US says North Korea’s policy unchanged after nuclear remarks raise eyebrows

People watch a television program showing a file image of a North Korean missile launch at Seoul train station on October 28, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea. South Korea’s military said North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) toward the South China Sea on Friday, as Seoul’s major military drills draw to a close.

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On Friday, the United States said its policy toward North Korea remained unchanged after a senior U.S. official responsible for nuclear policy raised eyebrows when he said Washington would be willing to engage in nuclear negotiations. arms control talks with Pyongyang.

Some experts say the recognition of North Korea as a nuclear-armed state, which Pyongyang is seeking, is a pre-condition for such negotiations. But Washington has long argued that North Korea’s nuclear program is illegal and subject to UN sanctions.

Bonnie Jenkins, the Secretary of State in charge of arms control, was asked at a nuclear conference in Washington on Thursday at which point North Korea should be treated as an arms control issue.

“If they want to talk to us … arms control can always be an option if you have two countries willing to sit down at the table and talk,” she replied.

“And not just arms control, but risk reduction – everything that leads to a traditional arms control treaty and all the different aspects of arms control that we can have with them We have said very clearly to North Korea … that we are ready to talk to them – we have no preconditions,” she said, referring to North Korea by initials of her name. official.

Referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, she added: “If he picks up the phone and says, ‘I want to talk about arms control,’ we wouldn’t say no. I think, if they did, we would. I’ll want to. to discover what that means.”

The United States and its allies fear that North Korea may be about to conduct a nuclear bomb test for the first time since 2017, something the Biden administration is highly unwelcome ahead of the midterm elections early next month. North Korea has rejected US calls to return to talks.

Asked about Jenkins’ comments, State Department spokesman Ned Price said: “I want to be very clear on this. There has been no change to US policy.”

Price said US policy remains “totally denuclearize the Korean Peninsula”, adding, “we continue to be open in our diplomacy with North Korea, we continue to communicate with The DPRK, we are committed to pursuing a diplomatic approach. ‘is ready to meet without preconditions and we call on the DPRK to engage in serious and sustained foreign policy. steady.”

‘Kim Jong Un’s Trap’

Speaking Friday at the same nuclear policy conference that Jenkins spoke at, Alexandra Bell, another senior State Department arms control official, also stressed that there was no change in the US policy.

When asked if it was time to accept North Korea as a nuclear state, she replied: “Accordingly, we are committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We do not accept North Korea with that statute. But we want to have a conversation with North Korea.”

Daniel Russel, the top US diplomat for East Asia under President Barack Obama and now of the Asia Society, told Reuters that Jenkins had “fallen straight into Kim Jong Un’s trap” with his remarks. .

“Suggesting that North Korea simply agree to dialogue with the United States on arms control and risk reduction is a terrible mistake, because it shifts the issue from North Korea’s nuclear weapons possession to that of North Korea. the question of how many nuclear weapons are needed and how they are to be used,” he said.

“Mr Kim wants nothing better than to advance his risk-reduction agenda – the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea.”

Other experts downplayed Jenkins’ comment.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the US-based Arms Control Association, said she did not issue a statement recognizing North Korea as a nuclear weapons state under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. international person.

“She admitted, like other administration officials, that she acknowledged that North Korea had nuclear weapons, but that it violated its commitments under the NPT to not pursue weapons,” he told Reuters. nuclear gas”.

Kimball and Toby Dalton, nuclear experts at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which hosts the nuclear conference, said they do not consider official recognition as a nuclear weapons state a prerequisite for nuclear weapons. arms control negotiations. Dalton said Jenkins essentially appears to be reaffirming the US position that it is willing to talk to Pyongyang without preconditions.


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