Former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry, 90, gave an interview to the Asahi Shimbun on Nov. 14. Perry, who took the initiative in solving the North Korean crisis in 1994, said a U.S military strike against North Korea “seems to be unfeasible.” But he urged the Japanese and U.S. governments to engage in dialogue with the isolated nation, saying, “They should seriously seek a diplomatic solution.”
In the interview, Perry unveiled that the administration of President Bill Clinton in 1994 “had a plan to conduct a cruise missile strike to destroy the Yongbyon (nuclear facility.)” He also said that though the administration examined multiple plans, such as sending additional U.S. forces to South Korea, it decided to seek diplomatic solutions after analyzing possible damage resulting from North Korean counterattacks.
As for possible preemptive attacks by the U.S. military, Perry pointed out, “The North already has nuclear weapons and today they could inflict far greater damage. So I don’t think [preemptive attacks] are feasible.”
He also warned against the approach taken by U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to focus on pressure rather than dialogue, saying, “I prefer diplomacy. The absence of diplomacy and indiscriminate remarks create unforeseen conditions for going into a war.” He also said, “A war on the Korean Peninsula could spread to Japan. And if nuclear weapons are used, damage could spread to an area ten times the size of the Korean Peninsula. Why don’t they understand that?” He went on to say that President Trump’s Asian trip “doesn’t seem to have achieved anything.”
Regarding North Korean Workers Party chairman Kim Jong Un, Perry said, “He is cruel and reckless, but is nevertheless sane.” The former senior U.S. government official explained the necessity of prioritizing the prevention of nuclear development and seeking an opening for dialogue. “I want Prime Minister Abe to urge President Trump to do so in a bilateral meeting,” he said.
Perry disclosed that he has been emphasizing to incumbent US Defense Secretary James Mattis the importance of negotiations. Perry said he thinks the Defense and State Secretaries “are not the final decision-makers but in a strong position to make proposals to the president, and may be encouraging the president to choose diplomatic over military solutions.”