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Trump should never settle for freeze on N.K. nuclear program: U.S. expert

2017/01/31 03:37

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump should never settle for a freeze on North Korea's nuclear programs as it amounts to accepting the communist nation as a nuclear power, a senior American expert on Korea said.

David Straub, a former State Department diplomat handling Korean Peninsula issues, also said in an op-ed piece carried by the newspaper The Hill that the Trump administration should ramp up pressure on Pyongyang to force it to genuine denuclearization talks.

A growing number of experts have called recently for negotiating a freeze on the North's nuclear program as a means to stop the regime from further bolstering its nuclear arsenal, as the regime has significantly accelerated its nuclear development with two nuclear tests last year.

In October, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also said that denuclearizing North Korea "is probably a lost cause" and the best possible solution to the North Korean nuclear issue may be "some sort of a cap" on the regime's nuclear capabilities.

But Straub argued that a freeze is no different from a cap, which means accepting the North as a nuclear state. That would "destroy U.S. credibility not only with its allies in Seoul and Tokyo but throughout the world," and undermine the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, he said.

"In theory, a freeze now would stop Kim Jong-un short of his goal. Freeze supporters thus argue, as Mr. Clapper suggested, that the United States should give Pyongyang 'significant inducements' for its promise to freeze its facilities and not conduct further tests of nuclear devices and long-range missiles," Straub said.

"In truth, a freeze now would just be a cap in disguise. The entire international community would also regard it as such, unlike in earlier years when the North's nuclear capabilities were not as advanced and their elimination was still considered possible," he said.

The expert also said that even if the North agreed to a freeze of its known nuclear facilities, the regime would still be running its nuclear and missile programs at undeclared facilities. Moreover, Pyongyang would be unwilling to accept full verification by outside experts.

Past nuclear deals with the North were all about freezing the program, but all failed, he said.

"What reason is there to believe that another freeze effort now, with North Korea having in the meantime made clear in the strongest terms that it has no intention of giving up nuclear weapons, would fare any better? And even if North Korea agreed to a freeze, how long would we expect it to maintain it this time around?" Straub said.

"Mr. Trump should not be fooled by this mirage, either. He urgently needs to put in place his North Korea team and proceed to apply far greater pressure on Pyongyang until it is prepared to negotiate genuine denuclearization. Only then might a freeze again be worth considering," he said.