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U.S.-N. Korea diplomacy likely to collapse next year: American expert

North Korea 16:54 November 06, 2019

By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, Nov. 6 (Yonhap) -- The stalled diplomatic process aimed at convincing North Korea to denuclearize could ultimately collapse next year, leading to Pyongyang even restarting nuclear tests, an American expert warned Wednesday.

Joel Wit, a senior fellow at Washington-based think tank Stimson Center, made the case during a conference in Seoul, saying that the latest working-level talks between the two countries in Stockholm showed that a debate over whether to denuclearize might have intensified within North Korea.

The U.S. and North Korea held a working-level meeting in the Swedish capital in early October after months of a stalemate, but the talks broke down again, with Pyongyang accusing Washington of failing to come up with a new proposal.

"The U.S. delegation came prepared for detailed talks. The North Koreans didn't. They were in listening mode almost the whole time," Wit said according to a script for the forum.

"I think the odds are we are approaching a breakdown in the diplomatic process that has been in place over since 2018 and a return, at best, to a standoff with North Korea."

The founder of 38 North, a U.S. website specializing in North Korea analysis, Wit was involved in nuclear negotiations with the North in the 1990s as a then-State Department official.

Stressing the need to take drastic steps to bolster the diplomatic process, Wit said U.S. President Donald Trump should agree to visit Pyongyang for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un once they reach a deal by their negotiators beforehand.

Such a visit would be "politically and symbolically attractive enough" for the North to move the denuclearization process forward, he said.

"The Kim-Trump relationship based on their face-to-face meetings, letters and other contacts may actually count for something," the expert said.

Yet he said preparations are necessary for the North's possible resumption of long-range missile tests that can reach the U.S.

"It might even resume nuclear tests although that would be risky since it might drive the Chinese away," he said.

Joel Wit (C), a senior fellow at Washington-based think tank Stimson Center, poses for a photo during a conference in Seoul hosted by the state-run Korea Institute for National Unification on Nov. 6, 2019. (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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