat panel monitors, LED displays. It was just ultra modern. I've never seen anything
like that in North Korea. Okay, so the centrifuge facility--I'll just go through this very quickly
because I'm sure most of you are not interested in the details. But they did have 2,000 centrifuges
and it looked like they have, what we call P-2s, sort of a second generation of centrifuges.
It turns out the faster you spin these centrifuges, the more separation that you get. And so you
have to use very high strength materials so they don't come up apart. The first generation
was aluminum; the second generation is what we call maraging steel. The third generation
would actually be carbon composites. So they are through put, is 8,000 kilograms separative
work units per year. What does that mean? It would mean they have enough capacity to
make the low enriched uranium fuel reactor. The problem is, as I'll point out in just
a minute, it's also enough to make one bombs worth of highly enriched uranium if they plummet
that way. And they had previously told me over and over, they don't have a uranium enrichment
program. But they do. So in American diplomatic circles, you know, what you saw--as soon as
I came back, the word was, "See? They lied." My answer was, "Well of course, they lied."
I mean they've lied many times, you know. And many countries lie of course in that whole
messy diplomatic process, but those diplomats in the US that I actually worked with them
that had specifically heard, "We don't have uranium enrichment." Well, they do. For those
of us in the proliferation business, the most interesting aspect is, "How did they get it?"
Because unlike for their reactors where I told you they made them indigenously, essentially
they had all the materials that they needed. For the enrichment, they do not have all the
materials. They do not have all the components, and we believe they still cannot make those
today. So they had to purchase them from somewhere. And they did. But it turns out they were plenty
of greedy European businessmen who were willing to sell them things. And the Germans tried
to sell them aluminum alloys. The Russians did sell them aluminum alloys. We don't know
where they got the maraging steel, most likely from the Russians. Again, not through legal,
necessarily legal part but they got them. Where did they get the frequency inverters?
Where did they get the bearings? Where did they get many of the other components? Well,
the same place that A.Q. Khan, the father of the Pakistani bomb got them from all over
the world through a very complicated procurement ring. It looks like the North Koreans have
run a very similar ring. And in fact, A.Q. Khan themselves actually helped out the North
Koreans. We know that because President Musharraf in his memoir actually said he gave them the
starter kit. It was that starter kit that I was expecting to see but instead, much like
the North Koreans have done with everything else, they take whatever they can get and
they build things themselves and they do it quiet well. There's also--I used to be concerned
about possible cooperation with Iran. But, from what I saw, North Korea is ahead of the
Iranian centrifuge program. The Iranians have played with centrifuges since 1987 and they
still don't have the separative work capacity that the North Koreans did. This is just to
show you that what the North Koreans told me is that, "Oh yes, of course we have uranium
enrichment now. We just started this program last year." And it turns out that's just not
possible. You know, it takes years, and years, and years. And they most likely, they've been
have been added for decades. But the building that they putted in and I've got this split
photo, the one with the blue roof is up now and it looked like where you see it before
where I showed the fuel rod fab facility. That's the building I was in a couple of years
ago and it didn't look anything like this. So they guttedd it, moved it in, but what
it means is they had a centrifuge facility operating some place else. And then they duplicated
it and moved it in here within the last year's time. So what's the threat from the centrifuge
program? Itself, it's required for LWRs so they actually have a good story, you know,
"We tried to get an LWR from you, the Americans. You won't give it to us; we decided to make
our own. And if we make an LWR, we now need to enrich. And so we did." Well, but the problem
is, the same technology also then can be used to make highly enriched uranium. And that's
the Iran problem. That's in essence Iran has justified its program since it was discovered
in 2002, that they need to do it for their own light water reactor program. The problem
is that we also suspect them of being capable to go to highly enriched uranium. So these
2,000 centrifuges could make enough reactor fuel or they could make 40 kilograms of 90%
enriched. Now, let's also look for the most part, you know, we hear in the United States
that all of our diplomatic attempts with North Korea has been totally unsuccessful. It turns
out I don't agree with that because if we would have left the North Koreans alone in
the early 1990s, continue on their path to build all three of those reactors that I showed
you, think of it a couple hundred bombs today, not a handful. That's a huge, huge difference.
