Dennis Wilder joined Gwen Ifill to discuss President Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak meeting about recent provocations in the latest round of the ongoing diplomatic standoff with North Korea.
GWEN IFILL, host: Now, for more on all of this, we turn to two former officials who have experience dealing with North Korea. Dennis Wilder was special assistant to the president and senior director for East Asian affairs on the National Security Council staff during the second Bush administration. He’s now a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.
And Joel Wit was a career State Department official dealing with Northeast Asia and arms control. He’s now a visiting fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Welcome to you both.
Mr. Wilder, what were Presidents Obama and Lee signaling today in that joint meeting?
DENNIS WILDER: I think President Obama was signaling a shift, a significant shift in American policy on North Korea.
When President Obama came into office, he felt that, if he could change the tone of the relationship with North Korea, there was a chance to negotiate. So he sent Steve Bosworth to Beijing with a message for the North Koreans that Ambassador Bosworth was ready to go into North Korea, ready to talk.
The North Koreans, for their own reasons — largely, I think, involved in their succession issues, but also because of the fears they had about where the South was going, decided not to take him up on that offer. And, of course, we had the missile test and then the nuclear test.
The president now has signaled today that the United States has got to take a tougher stance with the North Koreans, has got to show that there are things they have done here that are beyond the bounds of the international community and that they must be held responsible.
[U.S. military capabilities in the Pacific are] very imposing, very impressive [and are intended] to deter the North from any kind of potential actions. But if the North were to act, the U.S...would have to deploy far more to the peninsula and the region as quickly as possible.
[So far there have been no efforts to evacuate U.S. citizens living in South Korea.] That would be the clearest indication that we were headed toward war. And I don't think we are.