DENVER - Former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, Christopher Hill, says North Korea is hell bent on a nuclear program where they marry a weapon with a missile.
The recluse nation is making claims that it successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb earlier this week, but the White House says early analysis of underground activity in North Korea “is not consistent” with those claims.
The U.S. Geological Survey states the event measured 5.1 in magnitude.
“We’ll find out soon enough whether this was a hydrogen explosion,” Hill told Denver7.
Hill, who also served as an Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, is now the Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. He said he’s very concerned about the North Korean drive to obtain a Hydrogen bomb.
“Often times these things happen quicker than you think,” he said, “so it’s something to be concerned about.”
Hill said if North Korea obtains that capability, South Korea and Japan “will want to go nuclear.”
He said that could destabilize the region and cause tremendous harm to the economy.
“If you look at Northeast Asia,” he said, “many of the world’s exports come out of that region. We need to make sure the world economy is okay. A war in that part of the world would not be helpful, at all, to the world economy.”
When asked why small nations like North Korea believe it’s important to have nuclear weapons, Hill replied, “To have nuclear weapons is a shortcut to being a great power. The perception is, if you have a nuclear weapon, people will take you seriously. Otherwise you just have a moribund, hideous looking economy with everyone starving. So I think for North Korea, it’s a shortcut to fame.”
The former Ambassador described the current leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un as very reckless and pugnacious.
“We used to think there was no one worse than Kim Jong-il,” he said, “but we didn’t give enough credit to his son.”
When asked if Americans have reason to fear a North Korean nuclear attack, Hill said, “I think we can protect ourselves... but we need to make sure that our friends and allies feel protected because we don’t want them to go off in the wrong direction.”
Hill also said the U.S. needs to engage China to help deal with North Korea.
“I think some additional sanctions have to be taken,” he said, “especially if China implements them… I also think we’re going to have to thicken up our military presence to make sure we can knock these things down if they’re launched. I think we need to be in that position.”
Hill said North Koreans may not understand the old Cold War theory of Mutually Assured Destruction, where fear of total destruction kept both the U.S. and the Soviet Union from launching a first strike.
"I don’t want to sound nostalgic about the Soviet Union," he said, "but I think the Soviet Union was a more responsible country that North Korea."