So, what did they not get? They never finished those bigger reactors. They could have a 100
plus weapons and they wanted electricity and they got essentially nothing. If you add up
all the electricity since 1986 to today, they produce by nuclear power, its 23 days worth
of an LWR equivalent. So, you could say, if you look at these two North Korean glasses,
you know we work with these Americans and we got nothing. Now we did get a handful of
bombs and of course for the regime, that's all for the important. So why did they get
the bomb? Why do countries get the bomb? It's usually three reasons for security, domestic
reasons, and international reasons. Security, no question is driving force. You know we're
still at war technically with North Korea. The war was only stopped by an armistice in
1953. We have no peace treaty. And every visit that I've had, you know, I'm reminded of the
hostile policies of the United States toward North Korea. And so when they explained "why
we had to get the bomb?", of course, you know it's easy for them to say, "It's your fault.
It's the Americans fault. Your hostile policy, we feel threatened by you." And of course,
they have a few things to point to, you know, like Saddam Hussein for example, and the lessons
for them was, you know, "He didn't have a bomb and he's gone." There was a very interesting
newspaper blurb from the North Koreans referring to the Gaddafi situation in Libya. Essentially
saying "he shouldn't have given up this nuclear stuff in 2003". Look what's happening to him
now. So at any rate, of course they turn these things, you know, in the direction that the
regime wants them to be. The domestic reasons, once they got the bomb, then of course for
domestic reasons, you know, these people in North Korea, if you compare them to South
Korea, I mean, they really are destitute. And so they have to sacrifice in their daily
lives. They're reminded daily they have to sacrifice. Well, if you have an enemy and
if you're going to build a nuclear weapon to keep that enemy out, so that justifies
the sacrifice. And then internationally, that bomb has bought them an enormous--that handful
of bombs, you know, they're not much of a nuclear arsenal but it has kept the US out
and it does bring the US, you know, to and the rest to the bargaining table. So it's
used as a bargaining chip. So, now, we know they have the bomb. We know they have some
uranium enrichment. So what does it really mean? I personally, don't lose a lot of sleep
over the fact that they have the bomb. They've have it at least since 2003. They haven't
done anything crazy with those bombs. From their standpoint, it's a deterrent to keep
the United States out. So the threat from those handfuls of bombs, I think, currently
is low. If they use the bomb it's all over. I mean, the one thing their regime wants is
regime preservation and they know that if they use the bomb anywhere, anytime, it's
the end of the regime. So, why would they want to use it? Now, if they have a lot more
bombs, then I start worrying more. And particularly so if so they would be able to make a lot
of highly enriched uranium which I think they are not currently able to do, that is, to
make a lot, so if they have a hundred bombs, I'm more concerned. But miscalculations or
accidents can certainly happen. When you play with bombs accidents can happen of course,
as we find out in many areas. Uranium enrichment, I used to not be worried about it. Now I worry
about it, if they have the capacity to make a lot of highly enriched uranium. What I worry
mostly about from North Korea is export. In other words, you know, there's one threat
of having this nuclear stuff in the hands of the government. It's much worse yet if
it gets out of the hands of the government, into the hands of Iran, into the hands of
terrorists. And so, we know that the North Koreans sell missile technology all over the
world, particularly the countries that we're not terribly fond of. We also have examples
where they have sold nuclear technologies. I'm going to give you a one example of that.
But it's sort of difficult to do plutonium export. They build the reactors although they
did one in Syria. It would be much easier to do highly enriched uranium technology or
perhaps to sell highly enriched uranium because you could use the justification: use highly
enriched uranium in research reactors. And so, it's actually a civilian export, not a
bomb export. So, this was the situation of North Korea. Let me first say, of this concrete
box appearing in the Syrian Desert, it doesn't look like much. Although one of my--one of
my Los Alamos colleagues, uses SketchUp 6, and he does beautiful things with all of these
aerials and he reconstructs what was actually in that building. But the Israelis suspected
that to be a reactor and they have good reasons to suspect it. They bombed the reactor and
I'll show you a picture of that, one of the few you can get on open source with Google
Earth, and then it turns out the Syrians cleaned it up because the Syrians of course, have
denied that that was a reactor and they cleaned it up so fast and they still haven't allowed
the international inspectors full access. But this thing was a reactor. The reactor
is on the left, that's the concrete box; on the right is actually what it looked like
after the Israelis bombed it. And when you analyze that closely, it turns out all of
the dimensions are just right. It looks just like the North Korean reactor. The Israelis
also got a hold of somebody's laptop and showed this reactor under construction before it
became the concrete box, and it's clearly I guess, graphite reactor patterned just like
the North Korean. And so there's very little questions that the North Korean built this
reactor for the Syrians. We still don't know why exactly the Syrians wanted it. Who the
customer was? It's another great proliferation puzzle. What I thought you'd get a kick out
of, and again, my colleague at Los Alamos does these beautiful things, a combination
of Google Earth, Wikis, blogs, Facebooks, everything, and he pulls photos from everywhere
together and then makes stories. And one of the neat stories is--remember this concrete
box? That's the box on the lower left. The other three pictures, three photo--three photographs
that tourists took of Byzantine fortresses in the area. And even though the scale is
somewhat different, you look at that similarity and you say, "Now, we understood why they
built something like that." There was no anti-aircraft around that reactor. There were no big fences.
