- Drew Angerer/Getty Images
- A former top North Korean official believes North Korea will not agree to a US request for a “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization.”
- Thae Yong Ho, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to the UK, said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will not loosen his grip on nuclear weapons.
- The defector said the regime might be looking into tourism projects near coastal areas and eventually seek joint economic projects with South Korea.
An ex-North Korean official suggested that his former country may have a different definition of the term that has been circulating around foreign policy circles ahead of the upcoming summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un: denuclearization.
Thae Yong Ho, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to the UK, said he did not believe Kim would agree to a US request of a “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” due to likelihood that it would “strike at the core of North Korea’s power structure.”
Besides making surprising advances in its missile capabilities in 2017, North Korea’s leadership has focused on peddling its significance to its own society and culture: the regime revised its constitution in 2012 to tout its nuclear ambitions, and despite saying it no longer needs to conduct nuclear tests, its nuclear capabilities still remain an essential part of Kim’s domestic and international clout.
“Kim Jong Un said during a party meeting on April 20 that [nuclear weapons] are a treasured sword for protecting peace,” Thae said to reporters on Monday, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. “He also said that they are the strongest assurance that guarantees the most respected and happiest life on earth.”
“They are, in other words, a sword and a shield for eternal prosperity, prosperity and happiness for generations to come… He will never give them up,” Thae continued.
Thae also noted that North Korea was likely to open its borders to tourism projects near its coast. Thae predicts it would then eventually seek joint economic projects with South Korea, such as the Kaesong Industrial Complex that used to employ North Korean civilians and provided a revenue stream for the regime.
Thae defected from North Korea with his family in 2016. As one of the highest ranking North Korean defectors, Thae frequently rails against Kim and is considered an ardent hawk on North Korea’s conciliatory overtures, even going as far as saying “Kim Jong Un’s days are numbered.”
The US and its allies have focused on the subject of denuclearization following North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests in 2017, a fact the regime knows all too well and will use to leverage its position accordingly. After it promised to dismantle a nuclear test site, satellite imagery indicated that the process was “well underway,” according to North Korea analysis group 38 North.
Trump and Kim are scheduled to meet in Singapore on June 12. The meeting would be the first time a sitting US president and a North Korean leader would meet, and comes after Kim held a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April.