By Jon Dougherty
A former ranking North Korean official who defected to the West praised President Donald Trump’s decision to walk away from his second summit with Chairman Kim Jong-un during talks in Hanoi, Vietnam, last week, saying it would have been wrong to lift billions of dollars’ worth of sanctions in exchange for Pyongyang shutting down just one nuclear facility.
Thae Yong Ho said in an interview with Fox News that the president “was absolutely right that he cannot give up these sanctions unless Kim Jong-un promises even further denuclearization offers.”
Thae, from his new home in South Korea, added that POTUS was also correct in singling out additional nuclear sites he wanted Kim to dismantle as well as part of any long-term denuclearization effort that would eventually lead to major sanctions relief and, in the end, a safer peninsula and prosperity for North Koreans.
He also said that as long as the “clever” Kim remains in power, the best POTUS Trump can do is to contain “the nuclear evil.”
“Nuclear weapons are the last resort Kim Jong-un can rely on to continue his control of North Korea,” said Thae.
When asked if he believed Kim would ever be convinced to surrender his nuclear capability, Thae replied emphatically, “No. No. Not at all.”
That said, the former North Korean diplomat — who lives under armed guard over a threat of assassination by Pyongyang — nevertheless expressed hope for his former country. He said with additional information being fed to the North Korean people, the brutal Kim regime can’t last. Such a dramatic change, however, is likely to take years, so in the meantime, the U.S. and its allies must keep up the pressure on Kim and keep the lid on his nuclear ambitions.
Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in offered to mediate negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang. “My administration will closely communicate and cooperate with the United States and North Korea so as to help their talks reach a meaningful settlement by any means,” he said Friday.
Following the summit, POTUS Trump said that Kim had pressed for a full repeal of all existing sanctions in exchange for dismantling a single nuclear site. After the talks broke down, however, North Korea’s foreign ministry said that the “dear leader” had only sought partial sanctions relief.
Trump on Friday repeated earlier claims that his relationship the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is still “very good” despite not making a deal with his government. In tweeted comments, the president appeared to dismiss North Korean media reports that Kim had “lost his will” to negotiate with the United States, insisting that the negotiations were “very substantive” but also acknowledging that both sides know what’s being sought.
“We know what they want and they know what we must have,” he wrote.
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