There was nothing. It just sat out there and they specifically wanted to make sure, which
is sort of blend it into the country side. But when they put the pipes, the water pipes
down the Euphrates River, that's when the Israelis said, "Okay. Now, we think," you
know, "they're going to pipe up water." And it was wiped out. So, we worry about the North
Koreans doing more in nuclear technologies with other countries. So, will they give up
the bomb? In my opinion, not in the near future because it's their ticket for regime survival,
and unless we're willing to take military action which we're not; we can't force it
to give it up. We've tried to squeeze North Korea but it turns out China doesn't want
to squeeze North Korea. They have a very different relationship, not that the Chinese like the
North Koreans having bombs. You know, they prefer the North Koreans not to have bombs
but they are not willing to have the regime come to its knees in order for them to give
up the bomb. And that's where we stand today. So without the Chinese, you can't force them
to give up the bomb. So, what you have to do is, for the time being, unfortunately,
we have to live with it. So, we should make sure that we reduce the risks and then develop
a comprehensive solution. So, we have to deal with North Korea the way it is, not the way
we'd like it to be. We got to work with China particularly but also of course with South
Korea because in the end, you know, that's the same people. It's the same country. But
we've got to contain the threat even though eventually we'd like a denuclearized Korean
peninsula. So, what I've been trying to sort of market in Washington is, to me, what makes
the most sense is what I call three nos with one yes. The way to reduce the risk is no
more bombs, no better bombs, no export. If we could get the North Koreans to agree on
that and particularly get the Chinese to agree to put the squeeze on the North Koreans, not
at this point to give up the bomb but at least to stop increasing the threat. The "no better
bombs" means no testing. So again, if you look with Google Earth, you know, you can
see that they are preparing a third test site. You know, the holes there, we don't know exactly
when they are going to do it or what they're going to do but we'd rather not have them
do that test. And so, no test, no more bombs. They already not producing more plutonium.
Now we'd have to make sure they're not producing more highly enriched uranium. The one yes,
it is--you know, it's the insecurity that drives them. And so this whole issue of normalization
of relations, what actually needs to be done, and there's no single piece of paper you can
sign with the North Korean. This is a process that's going to take a number of years. Okay.
So, now quiz if I may. I may be able to run through five minutes of just a photo tour
through North Korea. Of course, it's not--it's important because we see such a different
view on U.S. television today, but it's also important that if you cannot try to solve
the nuclear issue, you know, we techies always think the solution is technical. But the solution
here isn't technical. The technology has to inform the policy that you have to understand
the people, you have to understand the history, you have to understand the culture in order
to understand the politics, to understand whether there is any chance of coming to a
resolution. So I focus on the people, and of course in North Korea the people starts
with the Kim family. And particularly here, the third son Kim Jong-un--and so, everything
that we see revolves around the Kim family. But on the right hand side, here's another
family, just an ordinary Pyongyang family. Now Pyongyang of course is much better off
than most of the rest of the country. But it's a mother taking her three little kids
probably to kindergarten. So, they are real people. Kim Jong-un, you know, he's being
prepared--a lot of people have said he's being moved into the leadership. That's not true.
He is being prepared for the leadership of North Korea in a very clever fashion I think,
by his father. In the middle, you see the trio, you know, from Kim Il-Sung to Kim Jung-il
to Kim Jong-un. Before last September of 2009--of let's see, September of 2010, we essentially
knew nothing about Kim Jong-un. And of course, in terms of people and incidents, we also
hear--you know, in March of 26, it turns out 2010, when we thought we might be able to
reach some sort of accommodations again with North Koreans; they apparently sank a South
Korean ship, this Cheonan. Things went back into a crisis once again and then we were
emerging from that crisis when the North Koreans again allowed a number of these track 2 visits
including my own in November of last year. And then two days after I made my findings
public, then we had the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. And again, trying to understand what
exactly was happening and what do these things have to do with how the politics are playing
out internally within North Korea and the politics between the North and the South.
