Victor Cha, a former White House official who was recently dropped from consideration for U.S. ambassador to Seoul, expressed skepticism Wednesday about North Korea's offer to discuss its denuclearization with the U.S.
In a piece published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Cha said it is too early to say there has been a breakthrough in the North Korean nuclear impasse.
"North Korea's willingness to talk to the United States is a step forward in averting a crisis, but the formulation conveyed by North Korea of 'denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula' is not new and reflects Pyongyang's desire to achieve the end of U.S. extended deterrence guarantees to its South Korean ally and the attenuation of the current alliance commitment," he wrote in the piece co-authored by CSIS fellow Lisa Collins.
Cha, senior adviser and Korea Chair at CSIS, was commenting on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's reported willingness to give up his nuclear weapons program in exchange for security guarantees. Kim delivered the message during a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in's top national security adviser Monday.
"North Korea's diplomatic overtures must be viewed in the context of its overall byungjin strategy -- which sees national strategic objectives as defined by the development of nuclear weapons and economic development, not a tradeoff of one for the other," Cha wrote. "Thus, Pyongyang's overtures may not represent a watershed change in strategy, but a tactical shift, building on the platform of nuclear weapons to seek economic benefits from the outside world."
Cha, who served on the National Security Council under George W. Bush, said the U.S. and South Korea should prioritize coordination of policy.
"South Korea has said that progress in inter-Korean talks would operate on the principle of 'parallel progress' with U.S.- (North Korea) talks on denuclearization." he said. "Yet, South Korea has already announced a summit (with North Korea) in April without any visible commitment yet by the United States to talks."
U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly wanted Cha as his first ambassador to Seoul but withdrew the nomination after he voiced objections to the administration's considerations of a limited military strike on the North. (Yonhap)