(ATTN: ADDS comments on end of war declaration in paras 6-9, 2nd photo)
By Choi Soo-hyang
SEOUL, Dec. 1 (Yonhap) -- A proposal by the incoming U.S. administration of President-elect Joe Biden to hold working-level talks with North Korea can be a "good starting point" to resume the long-stalled nuclear negotiations, a former U.S. intelligence official said Tuesday.
Andrew Kim, who retired as the chief of the Central Intelligence Agency's Korea Mission Center in 2018, made the remark during a webinar on the South Korea-U.S. alliance, saying the North appears to be waiting to see what the Biden camp will say while staying silent on the U.S. election result.
"I personally believe, knowing a little bit about them, dealing with them for the last couple of years, if somebody from Biden's camp comes out and says, we are willing to sit down with North Korea in a working level, expert level conversation as a starting point, I think that will definitely give good vibes to North Korea," he said. "I think that can be a good starting point."
The assessment came as North Korea has stayed mum on Biden's election as the next U.S. president. Pyongyang has usually mentioned or issued a statement within a few days of previous U.S. presidential elections.
"I think the North Koreans are waiting to see what the Biden camp will say, and they are just gonna wait to see -- I'm sure they have a couple of other plans that they want to launch -- but they want to see what kind of comments the leadership of the new administration will say," the former intelligence official said.
On Seoul's push to declare a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, Kim warned there are "several risks" associated with "hastily" announcing such a statement.
"It may open opportunity for North Korea and China to challenge the basis of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) presence in Korea," he said. "It also may increase the South Korean domestic, politically charged arguments to oppose maintaining USFK presence."
North Korea also appears to have started to lose enthusiasm about signing such a declaration over time, according to the former U.S. official.
"At this point, I'm not sure that they are really enthusiastic about that," Kim said.
The denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea remain stalled since their second summit in Hanoi collapsed without a deal last year.
Biden has said he would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un only on the condition that Kim agrees to reduce his country's nuclear capabilities.
In October, North Korea held a massive military parade, showing off a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and other weapons, with Kim vowing to continue strengthening the country's self-defense "war deterrent."
South Korea's former Defense Minister Han Min-koo said Seoul and Washington should focus on the North's new strategic weapons, keeping in mind the possibility of the North succeeding in developing nuclear weapons capable of carrying multiple warheads.
"As we have experienced in the past, the North could carry out provocations, such as an ICBM launch, around Joe Biden's inauguration to raise its stakes ahead of the resumption of the denuclearization negotiations with the new U.S. administration," the former minister said, adding that strong sanctions should remain in place to pressure Pyongyang.
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