I won't spend any time on those but just to, you know, to remind you that the threats are
still there and certainly the rhetoric is there of the North Korean army saying that
they are ready to launch a sacred war of justice of Korean style based on the nuclear deterrent.
That's what we must avoid. So for that, let's look at the people. This is what we typically
see and it's true. North Korea is a repressive state led by a repressive government. They
have death camps, force labor camps, torture facilities. Those exist in North Korea. But
what also exist are real people. And I go visit typically with the embassies of different
countries--and by the way North Korea, you know, it's called the Hermit Kingdom, the
most isolated state in the whole wide world. They have diplomatic relations with 144 countries
around the world. I've run into a single German woman tourist in North Korea, you know, just
going there to be a tourist. I've run into Italian tourist. I stopped at the embassies
of Sweden, Poland, Czech Republic, etcetera in North Korea. This is a letter that was
sent to me by one of the Swiss workers and I thought it was interesting, you know, because
she says, "Look, like does remain difficult." And she says, you know, "They are tight-lipped.
They sort of have three compartments in their heads, one for the party, one for survival
strategy, and one for his or her very own thoughts." And she said, you know, "I often
feel the certain heaviness out in the countryside but at the same time pride, toughness, and
a dose of nationalism that's there among the people." So in the most part the people have
figured out how to live within that system and how to get on with life in spite of the
fact that life isn't very pretty, especially compared to South Korea. So she says, you
know, "What a life? When will you get better?" Okay, now for the photo tour. You know, these
are real people. And it's important to take a look at those young ladies. You know, they
are so cute. They are real people, you know, and they're going to grow up someday and they're
going to live in North Korea and we hope they live in a better place. Look at this young
lady, there are kiosk all over North Korea now, particularly in Pyongyang but I didn't
saw them out in the countryside where they actually do have food. The students, it's
always a pleasure to go visit their schools. They're doing a physics experiment here. And
this young lady right here was writing an essay on Thomas Alva Edison. Okay? This is
North Korea and she's writing an essay on Thomas Alva Edison. Computers, dance, we went
to the school of Foreign Studies on February, it was colder inside the building than outside
the building. But nevertheless, they were studying--studying English. Life goes on in
Pyongyang of course, particularly people tell you, you know, there are no people there,
there are no cars, there are no traffic but there are some. There are signs of market
activity all over North Korea. And the market has gone up and down over the years because
as soon as they become successful, then the government becomes scared and tries to shut
them down. As soon as it shuts them down the people try to figure out, you know, where
they can actually get something so they build them back and so it sort of oscillates over
time. The Chinese--what the Chinese would really like to do, they say, "Look, why don't
you do what we did 30 years ago?" You know, and sort of, let--let the strings out on the
free market. But the North Korean regime is much too scared of that so it's very careful.
Arirang is this fantastic gymnastic dance performance, a hundred thousand performers
in what they call their May Day Stadium. I already showed you this of the unpreparedness
for disaster. This last, was with Kimchi time. For those of you who know Koreans, you know
Kimchi is very important--there was cabbage everywhere. It was time to actually take care
and pick all the cabbage. They're very determined people. Again, if you think they can't do
anything because of what we see on television, if they want to build a university of music,
they'll build a university of music and they did. In just a few years time and I was inside
it, it's just actually spectacular. So, where the regime wants to put its money it can get
things done. That's the concert hall of a concert I attended. Again, North Korea being
cut-off, I celebrated the 92nd anniversary of the Independence of Poland in Pyongyang
last November. They have two Polish artists and then they had this young Korean lady playing
Chopin and it was absolutely beautiful, just beautiful. They have factories, you know,
we say they can't do anything. I'm a meddler just by training. This was a great wire factory.
They have textile factories and interestingly enough, we got there and we thought we heard
American rock music, you know, which we didn't quiet believe our ears. So when we asked our
guide told us, "Well, we asked the women what they wanted to hear and they said American
rock music." So that's what they were playing. They have very fancy textile machines. These
are from Germany. Lots of activity. This is a tree farm. Kim Jong-Il goes out and he does
this on the spot site visits. And then most have gone out, they told me that there were
hills there and he said, "Let there be apple trees." And indeed, two years later, there
are two million apple trees from Italy. They actually came and helped them plant those
and they were already productive in their first year, very impressive site. Swimming
pools, Kim Il-sung University. This is a fancy and Olympic size swimming pool as I've ever
seen. As you can you tell I wasn't dressed quite right. But, not only the pool but water
slides and if the waters slides aren't good enough and he's massaging. This is Kim Il-sung
University, you know, very prestigious university, obviously for the high-end of the political
spectrum for North Korea. But they tell me 10,000 students were trained here at Kim Il-sung
University and take advantage of their e-library. And actually, in this case, my colleague John
Lewis was the guy who took me to North Korea in the first place, looked to say, "Is that
really an HP soft touch screen?" And it was. And here they were in foreign studies and
they actually had these students speak and debate each other while we were there. And
it was amazing. Every child in North Korea has to take English from the third grade on
and by the time they got here in this University of Foreign Studies, they spoke very good American
English actually, not British English. So what does the future hold as I'm drawing to
an end? You know, that's Seoul and a market in Seoul. And obviously, do have such an enormous
disparity across, you know, one line, one political demarcation can't hold out forever.
