The highest-ranking North Korean official to defect in recent years said the U.S. should press Pyongyang to rejoin the nuclear nonproliferation treaty as a step toward denuclearization and warned that the North would try to deceive Washington by offering hollow concessions when the two sides meet next week.
Thae Yong Ho, a senior North Korean diplomat until 2016, said that pledging to rejoin the treaty would help commit Pyongyang to disarmament, as the agreement obliges signatories to refrain from acquiring nuclear weapons and mandates inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. North Korea, which withdrew from the treaty in 2003, isn’t recognized as a nuclear state by the international community, though it has tested six nuclear weapons.
.. Mr. Thae said that North Korea would likely offer to shut its Yongbyon complex—used to enrich material needed to build nuclear weapons—and allow international inspectors to verify its closure in return for partial sanctions relief. But agreeing to this would be a mistake, he warned.
“There are 390 nuclear facilities [inside the Yongbyon complex]. Even if there is an agreement, the act of inspecting, dismantling, then verifying the facilities’ closure won’t be completed within President Trump’s term,” he told a news conference.
In the meantime, North Korea could keep its arsenal while gaining an immediate reprieve from sanctions. The North Koreans know this, and that’s why they’re dangling Yongbyon, he said.
Mr. Thae was North Korea’s deputy ambassador to London when he defected with his family to South Korea. He worked with the top leadership in Pyongyang, including the foreign minister, and was once filmed accompanying Mr. Kim’s older brother, Kim Jong Chol, to an Eric Clapton concert. He published a memoir last year detailing North Korea’s negotiating strategies.“They’re going to repaint their broken-down car, make it look new, and then sell it,” he said.
.. A former North Korean official who defected to the South in the 1990s said that the Yongbyon nuclear complex suffered frequent radiation leaks and that workers couldn’t stay there beyond six months.