WASHINGTON: After a top US official in charge of nuclear strategy raised some questions by stating that Washington would be open to holding discussions with Pyongyang about weapons control, the US reiterated on Friday that its position towards North Korea had not changed.
According to some analysts, the existence of nuclear weapons, which Pyongyang craves, is a need for such negotiations. Washington, though, has long maintained that North Korea’s nuclear programme is unconstitutional and subject to UN penalties.
At a Washington nuclear conference on Thursday, Bonnie Jenkins, the undersecretary of state for arms control, was questioned about when North Korea should be considered an issue for arms control.
Arms control is always a possibility if there are two willing countries prepared to sit down at a table and discuss, she said. “If they would have a dialogue with us.
“And not just arms control, but risk reduction as well as all the many types of weapons control we may engage in with them before signing a regular arms control treaty. We have made it very plain to the DPRK that we are willing to speak with them and do not have any requirements “She added, using the initials of North Korea’s official name.
She said, referring to Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea: “We wouldn’t say no if he picked up the phone and said, “I want to speak about arms limitation.” If anything, I believe we should investigate what that entails.”
In light of the upcoming midterm elections early next month, the Biden administration is worried that North Korea may be poised to begin nuclear bomb testing for the first time since 2017. This would be extremely undesirable. US requests for North Korea to resume negotiations were denied.
Ned Price, a spokesman for the State Department, responded to Jenkins’ statement as follows: “In this regard, I want to be very clear. The US’s foreign strategy has not changed.”
Price stated that US policy remained “”We continue to be open to dialogue with the DPRK, we continue to reach out to the DPRK, and we’re committed to pursue a diplomatic approach,” the statement continued. Without any requirements, we are willing to meet, and we urge the DPRK to pursue serious and prolonged dialogue.”
The “Kim Jong Un trap”
Another top State Department official in charge of weapons control, Alexandra Bell, underscored that US policy had not changed in her remarks on Friday at the same nuclear policy conference Jenkins addressed.
When asked whether it was time to acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear power, she responded: “Regardless of how we phrase it, we are dedicated to the Korean Peninsula’s nuclear disarmament. North Korea’s current condition is not acceptable to us. The North Koreans, though, are the ones with whom we are most eager to speak.”
Jenkins had “fallen directly into Kim Jong Un’s trap” with her comments, according to Daniel Russel, the chief US ambassador for East Asia under former President Barack Obama and currently at the Asia Society.
“It is a huge error to suggest that North Korea merely has to agree to talk to the US about arms control and risk reduction,” the official added. “It shifts the debate from North Korea’s right to possess nuclear weapons to the issue of how many it should have and how they are used.”
Nothing would make Kim happier than to forward his plan for risk reduction, which calls for the removal of US forces from Korea.
Jenkins’ comments were downplayed by other academics.
Executive director of the US-based Arms Control Association Daryl Kimball stated that she was not recognising North Korea as a nuclear weapons state under the global Non-Proliferation Treaty.
She was recognising, as have other government officials, that North Korea does possess nuclear weapons, but that they are being used against them in defiance of the NPT’s prohibition on the development of nuclear weapons, he told Reuters.
Kimball and Toby Dalton, a nuclear specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the organisation that organised the nuclear conference, stated that they did not consider official recognition as a nuclear-armed state as a need for arms-control discussions. Jenkins, according to Dalton, seemed to be effectively restating the US stance that it was ready to speak with Pyongyang without restrictions.