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Trump says effort to denuclearize N. Korea should go on

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Swanton, Ohio on Sept. 21, 2020. (AP-Yonhap)
President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Swanton, Ohio on Sept. 21, 2020. (AP-Yonhap)

US President Donald Trump said countries should continue to work to denuclearize North Korea, in written greetings delivered to the 2020 International Atomic Energy Agency’s general conference on Monday.

For the IAEA event, which opened Monday and runs through Friday in Vienna, the US leader also discussed Iran, saying it was important to make sure it commits to its nonproliferation promises and seeks no nuclear weapons. 

The US was moving to sanction individuals and groups tied to Iran’s nuclear weapons programs. Tehran and Pyongyang have resumed long-range missile cooperation, including the transfer of critical parts, a senior US official was quoted as saying by Reuters on Monday.

In a separate video message to the IAEA general assembly, US Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette echoed similar sentiments.

“We urge North Korea to join us in negotiations toward this objective (denuclearization) -- thereby ensuring a brighter future for the North Korean people.”

Rafael Grossi, the IAEA chief, reiterated in his opening speech what he had told the IAEA board members a week prior: North Korea’s nuclear activities pose a serious concern.

“The continuation of the country’s nuclear program is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable,” he said, urging the North to address questions involving its nuclear activities during the absence of UN nuclear inspectors.

The isolated North is suspected of having carried on with its nuclear activities after expelling UN inspectors in April 2009.

Meanwhile, experts offered divergent views on how the recent US resumption of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear weapons program would affect the stalled nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

“I think the most troubling thing is, it raises questions about US seriousness about a rules-based order,” Robert A. Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Voice of America.

The US and five countries -- Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China -- signed a nuclear deal with Iran in 2015, but Washington abandoned the accord in 2018 citing Tehran’s default, and has restored its own sanctions including an arms embargo on Iran.

Manning said that North Korea could question deals it strikes with the US.

On the other hand, Ken Gause, a senior foreign leadership analyst at US analysis group CNA, was more optimistic.

“I think that this is a clear signal from the United States that there is a way of negotiating sanctions relief,” he told VOA, noting the Trump administration made it known a “snapback” was now an option on the table. Washington was not enthusiastic about seeking that choice in nuclear talks with Pyongyang.

But some experts remained neutral, saying the latest US gesture would not bring much change in the deadlocked Washington-Pyongyang nuclear negotiations.

Gary Samore, a former White House coordinator for arms control, told VOA that North Korea was already distrustful of the US. He added that the communist regime and Iran were not the same, in that leader Kim Jong-un had met with Trump to discuss disarmament, with senior-level talks still in place.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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