NATIONAL

US, NK struggle to narrow difference over condition for talks

By Yeo Jun-suk
  • Published : Oct 17, 2017 - 17:41
  • Updated : Oct 17, 2017 - 17:41
With North Korea taking a halt in a series of military provocations and the United States senior officials stressing the need for diplomatic approach, speculation has emerged that the two sides may seek negotiations.

But the prospect of a breakthrough in a monthslong military standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear programs appears to remain slim as Pyongyang and Washington have significant gaps over under what conditions they can resume talks with neither side wanting to narrow the difference for now.

While the US insists on achieving a complete disarmament of North Korea’s nuclear weapon as a precondition for talks, Pyongyang pledges that it will not return to a negotiating table until it develops a long-range ballistic missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

An anonymous North Korean official told CNN on Monday that Pyongyang would not pursue diplomacy with Washington before they can develop an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach “all the way to the East coast of the mainland US.”

“Before we can engage in diplomacy with the Trump administration, we want to send a clear message that the DPRK has a reliable defensive and offensive capability to counter any aggression from the United States,” the official said. 

US President Donald Trump(left) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un(Yonhap)

North Korea‘s deputy UN Ambassador Kim In-ryong said his country’s nuclear and missile arsenal is “a precious strategic asset that cannot be bartered for anything” and that it would never give up those weapon unless the US abandons its “hostile policy and nuclear threat” against Pyongyang.

The Trump administration, however, has reiterated that the US would not pursue dialogue with North Korea unless the reclusive regime abandons its nuclear weapons in a “complete, verifiable and irreversible” manner.

“Don‘t expect us to engage in a bad deal,” said US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley during her interview with Meet the Press, while explaining that the US attempt to revisit its nuclear deal with Iran is designed to send a message to North Korea.

“When you look at the fact of 25 years of botched agreements and negotiations and accountability not kept by North Korea, that’s the whole situation that got us to where we are having to watch day-by-day to see if they do a (ICBM) test going forward.”

Since North Korea was found to be secretly running uranium enrichment in 2002 and provoked a nuclear crisis during the previous George W. Bush administration, Washington has pursued “Complete, Verifiable and Irreversible Dismantlement” of North Korea’s nuclear program.

Robert Gallucci, who served as a chief US negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994 when the US considered a military option against North Korea’s nuclear program, said the regime might have little interest in talks until it secures a reliable ICBM capability that “levels the playing field with the US.”

“Maybe it‘s true that the North has no interest at this moment in having the negotiations that involve its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles,“ Gallucci said during a lecture at Yonsei University, adding that it is “possible” North Korea does not want to negotiate with the US until they prove workable ICBM capability.

While North Korea has showcased its ability to send its ballistic missile to the contiguous US through a series of successful tests in July, whether the regime has secured technology to protect nuclear warheads during the re-entry phase has been in doubt among experts in Seoul and Washington.

White House chief of staff John Kelly, however, noted last week that Pyongyang “is developing a pretty good nuclear re-entry vehicle,” indicating that the North might have achieved technological advances in delivering an ICBM to the US continent.

By Yeo Jun-suk (jasonyeo@heraldcorp.com)