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U.S. expert calls for new form of N.K. nuclear talks with additional topic of arms control

All Headlines 04:07 November 13, 2015

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the U.S. should consider replacing the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program with a smaller group that also deals with arms control in addition to denuclearization, a U.S. expert said Thursday.

Van Jackson, a former Pentagon strategist who currently serves as an associate professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, made the point in an email to Yonhap News Agency, stressing the top priority should be to first curb the progress in the North's nuclear program before denuclearization.

"I agree with the Obama administration's view that a change of negotiating format is unlikely to denuclearize North Korea. However, the question before us is not how to denuclearize North Korea, but how to curb its nuclear progress," Jackson said.

"Do we allow North Korea to develop a secure second-strike nuclear capability (which is what the current policy impasse will lead to)? Or do we seek the freeze, inspection, and gradual rollback of its nuclear program? Do we make the Korean Peninsula a violent and risky place, or a strategically stable place?" he said.

Jackson first proposed the idea of a new form of nuclear talks last week, saying in an article contributed to the magazine National Interest that Seoul and Washington should consider "new models for regional diplomacy, including replacing the defunct six-party talks format with a smaller group that considers conventional arms control in addition to denuclearization."

The six-party talks have been dormant since late 2008. North Korea demands the unconditional resumption of negotiations, while the U.S. says that Pyongyang must first take concrete steps demonstrating its denuclearization commitments before formal negotiations resume.

"U.S. North Korea policy, and even Sung Kim's most recent statements, make it sound like time is on our side; that the passage of time will benefit the alliance and hurt North Korea. But this is clearly not true," Jackson told Yonhap, referring to Amb. Sung Kim, special representative for North Korea policy.

"The passage of time further limits alliance options and allows North Korea's nuclear and missile capability to mature -- very dangerous," he said. Jackson also said that the current U.S. policy is "quite principled, but strategically untenable."

The expert stressed that the strategic priority should be to halt the North's nuclear program, which he said can be achieved through preventive strikes and coercive threats, or through some type of engagement process.

North Korea has often demanded arms control talks with the U.S., claiming it's already become a nuclear power. Washington and Seoul have flatly rejected the demand, repeatedly emphasizing that they would never recognize Pyongyang as a nuclear state.

Jackson said adding the topic of arms control to a new form of nuclear talks could attract the North's interest.

"I believe there's an admittedly small chance that NK might entertain arms control talks that will slow and possibly halt its current progress. For us to enter such talks is not to abandon our goal of denuclearization; it's a practical way of moving closer to that goal," he said. "If North Korea refuses to enter such talks or the talks go nowhere, what have we sacrificed? The principle of denuclearization remains intact."

Chances of the U.S. considering an alternative to the six-party talks appear low, however.

Amb. Kim said earlier this week that it is "irrelevant" to talk about the format of negotiations when Pyongyang has shown no interest in talks. Kim also said that there is value in maintaining the six-party format in that it was in the talks that a 2005 denuclearization deal was reached.


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