A former U.S. nuclear negotiator on Sunday cast doubt on the prospects of North Korea's denuclearization, saying the communist regime is unlikely to give up its nukes in a potential summit with the United States.
Victor Cha, former Asia director on the White House National Security Council, tamped down expectations that a June 12 meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could lead to a breakthrough in the nuclear conundrum.
"In terms of the substance, the key issue is, are they going to give up their nuclear weapons? And I think, unfortunately, the answer is no," he said in an interview with NBC. "I mean, 56 years ago the North Koreans started landscaping the area where they built this nuclear program. And on Dec. 12 of last year they said we've accomplished what we wanted. So three months later they're all of a sudden going to give it all up? It just doesn't make a lot of sense to me."
Trump and Kim agreed to meet after the North Korean leader expressed a commitment to denuclearization in March. The unprecedented summit between the nations was set for June 12 in Singapore before Trump canceled it last week after North Korea's repeated threats to pull out.
The U.S. president has since said the summit could be back on, and on Sunday confirmed that U.S. officials were in North Korea to continue preparations for the meeting should it happen.
Cha served as deputy head of the U.S. delegation to six-party denuclearization talks with North Korea and currently works as Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington.
What the North Koreans really want, according to Cha, is a peace treaty with the U.S. that would formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.
"They want a peace treaty because it validates them as a nuclear weapon state," he said. "It ensures that Trump won't attack because we were worried about an attack last year. And most importantly, it means money. Not because the United States is going to give money to North Korea, but we are the primary obstacle in places like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, the IMF, where the North Koreans want money." (Yonhap)