People tell you there are no lights. You know, one of the favorite Google Earths is a--Vice
President Cheney used to show the darkness in North Korea and the lit-up in South Korea.
There are more lights. Times are changing. Some of their buildings are actually lit at
night. There's also this hotel that they build some 27 years ago. It was a concrete structure
shown on the left, never finished, 104 stories, but two years ago, they started putting glass
on. They--an Egyptian Company that was finishing it up and this last November it was actually
done, and is one impressive, impressive building. So again, if you look at this from a North
Korean standpoint, to look up in the city and see this impressive thing actually, you
know, some progress seems to be happening. Then additionally, they tell you there's no
traffic. There's not only traffic, there's some taxi service. And if you could see this
and look closely, that taxi is a Ford Focus Taxi. Okay? This is in Pyongyang, North Korea.
And then we finally started seeing some phone booths, not the Clark Kent sort of phone booths
but at least some phone booths in 2009. And so we said, you know, things are starting
to change. But the real coup de grace came on this visit and hopefully you can see this
on a diagram and it's a young lady talking on a cell phone and the same on the lower
right hand, the person talking in a cell phone, it turns out since two years ago, there are
now 350,000 cell phones in North Korea. They have three separate services, it's all run
by the Egyptians also. Egyptians and North Koreans are very good friends. And so eventually,
that would catch up with them. Now, I'll show you for the last end, again because of the
nature of the lighting in here. I'm not sure how well it will show up. But, every now and
then, you catch a picture like that and here's one I caught in Pyongyang Subway. I was coming
out and walking down; there was a young man with a light base jacket, it was November,
had the red bandana for the revolution. Everything looked normal except until I looked at his
head. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a baseball cap worn backwards with a Nike Swoosh.
This is Pyongyang. When that kid gets to be 21 years old they're going to have a hard
time keeping him down on the farm. And so let me end with saying, you know, "If there
are swoosh, there has to be some hope even for North Korea." Okay. Thank you ladies and
gentlemen. >> Thank you Sig. Can you come up and ask
your questions up here? He has a little bit of hearing problem, and if you can face him
and speak your questions... >> HECKER: It turns out I have great difficulty
hearing especially, you know, I love your Google wide open environment but they play
havoc with my hearing. >> Okay, so if you could come up, that would
be great. >> So I really enjoyed the talk. I have a
question about South Korea and Japan, the closest neighbors besides China. So, are the
experts in South Korea and Japan as informed as you are or more informed? And what is the
official position with respect to the nuclear--what should be done with respect to the nuclear
problem in North Korea? >> HECKER: Okay. If--I want to make sure that
I understand. So first, is what do the experts in South Korea and Japan as far as the nuclear
situation and then what do the governments think in terms of what should be done? And
so, as far as the experts go, it turns out they have no access and that actually goes
for the Chinese. I stopped and talked to the Chinese every time I go in and out of--out
of North Korea, and I talk to their nuclear people and we compare notes and for the most
part the Chinese greatly underestimated the North Korean capabilities and continue to
do so even today. The South Koreans and the Japanese for the most part just also have
very little information. And so, as it turns out I'm very popular in both countries. You
know, I've appeared on television shows, they read all the stuff because it's one of the
few independent things that actually gets information there. We compare notes, I go
to South Korea, I haven't been to Japan for a while but people have come and seen me.
The analysis--one of the interesting aspects of doing this sort of track 2 diplomacy--one
of the things I like to accomplish with it, is to get the best possible understanding
of the nuclear situation in the hands of the public. Not only in the hands of the intelligence
agencies or the top politicians, so that the public actually has an understanding of what
we're dealing with and that you get a better picture out there, instead of having the politicians
use it, you know, to twist it in whatever their own direction is. And so, since they
have let me in, I think there's a much more uniform appraisal on the highly enriched uranium.
