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Ex-negotiator Hill: Resumption of talks with N. Korea would end up accepting it as nuclear power

All News 04:05 September 30, 2016

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) -- Resuming talks with North Korea in the wake of its fifth nuclear test would end up recognizing the communist nation as a nuclear state and further embolden the regime, a former chief U.S. nuclear negotiator with Pyongyang said Thursday.

Former Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who served as lead negotiator for the six-party nuclear talks with the North from 2005 to 2009, also stressed in an article to the Project Syndicate that now is not the time for such conciliatory gestures, but to tighten sanctions on Pyongyang through greater cooperation with China.

The North's Sept. 9 nuclear test has brought not only calls for tougher punishment for Pyongyang, but it also for reopening negotiations with the North, even in exchange for some concessions to the regime, in order to stop any further progress in the North's nuclear and missile programs.

"The logic behind such suggestions seems to come down to, 'What have we got to lose?' The answer is simple: plenty. Such talks ... would most likely bring with it a general acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear-weapons state," Hill said.

Moreover, Hill said that the North would be unlikely to engage in any such talks, much less impose a moratorium on weapons tests, unless some of their longstanding demands, such as the suspension of joint military exercises by the U.S. and South Korea, were met.

"This Realpolitik approach, some seem to believe, will somehow diminish whatever power the North Koreans wield, essentially disarming them. But the truth is that the North has done nothing to earn such appeasement," he said. "And, in fact, if the international community were to make any such conciliatory gestures, the result would be a bolder North."

The North has long demanded an end to joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea, denouncing such routine drills as a rehearsal for invasion, despite repeated assurances from Washington and Seoul that the exercises are purely defensive.

Hill said such exercises are an essential part of any alliance and should continue.

"If two countries agree to mutual defense, they need to ensure that their cooperation is practiced and perfected. That is precisely why North Korea, which knows a thing or two about the need for tests and exercises, has made the issue a top propaganda priority," he said.

Hill said the U.S. government has been right in demanding any talks with Pyongyang be based on previous deals, including a 2005 denuclearization deal, which he negotiated and calls for the North to abandon its nuclear programs in exchange for political and economic concessions.

Launching new talks that ignored past obligations would cast doubt on the "viability of any new accord," he said.

"What is needed is more cooperation with China on sanctions enforcement, as well as deep and quiet talks with the Chinese that aim to address any strategic mistrust over the eventual political arrangements on the Korean Peninsula," Hill said.

"The U.S. should also continue to strengthen its security relations with Japan and South Korea, including by developing and deploying anti-ballistic missile systems. Direct measures like those that were allegedly used to hamper Iran's nuclear program should be explored and accelerated," he said.

jschang@yna.co.kr
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