The United States under President Obama has focused on halting and then gradually deteriorating North Korea's nuclear weapons development program, the Yonhap News Agency on Friday quoted a former administration East Asia specialist as stating in a new book (see GSN, March 8).
"Many of us believed that the most likely long-term solution to the North's nuclear pursuits lay in the North's collapse and absorption into a South-led reunified Korea," according to former National Security Council senior director for East Asian affairs Jeffrey Bader.
"A strategy was still needed to slow down, freeze and degrade the North Korean program until history could take its course" and a permanent solution reached for North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions, Bader wrote in his book, "Obama and China's Rise."
The Obama administration last week potentially secured implementation of the first part of that strategy by hammering out a food assistance deal with Pyongyang that would see the aspiring nuclear plower halt uranium enrichment and other atomic operations at the Yongbyon complex and halt nuclear and long-range missile tests.
Implementation of the so-called Leap Day Deal needs to be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which this week said it has not yet received an invitation by the North to resume inspections. North Korea in 2009 ejected inspectors from the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
The bilateral deal has been seen as a possible step toward resumption of six-nation negotiations on North Korean denuclearization. The six-party talks, last held in December 2008, encompass China, Japan, both Koreas, Russia and the United States.
Washington was firm that the talks would not be restarted until Pyongyang offered serious signs that it was ready to move toward a nuclear shutdown, according to the book. "Notably a freeze on nuclear tests, a freeze on ballistic missile tests, a verifiable freeze on its claimed uranium enrichment program as monitored by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, a commitment to the 2005 joint statement and a pledge to honor the Korean War Armistice" (Lee Chi-dong, Yonhap News Agency
, March 8).
Bader also stated that the United States received an advance warning of North Korea's May 2009 nuclear test, Yonhap reported.
"In April the North Koreans sent Washington a private message making several threats: to explode a nuclear device, to develop an ICBM capable of reaching the United States, to enrich uranium to enable them to develop a light-water reactor," Bader wrote.
Even though the Obama administration issued a "strong warning" of retaliatory measures, Pyongyang the next month conducted its second nuclear device explosion.
After North Korea in April 2009 conducted what was widely to be seen as a test of its long-range ballistic missile technology, Washington "considered a range of military options to deal with the highly unlikely contingency that the North's missile might be equipped with a warhead and be aimed at American territory," the book states (Yonhap News Agency II/Korea Times
, March 9).
Washington could have to give up its longer-term hopes for a complete atomic shutdown in North Korea and settle for a halt on Pyongyang's nuclear arms development, one issue expert stated on Thursday.
Koomkin University analyst Andrei Lankov said, "Under no circumstances will the North Korean government consider relinquishing its hard-won nuclear capabilities," the Korea Times reported.
"Sooner or later, one would expect the United States to relent and provide the North with regular 'compensation' for its willingness to freeze its nuclear program, without surrendering existing nukes," Lankov predicted in a post on the Foreign Policy
website (Kim Young-jin, Korea Times
, March 8).
Separately, there has been no hint whether the senior North and South Korean representatives to the six-party talks have met face-to-face during a security forum both men are attending this week in New York, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
Talks between North Korean diplomat Ri Yong Ho and his South Korean counterpart, Lim Sung-nam could provide a chance for the two states to begin improving bilateral relations, which Washington has said is essential for any resumption of the six-nation talks. The security forum, which ends on Friday, is closed to the press (Matthew Pennington, Associated Press/Google News
, March 8).
Elsewhere, the U.S. and South Korean militaries on Friday concluded a yearly exercise, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Key Resolve included 2,100 U.S. military personnel and 200,000 South Korean troops and lasted for 12 days. At the onset of the exercise, Pyongyang released typically harsh rhetoric warning of punitive attacks on the South (Xinhua News Agency
, March 9).
South Korean military personnel on Thursday conducted live ammunition drills not far from a land boundary with North Korea, Agence France-Presse reported.
Army Chief of Staff Kim Sang-ki observed the live-fire drills and told participating troops: "We must hit back strongly and promptly if provoked by the enemy."
Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin made his own visit to a South Korean missile attachment, where he encouraged troops to be in "full readiness" to carry out counterattacks following aggression by the North (Agence France-Presse/Google News
, March 8).