Former US Diplomat: No Talks With N. Korea Imminent

Posted June 8th, 2012 at 6:20 pm (UTC-5)
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A former senior U.S. diplomat involved in negotiations on North Korea's nuclear disarmament says he does not expect the six-party talks to resume in the near future.

James Kelly, who served as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs between 2001 and 2005, told VOA that Pyongyang's recent rocket launch is only one reason.

“But more important is that the United States is going through an election process at this time, and that to negotiate simply to have the picture of negotiations is something I think the Obama administration does not believe is going to be particularly effective. I don't think they are likely to occur and for the North Korean side, they (North Korean leaders) always seem to go into a kind of shell when there is an American election year. They always have hopes that the new people are going to be better. But the fact is that there is a very broad consensus about distastefulness of North Korea's government in the subjugation and the starvation of its people in the United States and every (U.S.) president comes in with only a slightly different attitude.”

Kelly, who has participated in several six-party sessions, also says that Pyongyang is unlikely to give up its nuclear arms programs because they are ingrained in the government's military policy and they are the only achievement by the government that has nothing else to be proud of. He says North Korea needs food, fuel and money and is using the nuclear weapons threat as a leverage to get what it needs.

“North Korea wants attention and reward. I think that North Korea's is not a stupid leadership, that they know if they were to actually use nuclear weapons, such terrible destruction on any place whether it be South Korea, Japan, somehow the United States through providing fission material to terrorism, that the retaliation would be terrible and would be complete. And so they obtain nuclear weapons to get attention and to obtain the rewards that they feel that they need to have (in order) to remain as the country that they are.”

Kelly says the United States and other countries negotiating with North Korea need to exercise patience and watch for internal changes in the country. He says its imminent collapse is not likely, but it will probably happen in the future. In the meantime, he says the U.S. government should work with its allies in the region and keep China involved because of its influence, albeit limited, on its communist neighbor. He says the United States should ensure that the ultimate solution for the Korean peninsula comes from the Koreans who live there.