Perry, Scowcroft Say U.S. May Need to Use ‘Coercion’ to Stop North Korean Nuclear Aspirations

By Adam Brickley | May 28, 2009 | 7:55 PM EDT

In this undated Korean Central News Agency photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il inspects the newly-built swimming complex in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)

Washington ( – Former Defense Secretary William Perry and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft say it may become necessary for the U.S. to use military force to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

At a panel discussion Thursday at the Council on Foreign Relations, the two leading experts said that North Korea has become “much harder to control” in recent years. 

“I do believe that diplomacy still has a chance of success,” Perry said, “but only if it is robust and only if its robustness includes some meaningful coercion on opponents.”

Perry, who served as secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, and Scowcroft, national security advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, both noted that that North Korea’s aggressive purpose in developing nuclear weapons has come into sharper focus in recent years.
“When I had detailed discussions with the North Koreans in 1998 in Pyongyang, I thought (their) goal at that point was enhanced security and enhanced economic benefit to the country, and that the goal of becoming a nuclear weapons state was in the background,” Perry said. “I think that’s changed in the last 10 years.”
He also acknowledged that, “diplomacy has a much steeper hill to climb now than it did in 2003 because they now have a bomb.”
Perry and Scowcroft said the U.S. needs to concentrate more on stopping the spread of nuclear weapons than on the direct military threat that North Korea poses.
According to Scowcroft, if a cap on nuclear proliferation isn't in place soon, the U.S. could face "30 or 40 countries" with nuclear capability. 

“That is not a better world,” Scowcroft added. 
To end nuclear proliferation, Perry, Scowcroft and CFR’s Charles Ferguson propose a five-point strategy.
First, they said, we must “revitalize the strategic dialogue” with nuclear-armed powers, particularly Russia and China.
Perry and Scowcroft would also like to strengthen what they call the “international nuclear nonproliferation regime” – the international campaign to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
The defense analysts would also like the U.S. to “reaffirm its nuclear umbrella,” which protects U.S. allies from nuclear attack, and to “maintain the credibility” of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.
Finally, they suggest implementing better security practices “for nuclear weapons and weapons-usable materials worldwide.”

This week, North Korea conducted a nuclear test, triggering reaction from Russia, South Korea and the United States.