North Korea will never completely give up its nuclear weapons, a top defector Thae Yong-ho said ahead of Kim Jong Un’s landmark summit with Donald Trump next month.
The current whirlwind of diplomacy and negotiations will not end with “a sincere and complete disarmament” but with “a reduced North Korean nuclear threat”, said Thae, who fled his post as the North’s deputy ambassador to Britain in August 2016. “In the end, North Korea will remain ‘a nuclear power packaged as a non-nuclear state’.”
North and South Korea affirmed their commitment to the goal of denuclearization of the peninsula at summit last month, and Pyongyang announced at the weekend it will destroy its only known nuclear test site next week.
Washington is seeking the “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)” of the North and stresses that verification will be key.
Thae, one of the highest ranking officials to have defected in recent years, said: “North Korea will argue that the process of nuclear disarmament will lead to the collapse of North Korea and oppose CVID.”
The North wanted to ensure Kim’s “absolute power” and its model of hereditary succession, he added, and would oppose intrusive inspections as they “would be viewed as a process of breaking down Kim Jong Un’s absolute power in front of the eyes of ordinary North Koreans and elites”.
At a party meeting last month when Kim proclaimed the development of the North’s nuclear force complete and promised no more nuclear or missile tests, he called its arsenal “a powerful treasured sword for defending peace”.
“Giving it up soon after Kim Jong Un himself labelled it the ‘treasured sword for defending peace’ and a firm guarantee for the future? It can never happen,” Thae said. In his memoir that hit shelves Monday, Thae added: “More people should realize that North Korea is desperately clinging to its nuclear program more than anything.”