If you happen to see the ASU logo on CNN or Fox News, chances are it is on the screen behind Dr. Bruce Bechtol as he gets interviewed about the latest crisis involving North Korea.
A professor in ASU’s Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Security Studies since 2010, Bechtol is a retired U.S. Marine and former Korea analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency. He has written four books on North Korean military and political issues, and his fifth book is due out next summer. As a nationally known expert in his field, his name and number are on the speed-dials of reporters at media all over the world.
So when North Korea timed its first-ever successful launch of a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the morning of July 4 this year, Bechtol’s plans for a family bar-b-que with his wife, Jung-eun, and their daughter, Sara, went straight out the window.
“I was inundated with phone calls all day long,” Bechtol said. “I finally just turned my cell phone off about 11 o’clock that night. First off, it was Fox News, and I also talked to USA Today, Washington Post, Associated Press and the New York Times. There was a bunch.”
“I also talked to several radio shows,” he continued. “Two shows that have me on anytime something is going on with North Korea are the John Batchelor Show and another syndicated show out of San Diego called the Brett Winterble Show. Brett had me on that afternoon, and John had me on that evening.”
Those two radio shows alone broadcasted Bechtol’s interviews to hundreds of radio stations throughout the U.S. Videos and text from his Fox News and Associated Press interviews were picked up by news websites and blogs across the globe.
“Ultimately,” Bechtol said, “all these interviews were from media that wanted me on because a lot of people in their audiences were scared and didn’t know what to expect from all the rhetoric out of North Korea about missiles, nukes and shooting down American planes.”
And the interviews have not let up since. In August, Bechtol was interviewed live on Fox Business News and quoted on various North Korea topics in media that range from Forbes and Mint Press News to the Latin American Post, Periodico ABC (Mexico), DW News (China) and the Jewish Post (Israel). September brought more interviews by CNN, MSN, Fox Business News and many other media.
“Since this summer,” Bechtol said, “I’ve done several interviews with major media like CNN, Fox News, Associated Press, etc. But I also do about a dozen radio interviews a week, so that is what really eats up my time.”
His radio interviews included the BBC (England), Fox News Radio, POTUS on Sirius/XM Radio, and the John Batchelor, Brett Winterble and Frank Gaffney syndicated shows.
In addition to all that media interest, Bechtol is a popular speaker and has been booked for numerous presentations since July 4. Some were as close as Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo or in Houston, and some were as far away as Washington, D.C., and South Korea.
“A lot of what has happened since July 4 is universities and think tanks calling me to go talk about North Korea,” Bechtol said. “They want me to talk about the threats by North Korea and what they can potentially do to us militarily.”
One of Bechtol’s favorite sayings is that he should be kept in a box labeled “Open in Case of Conflict with North Korea.” That box has definitely been opened, and it doesn’t look like it will be closed up anytime soon.
“There aren’t that many Korea specialists in the U.S.,” Bechtol said. “So when there is a crisis with North Korea, there are a few of us that the media turn to. The fact that North Korea has been in a constant state of crisis in its relationship to the U.S. for the past three years is what has gotten me so much attention.”