Thae Yong Ho, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to the UK, said he did not believe Kim Jong Un would agree to a US request of a “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” due to likelihood that it would “strike at the core of North Korea’s power structure.”
Besides making surprising advances in its missile capabilities in 2017, North Korea’s leadership has focused on peddling its significance to its own society and culture: the regime revised its constitution in 2012 to tout its nuclear ambitions, and despite saying it no longer needs to conduct nuclear tests, its nuclear capabilities still remain an essential part of Kim’s domestic and international clout.
Thae also noted that North Korea was likely to open its borders to tourism projects near its coast. Ho predicts it would then eventually seek joint economic projects with South Korea, such as the Kaesong Industrial Complex that used to employ North Korean civilians and provided a revenue stream for the regime.
Thae defected from North Korea with his family in 2016. As one of the highest ranking North Korean defectors, he frequently rails against Kim and is considered an ardent hawk on North Korea’s conciliatory overtures, even going as far as saying “Kim Jong Un’s days are numbered.”