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(LEAD) U.S., S. Korea must remain firm and flexible in dealing with N. Korea: Hwang

North Korea 00:54 May 08, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with additional remarks from Hwang, more information in last 3 paras)
By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, May 7 (Yonhap) -- The United States and South Korea must remain firm in their commitment to denuclearize North Korea, though some flexibility may be needed to advance denuclearization negotiations with Pyongyang, a former South Korean prime minister said Friday.

Hwang Kyo-ahn also noted the North will likely continue to stage military provocations for the time being.

"In particular, South Korea and the United States must firmly refuse token agreements that simply freeze North Korea's nuclear capabilities at the current level," the former prime minister and acting president of South Korea said in a webinar hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank.

"Although there may be a need for flexible alternatives for progress in negotiations, the U.S. and South Korea must reaffirm their goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement or CVID when it comes to the North's nuclear capabilities," he added.

The captured image shows former South Korean Prime Minister and acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn speaking in a webinar hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington on May 7, 2021. (Yonhap)

Hwang welcomed the outcome of the United States' recently concluded North Korea policy review, which places diplomacy at the forefront of joint efforts to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons.

U.S. President Joe Biden has also said the U.S. will work closely with allies such as South Korea to completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula through diplomacy and deterrence.

"I welcome the Biden administration's policy to emphasize solidarity with U.S. allies. South Korea and the United States must not accept North Korea as a nuclear state," said Hwang.

North Korea has reacted with dismay to the new U.S. policy, accusing Biden of making a "big blunder" and threatening to create a "worse and worse crisis" for the United States.

Hwang said the North will likely stage military provocations, partly to boost its bargaining power but also to see the outcome of South Korea's presidential election, to be held early next year.

"When considering that the Biden administration is in its early days, and with the South Korean presidential election less than a year away, North Korea appears to be likely to resume its nuclear and missile provocations, aiming to enhance its bargaining power," he said.

Hwang had largely stayed away from politics since the crushing defeat of the then-main opposition United Future Party, which he headed, in the 2020 parliamentary elections.

He has recently hinted at his return to politics, which many believe also signals his intention to run for president in the upcoming election. He is currently on a weeklong visit to Washington at the invitation of the CSIS.

"Both South Korea and the U.S. must squarely face the fact that the North Korean nuclear crisis can not be resolved easily," said Hwang.

"In other words, that means we must move away from a delusion that there is a shortcut to achieving denuclearization. Instead, both South Korea and the United States must consistently employ sanctions and engagement with patience based on a strategic view in order to thwart North Korea's ambition to become a nuclear state," he added.

Hwang also stressed the importance of multilateral efforts to denuclearize North Korea.

To this end, he voiced a need for his country to join the U.S.-led multilateral forum in the Indo-Pacific region, known as the Quad, that currently involves Australia, India and Japan.

"The Republic of Korea, which is an ally and partner of the United States in a mutual defense treaty, must join the Quad Plus and further seek to transform the Quad Plus by expanding it to a five-way alliance structure, Penta, at least for the complete denuclearization of North Korea and improvement of its human rights conditions," he said.


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