Ex-US spy chief calls for diplomatic mission in return for halt in NK tests

By Shin Hyon-hee
  • Published : Jun 26, 2017 - 17:42
  • Updated : Jun 26, 2017 - 17:42
With North Korea bent on pursuing its nuclear program, Washington needs to offer setting up diplomatic representation in each other’s country and demand a halt in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests in return, former US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Monday.

Clapper, who served as the spy chief for 6 1/2 years through November last year, voiced the need for an “alternative approach” to break the drawn-out deadlock on the North’s nuclear issues, referring to the “interest section” the US ran within the Swiss Embassy in Cuba for nearly four decades until it opened its own embassy in July 2015.

This file photo taken on May 8, 2017 shows former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper preparing to testify before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (AFP-Yonhap)

Albeit with a slim chance for now, his idea could help prevent miscalculations stemming from a lack of communication, infuse outside information into the isolated nation and eventually bring about negotiations on a peace treaty, he said.

“(The US) should offer to establish an interest section in Pyongyang ... as a form of diplomatic representation with a government we didn’t recognize. We would, of course, allow a similar presence by North Korea in Washington,” Clapper said at a seminar hosted jointly by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and JoongAng Ilbo daily in Seoul.

“To me, this is the only path to what I might call a soft implosion in North Korea.”

In November 2014, Clapper became the first top sitting US official to visit Pyongyang under the Barack Obama administration, in a visit intended to bring home two US citizens -- Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller.

During the trip, he also held discussions with State Security Minister Kim Won-hong and Reconnaissance General Bureau Director Kim Young-chol. The talks led Clapper to conclude that the Kim Jong-un regime will not give up its nuclear program as it views it as its “tickets to survival,” but was “badly craving” dialogue and political engagement with Washington, he said.

“At least engaging in discussions leading to a peace treaty would relieve that fear of attack, and also deflate one of their major assertions they use to instill fear among their people to justify their grotesque commitment of resources to their military,” said Clapper, who now works at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank.

“I think realistically, all we could demand in return would be to get them to agree to a verifiable stop to their underground nuclear device tests, and their missile tests. This would be a positive move to stop their development of capabilities that have not been fully tested to prove their work.”

But he admitted that his proposal may not be “palatable” to not only Pyongyang but also the Donald Trump administration, in light of a “huge deficit of trust” and in particular the death last week of Otto Warmbier, shortly after his release from the North.

“I’m sure that all of the tragic situation is going to harden the US’ attitude about dealing with North Korea,” Clapper said, calling it an “emblem of egregious treatment” and “cruel nature” of the regime.

“I think all Americans should give a serious thought to visiting North Korea. North Korea uses so-called law and legal system to imprison Americans because it’s leverage for them.”

By Shin Hyon-hee (