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(Yonhap Interview) Trump must insist on goal of nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula: Gallucci

All Headlines 09:42 April 06, 2018

By Lee Haye-ah and Song Sugyong

WASHINGTON, April 5 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump must use his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to insist that the regime's denuclearization will remain a goal for Washington and its allies, a former U.S. nuclear negotiator said Thursday.

Robert Gallucci, who negotiated a 1994 nuclear freeze deal with Pyongyang, aired his hopes in an interview with Yonhap News Agency ahead of the unprecedented meeting slated for May.

He said he has certain hopes for the summit, rather than expectations.

Robert Gallucci, a former U.S. nuclear negotiator, speaks to Yonhap News Agency at the US-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington on April 5, 2018. (Yonhap)

"My hope is that the meeting will be useful in the sense that there will be an outcome in which both sides agree that continuing contact would be a good idea, engagement would be a good idea, and that looking ahead there will be a process by which professionals from the U.S. side and from the DPRK side would meet to discuss the outstanding issues," said Gallucci, now chairman of the US-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

DPRK is the acronym of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"Second thing is that I would hope that the U.S. side indicated that it had a continuing commitment to negotiate an outcome that included a nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula; that that remained an important objective of the United States," he continued. "This notwithstanding whatever the DPRK may say; that they are willing to consider that or not."

Kim told South Korean officials last month he was committed to denuclearization and hoping to meet with Trump as soon as possible. The U.S. president accepted the offer the day he was briefed by the South Koreans.

What North Korea says about denuclearization "doesn't make as much a difference in the beginning to me as does the U.S. insistence that that be a goal for the United States and its allies in Seoul and Tokyo, particularly," Gallucci said.

The former diplomat also expressed hope that "nothing bad" results from the meeting, given the short preparation time. In most cases, there would be prior diplomatic discussions at lower levels and a series of consultations with allies.

"I don't know how much of this, if any of it, will occur in this case," he said. "So I, therefore, worry that nothing happens that sets us back, such as remarks one side or the other side might make which would be taken as an insult by the other. We don't need that sort of thing at this particular time."

Trump and Kim exchanged heated rhetoric last year as Pyongyang tested its first ballistic missiles capable of striking the U.S. mainland and detonated its sixth nuclear bomb.

The two leaders' unorthodox characters have also been a focal point in the pre-summit public discourse.

"I think everybody's aware that the two principals in the upcoming meeting have a reputation for volatility, have a reputation for spontaneity, and these are not necessarily desirable traits in a negotiation where the stakes go to nuclear weapons and the lives of millions of people," Gallucci said. "So we naturally, I think, anybody who's been observing U.S.-DPRK relations over the last 20 years is worried about these two interlocutors and what might come from a meeting."

Trump has demonstrated in his interactions with other world leaders that he likes to be appreciated for his presence and performance.

"I think flattery is a positive thing. He counts that as a substantive outcome that he values," the expert noted. "So I wouldn't be surprised if the DPRK has noticed this ... and attempts to play a bit to that."

Trump, on the other hand, will be engaging a young leader who wants to be respected for his position.

"I am certainly no friend of the policies of the DPRK, internally or externally, but I don't believe the best way to deal with that is to be insulting, so I hope we can avoid that," Gallucci added.

Asked if Kim can be trusted to follow through on his denuclearization promise, the former negotiator was careful to judge.

"I don't think the word 'trust' belongs in a discussion of the way the United States or any country should proceed in negotiations with the DPRK," he said. "I think there is a track record in which the North Koreans have their own way of evaluating what they're obligated to do and not do. They have a narrative about what happened after the Agreed Framework was negotiated in 1994. We have a narrative that's quite different and quite simply asserts that the North cheated on the deal. We have a narrative about what happened in the 2000s during the George W. Bush presidency. They have their narrative about that. It's different than ours."

Gallucci negotiated the Agreed Framework deal with North Korea that defused the 1993-94 nuclear crisis. The deal called for North Korea to freeze and ultimately dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for political and economic concessions.

The agreement, however, fell through later with the outbreak of the second nuclear crisis in 2012 after the North was found to have been running a clandestine program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.

"I think that anything that's agreed to, and I would be surprised if it was agreed to in this initial meeting, but if anything is eventually agreed to of any importance it seems to me must be accompanied by sufficient provisions of transparency and verification so that both sides can assure themselves that they're getting what they negotiated," Gallucci said.

hague@yna.co.kr
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