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U.S. should propose comprehensive peace treaty talks with N. Korea: Joel Wit

All News 07:59 June 13, 2016

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, June 12 (Yonhap) -- The United States should increase pressure on North Korea but at the same time make clear its willingness to hold comprehensive negotiations encompassing not only denuclearization, but also a peace treaty and normalization of diplomatic relations, a U.S. expert has said.

Joel Wit, a former State Department negotiator with Pyongyang, made the suggestion in a recent policy suggestion report, stressing that President Barack Obama's policy on the North failed to achieve any progress towards U.S. objectives in the region, and a new approach should be put together to curb the North's nuclear and missile capabilities.

Wit, currently editor of the website 38 North, argued that the U.S. has "set the autopilot button
on a course to further isolate and pressure the North in the wake of its fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range missile test the following month."

But such an approach will only make the situation worse, leading to "more DPRK provocations, a greater risk of conflict and instability on the Korean peninsula, the continued growth of the North's nuclear and missile arsenal, and even new overseas sales and cooperation, particularly with Iran," Wit said.

"To address these threats, the U.S. government needs to ratchet up pressure on the DPRK. At the same time it should make clear to the North and China that Washington is prepared to engage in comprehensive negotiations with the DPRK on a peace treaty to replace the armistice, linked to limiting, reducing and eventually eliminating the threat from North Korea's weapons of mass destruction and normalizing U.S.-DPRK relations," Wit said.

Signing a peace treaty, which would replace the armistice that halted the 1950-53 Korean War, has been one of Pyongyang's long-running goals, but the U.S. and South Korea have demanded the North abandon its nuclear program first.

The issue resurfaced earlier this year after China proposed to pursue peace treaty talks and denuclearization negotiations with North Korea at the same time as a way to defuse tensions heightened in the wake of the North's nuclear and missile tests.

"If the DPRK rejects this offer or returns to the negotiating table but is recalcitrant or negotiates in bad faith, the United States should seek ROK and Japanese support for, and Chinese acquiescence in, additional steps to isolate, pressure and contain North Korea through more aggressive military measures," Wit said.

Wit, currently editor of the website 38 North, also strongly blasted the current U.S. policy, saying it did little to stop the North's nuclear and missile programs from moving forward. Moreover, the communist nation has managed to improve its economy at the same time, he said.

"U.S. policy toward North Korea has reached a dead end. Built upon a foundation of dubious assumptions, the Obama administration's approach ... has failed to achieve any progress toward US objectives in the region and no
longer serves U.S. foreign policy and national security interests," he said.

As a result, the Obama administration has settled into an approach characterized by "limited sanctions that have not forced the North to choose between economic development or the development of nuclear weapons and missiles. Nor have its sanctions significantly affected the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)."

"Limited sanctions are accompanied by limited diplomacy; insisting that Pyongyang meet preconditions before the Six Party Talks can resume has also produced no results," he said.


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