UPDATE : 2019.10.14 MON 10:22
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Top U.S. lawmaker voices doubt about N.K. denuclearization

A top Republican congressman on Sunday voiced skepticism that North Korea will abandon its nuclear weapons program despite its stated willingness to do so.

Speaking on Fox News, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the North Koreans have a history of manipulating world opinion.

"It may also be that they have conducted enough nuclear tests, enough missile tests, that they're pretty confident with their capabilities," he said, commenting on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's recent willingness to discuss denuclearization with the U.S. and South Korean leaders.

This file photo shows Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. (Yonhap)

U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday that a date and location have been set for his historic meeting with Kim.

"I'm very skeptical," Thornberry said of the likelihood North Korea will give up all of its nuclear weapons, fuel and missiles in negotiations with the U.S. "What it also means is inspections to make sure they do not restart a program. So I think you can hope for the best, but we have to prepare for the worst."

Thornberry also said the North appears to be launching a public relations offensive amid growing international sanctions against the regime.

"I have no doubt their hope is to divide us from our allies in South Korea, to ease some of the sanctions, to ease the pressure coming from China so that they are not so isolated in the world," he said. "So there's a military aspect and then there's a world opinion aspect of what's going on here."

Last week the New York Times reported that Trump had ordered the Pentagon to prepare options for drawing down American troops stationed in South Korea.

Trump later said the issue is "not on the table" in his upcoming talks with the North Korean leader.

North Korea has long viewed the 28,500-strong U.S. force as a threat to its regime, and is widely expected to seek concessions in return for the dismantling of its nuclear program.

"At the end of the day, maybe," Thornberry said of the possibility of a troop reduction following the signing of a peace treaty between the Koreas. "And the president may be dangling a carrot out there to try to entice the North Koreans."

If North Korea voluntarily, permanently and verifiably gives up its nuclear program, "we can talk about troop reductions," he said. "But in the meantime, we have to be militarily strong." (Yonhap)

Kim Sua  edt@koreapost.com

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