There was one very good analyst in Washington that just published a paper right before I
went in, said "suspecting that they had at least pilot scale [INDISTINCT]." It turns
out he was right. But generally we have a pretty good common understanding and analysis
that includes Japan and South Korea. The Russians and the Chinese have underestimated them but
it's pretty close. As far as the governments are concerned, the Japanese and I'm just going
to, you know, tell it the way it is, have not very helpful on this--on the North Korean
situation. And for the most part is they have focused on what's called the "abductees" issue.
You know, Kim Jong-Il and his honchos managed to abduct a number of Japanese years ago and
he's not been willing to fully resolve it and so every discussion with the Japanese
almost starts and ends with the "abductee" issue. And so, it's been--the Japanese have
been essentially the toughest in the negotiations because the North Koreans have not come clean
on the "abductee" issue. By the way, when I discussed this with the North Koreans they
essentially say, "Look, we have no sympathy for the Japanese after what they did--after
what they did to us," you know, "in the 40 years of occupation. Who are they to complain?"
But so, that's a big gap. In South Korea, the previous governments practiced what they
call the "Sunshine Policy" and that is to reach out to the North Koreans and try to
figure out a way to sort of move forward, get them to take some market measures, to
help them out a lot, but I think they also wound up paying off the North Koreans a lot.
You know, there are reports that for the one summit that was held between North and South,
that the South actually paid the North Koreans a lot of money under the table for that. The
current government is a very conservative government and they said, "We're not paying
them under the table anymore." And so they've played it very tough and so, right now US
policy, to a large extent is driven by the fact that we want to be in locked step with
South Korea. South Korea is being very tough and saying, "We want North Korea to take steps--verifiable
steps to its denuclearization before we reengage them." And so, as a result--actually, US policy
now for the last two years, it's been termed strategic patience, it really hasn't gotten
us very far with the North Koreans because we've refused to engaged them directly because
they've not made any moves towards verifiable denuclearization. So, I would say Japan and
South Korea both are on the side of playing it slow, making sure that they denuclearize
first before we take additional steps. >> So, with any other technology, I think
nuclear weapons will be available to everyone sooner or later. Why are we so focused on
non-proliferation? >> Let see--no, don't go away yet I want to
make sure that I understand. You're saying with all the other weapons and everything
that are available? >> Well, all the technologies that we have
in this world like, firearms, it becomes available to everyone sooner or later, South Korea will
come up with its own nuclear bomb and everyone else will come up with its own nuclear bomb
sooner or later when they get smarter or more technologically advanced. Why are we so focused
particularly on non-proliferation and stopping them from having a bomb? Everyone else in
the region have it anyway. >> HECKER: Oh, okay. Well, the--it's--you're
essentially asking why are we so focused on nuclear proliferation as such, right? Because
the technology certainly, the knowledge has spread all over and so the issue then becomes,
is the world less safe if more countries have their finger on the nuclear trigger, as such?
If they have nuclear weapons and have their finger on the nuclear trigger the--there is
disagreement. There are some people who say the world will actually be safer because deterrents
works. I personally think that that's not the case. I personally think the more countries
you have with nuclear weapons, even though the governments themselves might be more restrained,
the fact that you then have both the nuclear weapons and you have fissile materials, let's
say reasonably ready for nuclear weapons into more hands does make it a more dangerous place.
And particularly, to me, the single biggest threat is actually not the threat of governments
having nuclear weapons or nuclear materials, but nuclear materials getting out of the hands
of governments into the hands of terrorists where there will be little in terms of deterrents
of being able to control the terrorists. So, I personally still think it's a good idea
to focus very hard on trying to limit the number of governments having nuclear weapons
and having fissile materials. Probably the best example to give now is, essentially the
only place in the world that I think there is the potential of a nuclear exchange in
the, let's say reasonably near future, five to ten years, is India and Pakistan. We'd
be much better off if India and Pakistan did not have nuclear weapons. And you know, I
can paint the scenario for you, I'll just do it quickly because you raised a very important
question. India has substantially superior conventional weapons and a much larger army
than Pakistan. Pakistan has supported over the years a number of terrorist organizations
including one that perpetrated the Mumbai bombing. And if such an episode would happen
again, you know, it's not clear that India wouldn't do what the United States did with
Afghanistan, is go in and say, "Okay, you Pakistan if you're not going to care of your
own terrorist organization we're going to do it." And when we do that, the only way
that Pakistan might be able to push the Indian's back is with nuclear weapons. Pakistan right
now is building plutonium reactors--production reactors in order to make smaller nuclear
weapons to repel an Indian attack. And so--and the Indians are not helping matters either,
by saying that they have to develop a submarine delivered weapon capability for a nuclear
weapon. So, when you see that sort of thing just between two countries, and then if have,
you know, a two body problem you change that to a three or four body problem. I just think
the world would be a much more dangerous place with more nuclear weapons. Yes, whoever--you
like to come up? By all means. >> You said that nuclear weapons in government
hands is a little safer than uncontrollable people hands...
