Asia Pacific

North Korea offering 'no-strings' nuclear talks: U.S. expert

by Alastair Wanklyn

Staff Writer

North Korea may be offering nuclear talks pretty much without preconditions, a U.S. expert who took part in negotiations with Pyongyang has said.

Former U.S. State Department North Korea specialist Robert Carlin said Pyongyang this month set out five preconditions that demand little of Washington but appear to be a serious offer to place its arsenal on the table.

Writing on the Pyongyang-watching website 38 North, Carlin said the announcement was met with silence on the U.S. side, perhaps because Washington was preoccupied at the time with trumpeting new sanctions against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The North’s official Korean Central New Agency on July 6 listed the preconditions, including a guarantee that the U.S. would not use nuclear weapons against it.

“If such security guarantees come true,” KCNA quoted a government spokesman as saying, “the DPRK will also take steps in response to it, and a decisive breakthrough will be made in realizing the denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.”

Carlin said the no-strike demand is easily met, not least because the U.S. offered a comparable security guarantee to Pyongyang in 2005.

“Of course, no one will know what ‘corresponding measures’ might be unless someone asks,” Carlin wrote.

The four other conditions are:

The disclosure of U.S. nuclear weapons in the South (Carlin said these do not exist)

Nuclear bases be dismantled under observation (In 1992, the U.S. “generally accepted” the idea of North Korean inspections, Carlin wrote)

Never deploy “nuclear strike” means in South Korea (this may refer to hardware)

Declare the withdrawal of troops authorized to use nuclear weapons (Carlin said this applies to few troops, if any)

In summary, KCNA said denuclearization should apply to all of South Korea “and its vicinity.”

“At this point, there is no need to stumble over what is meant by ‘and its vicinity,’ ” Carlin wrote. “This is an accordion term, and will doubtlessly end up being expanded or contracted.”

The U.S. sanctions, also announced July 6, were in response to continued weapons tests by Pyongyang.

It has fired 31 ballistic missiles over the past five years, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Wednesday. It estimated that this has cost $97 million, noting that it is twice the total launched when Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, was in power.

The tally includes 16 short-range Scuds, 12 midrange Rodongs and Musudans — six of each, and three missiles purportedly launched from a submarine, Yonhap said. All such tests are prohibited by the United Nations Security Council.

The North is concurrently waging a soft-power battle with the South, albeit quirkily.

It maintains a heavy schedule of music and propaganda broadcast in English, Japanese and Spanish on shortwave radio and on Wednesday Yonhap said bags containing propaganda leaflets were found floating in a river that crosses the border and flows to Seoul.

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