North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has signaled a willingness to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, but a former high-ranking official is skeptical of the young dictator’s intentions.
“From North Korea’s view, sincerely vowing to dismantle their nuclear program is simply not possible,” Thae Yong Ho, a senior North Korean diplomat who defected two years ago, told the Daily NK. “Nuclear weapons are the last line of defense for Kim Jong Un in maintaining the Kim family regime.” At a talk in Washington, D.C., Thae revealed that these weapons have traditionally been crucial to Kim’s legitimacy.
The Panmunjom Declaration, a joint statement that drafted during Kim’s landmark summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in late last month, the two Koreas agreed to pursue a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula through “complete denuclearization.” In the near future, Kim will meet with President Donald Trump, who is demanding “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.”
Thae says CVID is impossible. “It is only possible to accomplish CVID with a nation that has already been defeated, when their sovereignty is void and your troops occupy their land and can comb through every inch of it. It has never been done with a nation that retains its sovereignty,” he argues, explaining that the North Korea cannot allow that level of foreign access.
“Political prison camps are one such example,” Thae introduced in an interview with Radio Free Asia. “If North Korea accepts, they would eventually have to show the whole world that they have committed crimes against humanity, and would not be able to maintain its current system.” Without full access, the verification process could become a game a of nuclear hide-and-seek.
Thae does, however, believe that Kim would be open to making certain concessions, as he demonstrated by offering to put a moratorium on weapons testing and close the Punggye-ri nuclear test site.
“Maintaining the nuclear weapons that they have thus far created, North Korea can now throw away both the past and future,” he told reporters. “In other words, the North can now give up the facilities used to produce nuclear materials or develop or test these nuclear weapons, and they no longer need to produce or test any additional weapons.”
Thae, who the regime previously denounced as “human scum,” stressed that the Trump administration needs to be wary of attempts by North Korea to rehash past agreements, all of which ultimately failed to produce desired results. He also emphasized the need for continued pressure, noting that sanctions need to be maintained throughout negotiations until they yield fruit.
“Any lifting or easing of sanctions would only be perceived as recognition of their nuclear status,” he explained, adding that “If the system of sanctions which has until now denied North Korea this recognition collapses, they will be well on their way to becoming a legitimate nuclear state, regardless of who refuse to accept reality.”
Looking at the inter-Korean summit held on April 27, Thae optimistically suggested that the current peaceful trajectory may continue, noting that “nobody wants a return to the precarious situation just before this.” As for the possible Trump-Kim summit, he seems to indicate that anything is possible. He says that if the president walks away, North Korea will certainly play the victim.
“North Korea will say this to the world: ‘We sincerely tried for nuclear removal and were ready to accept U.S. requirements, but the U.S. insisted on unreasonable conditions,'” Thae explained, referring to the repeated demand for CVID, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently stated should actually be “permanent, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.”
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