Tue, May 15, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Defector doubts North Korea’s intentions

HISTORICAL PATTERN:Pyongyang’s diplomacy has always been a repeat of hardline and appeasement, a former North Korean deputy ambassador who fled in 2016 said

AFP, SEOUL

Thae Yong-ho, who fled his post as North Korean deputy ambassador to Britain in August 2016, speaks as a picture of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un posing with South Korean envoys is displayed on a screen during a press conference for his memoir in Seoul yesterday.

Photo: AFP

North Korea will never completely give up its nuclear weapons, a top defector said ahead of leader Kim Jong-un’s landmark summit with US President Donald Trump next month.

The current whirlwind of diplomacy and negotiations will not end with “a sincere and complete disarmament,” but with “a reduced North Korean nuclear threat,” said Thae Yong-ho, who fled his post as the North’s deputy ambassador to Britain in August 2016.

“In the end, North Korea will remain ‘a nuclear power packaged as a non-nuclear state,’” Thae told the South’s Newsis news agency.

His remarks came ahead of a summit between Kim and Trump in Singapore on June 12 where North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes are expected to dominate the agenda.

North and South Korea affirmed their commitment to the goal of denuclearization of the peninsula at a summit last month, and Pyongyang announced at the weekend it would destroy its only known nuclear test site next week. However, it has not made public what concessions it is offering.

Washington is seeking the “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” (CVID) of the North, adding that verification will be key.

Pyongyang has said it does not need nuclear weapons if the security of its regime is guaranteed.

However, Thae, one of the highest ranking officials to have defected in recent years, said: “North Korea will argue that the process of nuclear disarmament will lead to the collapse of North Korea and oppose CVID.”

The North wanted to ensure Kim’s “absolute power” and its model of hereditary succession, he added, and would oppose intrusive inspections as they “would be viewed as a process of breaking down Kim Jong Un’s absolute power in front of the eyes of ordinary North Koreans and elites”.

At a party meeting last month when Kim proclaimed the development of the North’s nuclear force complete and promised no more nuclear or missile tests, he called its arsenal “a powerful treasured sword for defending peace.”

“Giving it up soon after Kim Jong-un himself labeled it the ‘treasured sword for defending peace’ and a firm guarantee for the future? It can never happen,” Thae said.

In his memoir that hit shelves yesterday, Thae added: “More people should realize that North Korea is desperately clinging to its nuclear program more than anything.”

Tensions on and around the peninsula had been mounting for years as Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs saw it subjected to multiple rounds of increasingly strict sanctions by the UN Security Council, the US, the EU, South Korea and others.

Trump last year threatened the North with “fire and fury.”

North Korea’s sudden change in attitude was probably driven by the mounting international sanctions imposed over its weapons programs that had begun to take a toll on the livelihoods of ordinary citizens, Thae said.

As of last year the UN Security Council sanctions included measures on sectors such as coal, fish, textiles and overseas workers.

“North Korea did not foresee the destructive power of these sanctions,” Thae told the interview. “These sanctions are threatening the livelihoods of millions of North Koreans at the root.”

However, Pyongyang had a long history of making overtures that ultimately came to nothing, he warned.

“North Korea’s diplomacy has always been a repeat of hardline and appeasement,” Thae said.

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