DOUBTS ON NORTH KOREA TALKS
A senior administration official told reporters this week that North Korea’s latest overture on resuming nuclear talks is being viewed cautiously by White House national security officials. The main worry is that the North Koreans will engage in nuclear talks solely as a means of reducing the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Pyongyang.
The administration of President George W. Bush made concessions in a bid to coax the North Koreans into denuclearizing, including lifting some sanctions and removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The North Koreans pocketed the concessions and eventually walked away from the talks — all the while building up its nuclear warheads and missiles.
“The president’s policy, all along, since the earliest days of this administration, has been one of pursuing maximum pressure against North Korea in order to change their calculus and help them understand that denuclearization is the only path to a better outcome for North Korea,” the official said, adding that the administration has always kept the door open for talks.
In the past, North Korea has attached “nonstarter conditions” for talks, such as liquidating the U.S. alliance with South Korea and removing troops from the peninsula.
“What we are looking for is concrete steps toward denuclearization, not a rehashing of old positions that did not lead to that outcome,” the official said.
On North Korea’s offer to halt missile tests in exchange for new talks, the official suggested that would not be enough.
“Even if North Korea were to refrain from test-launching missiles, they still have an enormous industry that is proceeding apace with building, to borrow the words of their leader, mass-producing nuclear warheads and missiles,” the official said.
“That could continue in the absence of them not doing test launches,” the official added.
If North Korea wants to hold nuclear talks to buy time for further weapons development, then “the talks are not going to get far,” the official said.
“We’ve seen that movie before, we’ve seen it several times, and we’re not about to make the latest sequel in a movie with a very bad ending.”