In 2012, the Obama administration announced it would “Pivot” to Asia. Yet, as President Obama’s second term is coming to an end, many important issues in East Asia and especially concerning North Korea remain unchanged — or may have even worsened since the Bush era. During the last six years, North Korea sank the South Korean navy vessel Cheonan, shelled Yeonpyeong Island, conducted two nuclear tests and is probably closer than ever to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power.
What has been the attitude of the White House towards North Korea since Obama came to power? What were the President’s expectations towards Pyongyang at the start of his presidency? And can we expect further developments or has the Obama administration reached its “lame duck” phase? To answer these questions, we had a short talk with David Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent for The New York Times.
David Sanger has covered a wide variety of issues for the Times, with a focus on foreign policy, nuclear proliferation and Asian affairs. He has reported from New York and Washington and was the Times’ bureau chief in Tokyo for several years. Mr. Sanger was twice a member of Times reporting teams that won the Pulitzer Prize, and belonged to a team nominated for the Prize in 2011 for their coverage of the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. David Sanger wrote two books on the Obama Presidency: The Inheritance (2009) and Confront and Conceal (2012). He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Aspen Strategy Group. David Sanger graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1982.
When new presidents come in, some countries send congratulatory cables, others make phone calls, a few send postcards, [North Korea] shot off a nuclear test. It turned everybody in the White House, […] almost without exception, into North Korea “hawks”.
The interview was conducted on April 20th in Seoul.