Ex-US envoy touts 'freeze-for-freeze' with N. Korea

By Yonhap
  • Published : Nov 7, 2017 - 09:37
  • Updated : Nov 7, 2017 - 09:37

WASHINGTON -- A former US envoy said Monday that North Korea's nuclear crisis could be resolved through a "freeze-for-freeze" agreement between Washington and Pyongyang.

Bill Richardson, who served as ambassador to the United Nations in the 1990s and played important roles in past dealings with Pyongyang, made the remark as President Donald Trump is in Asia to increase pressure on the regime.

"What's the best diplomatic option? I think it's the freeze for a freeze," he said at a forum here, using the term for a proposal China and Russia have made to de-escalate tensions over the North's nuclear and missile programs.

Bill Richardson (AP)

Under that proposal, South Korea and the US would halt their regular military exercises in exchange for North Korea stopping its nuclear and missile tests. Seoul and Washington have rejected it.

But Richardson said the US could enter into talks with North Korea on the condition that Pyongyang stops its weapons testing for two months. During that period, the US would also suspend some of its military maneuvers near the Korean Peninsula, which North Korea views as an invasion rehearsal.

"Just something (like) that for 30 days, or 60 days, you talk and you see how that goes and maybe start talking about other issues," he said.

Richardson added that he knows the North Korean foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, and he is a "reasonable guy."

"He's the one that says they're going to send the bomb across the Pacific," the former New Mexico governor noted. "He doesn't sound very reasonable to you, but I've talked to him. I think you could deal with him."

He mused that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Ri may already be talking.

"They probably want relief on sanctions. I don't think, unlike his father, this guy wants massive assistance," Richardson said, referring first to former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and then to his son and current leader Kim Jong-un.

"I don't think he wants food assistance. I don't think he wants nuclear power plants. He wants a certain engagement and legitimacy.

The ego is more important than helping his own people." (Yonhap)