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Direct talks prove to be only way to defuse nuclear tension: U.S. expert

2016/12/08 13:00

SEOUL, Dec. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States have used sanctions and punitive measures to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons program, but there is no evidence that the efforts have changed Pyongyang's behavior "in a positive way," a renowned U.S. expert on Korean affairs said Thursday.

Of the four major methods, including sanctions that have been implemented to make the North give up its nuclear ambitions, direct talks have proven to be the only way to help defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula, said Bruce Cumings, chair professor at the University of Chicago, during a seminar held in Seoul.

The seminar was organized to commemorate the 16th anniversary of late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts toward reconciliation with the North. Cumings is known for his deep understanding of and expertise on Korean affairs.

"The U.S. and its South Korean ally have pursued four methods to stop the North Korean nuclear program: sanctions, regime change, waiting endlessly for the regime to collapse and direct talks," Cumings said.

"Only one of these methods has ever worked," he noted, referring to direct talks. "North Korea has been sanctioned in every possible way since the Korean War, and there is no evidence that this changed their behavior in a positive way."

   As a prime example, he cited former U.S. President Jimmy Carter's "courage" to go to Pyongyang to hold a meeting with Kim Il-sung in the early 1990s, when the North's nuclear crisis broke out.

"Direct talks worked to defuse what probably would've been the second Korean War in June 1994, when President Bill Clinton authorized a pre-emptive strike on the North's plutonium facilities," he said. "Former President Jimmy Carter had the courage to cut through all the decades of nonsense and go directly to Pyongyang for talks with Kim Il-sung."

   He praised, in particular, late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung for his signature "sunshine policy" under which his administration pursued reconciliation and cooperation with the North.

"I was amazed on that warm and sunny day in February 1998, when President Kim mounted the podium and completely transformed the Republic of Korea's strategy toward the North," he said.

"At his inauguration, he pledged to actively pursue reconciliation and cooperation with North Korea, seek peaceful coexistence, and declared his support for Pyongyang's attempts to better relations with Washington and Tokyo," he added.

Meanwhile, reviewing what the U.S. has done over the past decades in response to the North's pursuit of nuclear weapons, he said that it has ended up a failure and that it is "ridiculous" to deny the fact that the North has now become a nuclear state.

"In the quarter century... American policy toward North Korea has added up to a stew of patent absurdities and one clear outcome: North Korea is now a nuclear weapons state," he said.

"Now, after several successful nuclear tests (by the North), Washington is in the ridiculous position of saying that we will never recognize North Korea as a nuclear weapons state."