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Expert's view: Prof. Charles Armstrong on North Korea Updated: 2015-07-28 20:27:18 KST

"Do you think the latest nuclear deal with Iran could provide an opportunity for North Korea to rethink about re-engaging with Washington?"

"Well, North Korea is the only one of these three left that Obama talked about at the beginning of his administration. He's opened up the door to Cuba, we now have a deal with Iran to halt its nuclear program and it would be a fantastic opportunity for President Obama to leave as his legacy an improved relationship with North Korea. North Korea is far more advanced than Iran was and it has stated repeatedly it does not wish to and will not negotiate away its nuclear weapons. Now that doesn't mean that the denuclearization of North Korea is impossible. But it will take a different kind of negotiation than has been done between Washington and Pyongyang in the past."

"What crucial steps should both Washington and Pyongyang take?"

"One could imagine a deal in which both sides agree on the ultimate denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as a long term goal. But in the meantime, as negotiations are under way, that North Korea would freeze its nuclear program. I think we have to start with that point now. It's too late to go back to the older position of simply telling North Korea it has to give up its nuclear program. By the way that's not going to happen."

"There are reports of mid-ranking North Korean officials defecting because of Kim Jong-un's so-called fear policy. Is this a sign of instability?"

"It reminds me of his grandfather's purges in the late 1950s which also terrified many of the people surrounding Kim Il-sung and a lot of those went into exile to China and Russia and so on. But this did not lead in the 1950s as we know to the collapse of the regime. So this in fact can be Kim Jong-un's way of consolidating his power. But it also has negative potential outcomes as well. So we'll have to see where this goes."

"President Park Geun-hye has been pushing for the so-called trust-building process with North Korea. Do you think maybe there is a need for a new approach?"

"I think that at this point, bold steps are necessary. I think we have been waiting a long time for a breakthrough. This hasn't happened and perhaps it's time to do something more dramatic to really reach out in a very significant way and to have a summit meeting and to have a very high-level set of talks and to really get the diplomacy between Pyongyang and Seoul back on track. It's been a very slow and difficult time for the last five years on the Korean Peninsula. I think that perhaps a new approach is necessary."
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