Naval War College Professor Discusses North Korean Challenge at William Blair Luncheon

Friday, October 20, 2017

William Blair Managing Director Ed Blair, Jr., Naval War College professor Terence Roehrig, and Bill Obenshain, chairman of the Naval War College Foundation Board


From left, William Blair Managing Director Ed Blair, Jr., Naval War College professor Terence Roehrig, and Bill Obenshain, chairman of the Naval War College Foundation Board.


Terence Roehrig, a professor of national security affairs and director of the Asia-Pacific Studies Group at the U.S. Naval War College, discussed the rising tensions between North Korea and the international community at a William Blair thought leadership luncheon with clients on October 12 in Chicago.

Author of several books on Asian politics and security including his most recent, Japan, South Korea, and the United Sates Nuclear Umbrella, Roehrig says the United States has few effective military options in dealing with North Korea.

"We are starting to transition into an understanding that it may not be a problem we can solve but one we are going to have to figure out how to manage," he told the gathering.

The United States and its allies, including Japan and South Korea, want to denuclearize North Korea. Kim Jong-un and his regime see nuclear power as a key to their political survival. So, it is unlikely North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons and it becomes critical to negotiate the challenge with all players, including China and Russia, Roehrig says.

North Korea has conducted six nuclear weapons tests since 2006. The latest was in September. The country is also working on its intermediary and long-range missile capabilities, with its stated goal to reach the United States mainland. North Korea has conducted several missile tests in 2017, including two ballistic missile tests over Japan since late August.

The options

In response, the United Nations ratcheted up its economic sanctions on North Korea this fall – restricting North Korea's coal and textile exports and capping the amount of oil it imports coming in from China.

"These could have some bite," Roehrig says. "China is the linchpin here. They are responsible for probably 75 to 80 percent of the North Korean economy. If China doesn't enforce the sanctions, it probably is not going to have the same sort of implication."

But there are limits on how far China is willing to go, he adds. They want neither millions of war refugees from a conflict nor a South Korea-led unified peninsula on their border.

Roehrig says cool heads need to prevail. It’s time to tone down the rhetoric, he adds, and continue reaching out to North Korea to reduce tensions, moving toward a level of stability. And, let tougher sanctions and political pressure from China and Russia have an effect on the Kim regime as well.

"I fully admit that none of this is going to be easy – if there were any easy solutions someone would have already thought of that," Roehrig says.

William Blair private wealth events

William Blair Managing Director Ed Blair, Jr., grandson of the firm's founder, a trustee of the Naval War College Foundation and former Navy officer, and Bill Obenshain, chairman of the Naval War College Foundation Board, provided opening remarks for the clients who attended the event.

The Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island founded in 1884 is the nation's oldest institution of its kind. It offers graduate education for senior members of the Armed Forces and federal agencies including the FBI, CIA, Department of Defense, State Department and Homeland Security.

William Blair's private wealth events provide a forum for investors to explore a variety of wealth management topics. Our wealth professionals work with our financial advisors to provide clients with a comprehensive view of their financial resources, opportunities, and risks.

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