Sat, Nov 01, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Top-ranking defector says Pyongyang not to be trusted

REUTERS , WASHINGTON

North Korea's highest-ranking defector told US lawmakers on Thursday that Pyongyang's isolated government is "profoundly unstable" and cannot be trusted to adhere to a new nuclear weapons deal.

Representative Christopher Cox quoted Hwang Jang-yop, the 81-year-old former confidant of the late Kim Il-sung,and a mentor to Kim's son and successor, Kim Jong-il as saying: "The regime, albeit it takes great pains to show us it is stable, is in fact profoundly unstable."

"In his view, Kim Jong-il controls directly only about 300 people at the top of the pyramid," Cox, who heads the US House of Representatives Republican Policy Committee, told reporters.

Hwang, answering questions through an interpreter, was critical of President George W. Bush's offer of a security guarantee to Pyongyang in the context of six-party negotiations under which the North would be required to verifiably dismantle its nuclear weapons programs.

"Perhaps you can say, ``Kim Jong-il we'll leave you alone if you stop your nuclear program.' I don't think there is righteousness in that. On top of that, I don't think any promise that is made by Kim Jong-il would be of any significance," Hwang said.

"I don't understand how we can guarantee the continued existence of a dictator that abuses human rights and how that can actually be democratic," he said.

In an interview with NBC News, Hwang called North Korea a greater threat to the US than Osama bin Laden because Kim Jong-il has nuclear warheads and bin Laden does not.

Asked why he was convinced that the North Korean leader might actually use a nuclear weapon, Hwang responded: "I don't think it is reasonable to state that anyone would make nuclear warheads just for the purpose of using them as a bargaining chip. If he feels that is needed, then he would use it."

Hwang is making his first visit to Washington since escaping North Korea six years ago.

The former secretary of the ruling North Korean Workers' Party has been kept under heavy guard by the South Korean government since he defected during a visit to China in 1997, leaving his family behind.

The trip is considered sensitive because it took so long to persuade Seoul to let Hwang visit the US and because it occurs as China is trying to bring the North back into talks on the nuclear issue.

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