>> HECKER: Less danger--less dangerous. >> Or--yes, right. But do you have any comments
on when or what would happen when eventually North Korea regime collapses?
>> HECKER: When the North collapses? >> Yes.
>> HECKER: Okay. Yes, so the question is, you know, since I had talked about to be--nuclear
weapons being in governments hands and not in government hands. What's the danger if
North Korea collapses? So, I agree. That adds a substantial danger and that's also I think
one of the reasons why the Chinese actually do not want that government to collapse. And
so, to me when I talk about accidents and miscalculations as one of the dangers, that's
precisely what I'm talking about. And so, I would be very concerned at that time if
the North Korean regime collapses, if that collapse isn't some sort of an orderly process,
and most of the time these collapses aren't, is what happens to the nuclear weapons? And
so, yes, in North Korea right now that's probably the single most important danger of the nuclear
weapons themselves. So, I--I have no good answer for that. All I can tell you that is
a significant risk. >> I have two questions to you. First one,
is when you meet North Koreans, do you see a difference of opinion between scientists--civilian
scientists and the military? The second question is where--where are these people educated--the
scientists? Are they educated in North Korea? Are they educated by the previous generation
that was educated in Soviet Union? Where are they educated?
>> HECKER: So, the--the first question are related to the scientists in--in North Korea
and let's say, "Are they strictly military or are they civilian military?" First of all,
I've had very limited access to the scientists and to the people of North Korea. I've traveled
all over the world. I've been to Russia 42 times instead of seven times at in North Korea.
I've been in Russian homes. I've met the scientists. I've been in China. I've been in India. In
North Korea, I meet no ordinary people. And the scientists that I've met are always in
the presence of a handler from--from the--the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so it's very
difficult to draw a good picture. However, in terms of putting the pieces together, the--and
I've asked them this question, you know, and so, I've had the interesting discussions.
In essence, what the North Koreans do at Yongbyon is the--the scientists are trained at their
universities, not at other universities, Kim il Sung and [INDISTINCT] and so forth. They
trained at their universities, they then bring them in to Yongbyan and they have a technical
institute in the Yongbyan where they continue to train them further. It's actually a lot
like the Indian model where they bring in people into—into the Bhabha Atomic Research
Center and so forth and then continue to train them there. And then they stay there, essentially
for a lifetime. And--and the mission at Yongbyan has been a dual purpose mission. They were
interested in nuclear energy but the primary mission all along has been the bomb. And just
if you look at the way that they have dealt with the nuclear complex, for example in terms
of their health physics practices, you know, everything around Yongbyan is just contaminated
as can be. Again not--one of the lessons that one learns with respect to Japan, you know,
you know how to measure the most minute amounts of radioactivity. There's a lot of the contamination
around Yongbyan, hasn't bothered me going there because it's not a health hazard, but
it's a mess. They do that because they feel they're at war. So they're really pushing
their nuclear weapons program the most, but their scientists look at both. And so right
now, they have their scientists designing a light water reactor. So they're doing civilian
stuff. And then their weapons designers, I have not met any of their specific weapons
designers. So, it's not that different from an India, from a US program where the civilian
and the military, you know, sort of merge together. In terms of their training it is
all in-house, in North Korea. >> So, for the pretty pictures that you showed,
how much of it is--did you truly trust or how much was it did you suspect was stage-managed?
Like, children talking about the--Thomas Alva Edison. How much of the pretty pictures that
you showed were real or would you suspect was stage-managed by the regime?
