As North Korea continues to strengthen its nuclear and missile capabilities, finding a viable path to coexistence seems almost insoluble. In a talk at Asia Society New York last Thursday evening, former Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson and Donald P. Gregg, former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, suggested that new and creative approaches and active engagement are needed on the Korean peninsula. Richardson, who has visited North Korea several times, said, "isolation is not working. ... What we need is out-of-the-box diplomacy."
"Sometimes it's Asia Society, or a UN special envoy … sometimes it's the media," he continued. "That's the kind of fresh thinking that's needed."
In a discussion moderated by Jon Williams of ABC, both men urged promoting technology to build ever-strengthening relations between the U.S. and North Korea. "The thirst for the internet and technology among the North Korean people is going to be a factor that will play a role in moderating the country," said Richardson, who visited North Korea with Google's tech leader Eric Schmidt earlier this year.
Speaking favorably of Dennis Rodman's recent diplomatic visit to Pyongyang, Richardson and Gregg believe a sports envoy and Rodman's friendship with Kim Jong Un can play a role in getting Kenneth Bae — an American citizen currently serving a 15-year sentence in a labor camp for allegedly trying to overthrow the government — out of the country. "I think it's going to be something unorthodox, but hopefully it will be resolved, because this man deserves to come home," Richardson said.
Ambassador Gregg, who spent 30 years with the CIA, called North Korea "the longest-running failure in the history of American espionage." Despite recent belligerent rhetoric, Gregg believes the U.S. should reach out to North Korea and seek a diplomatic and peaceful dialogue because the U.S.-North Korea relationship is "key to denuclearization and stability in the whole region."
"Bring them out of their isolation, because its by bringing them out of their isolation that they will more clearly realize that's in their own interest to change," Gregg said. "I think that the way to change a regime is to help it change itself because it realizes it needs to change, and that will only come as they become closer and more clearly oriented to the outside world."
For more discussion about North Korea's nuclear capabilities, Dennis Rodman and sports diplomacy, and the country’s leadership transition, watch the program highlights above, or click here to watch the complete video.