One of the highest-ranking North Koreans to defect in recent years said full denuclearization may not be possible in a country that is run by an “ominpotent” and “godlike” leader without “security assurances for the regime.”
“Kim Jong-Un said during a party meeting on April 20 that (nuclear weapons) are a treasured sword for protecting peace. He also said that they are the strongest assurance that guarantees the most respected and happiest life on earth,” said Thae Yong-Ho, a former London-based North Korean diplomat who defected with his family to South Korea in 2016.
“They are, in other words, a sword and a shield for eternal prosperity, prosperity and happiness for generations to come … He will never give them up.”
Thae made the remarks during a press conference in which he unveiled his autobiography detailing his decades of experience as a career diplomat for North Korea, Yonhap news service reported on May 14.
His comments were overlooked amid optimism about Kim’s upcoming summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, Kim’s meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a real estate buying spree near the DMZ separating the two Koreas.
“It is too early to predict (with one month left before the U.S.-North Korea summit), but I think the North will move toward sufficient, verifiable, irreversible dismantling, which is to sufficiently reduce threats from nuclear weapons, rather than seek complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID),” Thae said.
“The final destination that the North is headed for is not to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program but become a nuclear weapons state covered by the paper called denuclearization.”
Kim Jong-Un and U.S. President Donald Trump are scheduled to hold unprecedented summit talks on June 12 in Singapore.
On April 27, South Korean President Moon Jae-In and Kim had affirmed the goal of “complete” denuclearization.
Thae emphasized that one of the most important preconditions that the North wants in exchange for denuclearization is security assurance for the Kim regime, a demand he suggested would be hard to satisfy.
“Without security assurance for the regime, the North would not accept CVID,” he said. “(But) the security guarantee that the North is talking about is to make it possible for the Kim Il-Sung family to perpetuate its rule through succession.”
“It would be something totally unacceptable (for the North) if it ends up collapsing the absolute power structure of the North,” he added.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described conversations he had with Kim Jong-Un as “professional.”
“He knows his brief, he knows what he is trying to achieve for the North Korean people, he’s able to deal with complexity when the conversation requires it,” Pompeo said.
The Secretary of State also noted that Kim pays attention to Western media, saying, “He does follow the Western press.”
Meanwhile, South Korea’s hottest property market is now along the heavily fortified border between the two countries, Reuters reported.
Demand for property in small towns and sparsely populated rural areas around the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is surging on expectations of an influx of people and investment.
Kang Sung-Wook, a 37-year old dentist in the South Korean border city of Paju, has bought eight separate lots of land in and around the DMZ since mid-March.
Five were purchased without ever setting foot on them, using only Google Earth satellite photos and maps, as areas inside the DMZ cannot be accessed by the public.
Kang said buying interest jumped so sharply as relations between the former foes improved that he needed to move fast. “I was out looking since North Korea-U.S. summit news was announced in March, and it looked like all the good ones were gone already,” said Kang.
Land transactions in Paju, gateway to the United Nations truce village of Panmunjom, more than doubled in March to 4,628 from February, government data shows. That far outstripped better known markets such as trendy Gangnam, where volumes were up just 9 percent.
Kim Yoon-Sik, a realtor with 25 years experience in Paju, says owners of the land in the DMZ include those who inherited farmland from ancestors in pre-Korean war days and some long term investors. “With bids outnumbering offers, I often see sellers canceling on preliminary contracts, it’s that hot,” Kim said.
The surge of activity along the border is not limited to South Korea.
In the northeastern Chinese border city of Dandong, property investors are pushing up prices and even spurring buying interest inside North Korea, the report said.