>> He's asking on how realistic do you feel the pictures are. Do you feel that any other
stage by the government they help to [INDISTINCT]? >> HECKER: I'm sorry, I couldn't quite understand
because my hearing--So--so, what you're asking--so I showed you all these photos, so how realistic
or representatives are those, right? So, in Pyongyang is not represented of the rest of
North Korea. It's like going to Moscow and saying that you saw Russia. You know, there's
so much more to Russia than just Moscow and it's the same here. So, first of all, everybody
in Pyongyang, you know, tends to be better off than out in the country side. So, first
of all, it's biased in that direction. I show all of these photos in order to actually show
a contrast to what you normally see on television. However, I have also been out in the countryside
and when you go to Yongbyon, you get out into the countryside. I have lots of those photos
also. I have photos of people--you know individuals dragging carriage with bricks and concrete
on them, you know by hand, of oxen going through the fields because out in the countryside
you have much less equipment. But I've have been out there in their combines and I visited
places, I've seen people. I visited the city of Sariwon which is down towards the border,
considerable distance away from Pyongyang. And again, you just look there, you watch
and you see, there's much more activity, there's much more industrial activity than you would
expect. And so, to answer your question, mine are slanted towards showing the better side
of North Korea. And the news media usually shows the concentration camps and other things.
And the real truth is in between. I think the main message is--I grew up when I was
a child in Austria after the Second World War, and I grew up living in barracks and
we had nothing. But my parents sort of have figured out, you know, how to live in that
environment, and I, as a kid, was the happiest kid in the whole world. I see a lot of that
actually in North Korea. I see the kids playing soccer, you know, out on the dirt field. That's
what I used to do. So they sort of figure out. Now the problem is that for the 1990s,
they had in addition to being cut-off from Russia, since they are not getting much help
from China, they have devastating floods and then also droughts. And so the 1990s, the
North Korean economy was just decimated, and that was really a time when they say, you
know, perhaps up to a million people starved. Situation is much better today than it was
then and just in the seven years I have gone there, it's just improved each time. And so
one of the messages is, if we're waiting for this regime to fall by itself, it isn't going
to do it very soon. Oh, there's one more. >> Hi. Dynastic regime seems to be quite difficult
for the West to deal with. I think because the objectives of their governments are very
different from the objectives of our governments, but it seems a part of the message of what
you've been saying is that, dealing with Western democracy in--particularly, presidential democracies
is very difficult if you are a country taking a long term view. Because there can be an
election and suddenly all policy change, things you are relying on are now false. I wonder
if you could comment on this. You know, what things--what the situation is like from the
perspective of North Korea having to deal with the United States?
>> HECKER: Sorry. I agree very much with your comment of just the difficulties of these
different systems. You know, not only the politics but the culture and history. So for
example, just for the US to deal with China on the issue of North Korea, it's just so
different. You know, the Chinese have these very long term view; they are not bothered
by the next election. And the US North Korea policy, in my opinion, is mostly driven by
domestic politics. There are certain things that we could, and in my opinion, should do
which would have us take some risks with the North Korean, but we can't to do it because
of domestic politics. I actually--another version of one of my North Korea talks, I
actually show what happened in three successive US administration in terms of North Korea
Action and Policy. First was Clinton, then George W. Bush and now Obama. If you were
sitting in the North Korean side and you look at that and you said, "My God, I don't know
what to do with this Americans." And that's actually what happened. You know, in the Clinton
administration, my colleague, Bill Perry, who was former Secretary of Defense, whom
I teach with now at Stanford, he believes we came within three months of solving the
North Korea problem because the Clinton Administration sort of worked-up through this, and Madeleine
Albright actually went to North Korea, met with Kim Jung-il. President Clinton was scheduled
to go to North Korea but time ran out. The North Korea where then waiting for us to continue
that process instead--you know whether you like Bush administration or not, the fact
of the matter is, they thought this agreed framework was fatally flawed and tried to
do everything from the beginning to kill it. And so North Koreans hang around for about
two years, trying to figure out, you know, when is this stuff going to continue and it
didn't. And so they changed. So then, what's interesting, Bush Administration came around
the last two years to reach back out to the North Korean, but the North Korean were playing
it sort of, stand back. And then the most dramatic transition was when the Obama Adminstration
came in, I was right there afterwards. We were expecting the North Koreans, you know,
to reach out and in fact as you remember, President Obama says, "I will reach out my
hand if you unclench your fist." It turns out they not only clenched their fists but
they hit them right between the eyeballs. And they did a long range missile test and
followed with the nuclear test. And so then they decided after the previous switch of
administration, this time they're not taking any chances. And so, yes, you're absolutely
right. And, you know, this is where the political scientists and one of the beauties I should
have said of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford, is we
bring all of these folks together. The nuclear guys like myself, and people who really understand
history, politics and everything which you have to understand in order to understand
nuclear. So, with that thank you ladies and gentlemen, thanks for your patience.