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N. Korea unwilling to give up nuclear ambition: former U.S. diplomat

All Headlines 16:26 November 16, 2009

By Tony Chang

SEOUL, Nov. 16 (Yonhap) -- North Korea does not have any intention of abandoning its nuclear ambitions in the near future, a former senior U.S. diplomat said Monday, forecasting that an upcoming meeting between Washington and Pyongyang will do little to resolve stalled multilateral denuclearization talks.

David Straub, associate director of the Korean Studies Program at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University, said at a seminar in Seoul that the U.S. representative for North Korea policy will basically "convey a short and simple message" to the country's leaders during his visit.

North Korea has hinted at a possible return to the six-party talks, which also involve South Korea, China, Japan and Russia, contingent on its bilateral talks with the U.S.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly recently announced that Stephen Bosworth will go to Pyongyang between "the end of this month or the beginning of December" to woo the North back to the six-party talks.

Straub, a former U.S. diplomat and one-time head of the Korea desk at the State Department, recently accompanied former U.S. President Bill Clinton on a trip to Pyongyang to negotiate the release of two U.S. journalists.

The message, according to Straub, is that the U.S. is "prepared to strike a deal with North Korea to end its nuclear program in exchange for normalized relations ... a peace regime and provision of economic assistance."

Straub, however, predicted that the North will not accept the offer, saying that North Koreans will not seriously consider giving up their nuclear weapons and the U.S. is unlikely to fall for Pyongyang's "salami tactic" of dividing its denuclearization process into a multitude of bargaining chips and demanding incentives for each of them.

"What does this mean? It probably means a long stalemate. I see no indication that North Korea, in the foreseeable future, is prepared to give up its nuclear weapons programs on terms that the U.S. will find politically acceptable."

He also predicted that the current U.S. government won't consider any military option on North Korea.

"I don't anticipate war. The Obama administration is smart enough to realize that a military option is not a practical thing because of the security of our South Korean ally," he said, adding that any option resulting in a disaster for South Korea will result in a "political disaster" for any U.S. president.

Straub also predicted that South Korea may play an increasingly important role in shaping the outcome of the denuclearization talks.

"There is no country in the world that spends more time, resources and worries more about North Korea than South Korea," Straub said, noting that Seoul's role is expected to increase even more, "in part because the gap with North Korea is going to continue to grow."

"The U.S. governments, now and in the future, will pay very very close attention to the attitudes of South Korea, because South Korea is very important. And increasingly China will too."


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