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Thae Yong-ho: North Korea has no intention to completely denuclearize

By
Elizabeth Shim
President Donald J. Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday at the Korean border village of Panmunjom. Photo by Shealah Craighead/White House
President Donald J. Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday at the Korean border village of Panmunjom. Photo by Shealah Craighead/White House | License Photo

July 2 (UPI) -- An outspoken defector who fled Pyongyang's embassy in London said the U.S.-North Korea nuclear negotiations can be best understood as negotiations between two nuclear weapon states.

Thae Yong-ho, who defected to South Korea in 2016, added North Korea has no intention to completely denuclearize, Japan's Mainichi Shimbun reported.

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The former North Korean diplomat also suggested the brief summit at the border village of Panmunjom between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday was not a breakthrough.

"The same pattern of dialogue has been going on for the last 30 years," Thae said, according to the report. After dialogue starts and "principle agreements" are reached, North Korea has historically not reached "next steps" because administrations in electoral democracies like the United States and South Korea change over time.

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The desired results are not achieved, Thae said, referring to long-term patterns of North Korea negotiations.

Before Thae defected to the South, the North Korean official was a trusted member of Pyongyang's foreign ministry.

In 2015, he was seen escorting Kim's brother to an Eric Clapton concert in London.

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Thae told the Mainichi initially he believed Kim would be different because of his background.

"We thought if a person who had studied in Europe enters politics big changes would come," Thae said. "Positive messages continued to be issued in the first years of [Kim's] rule."

Thae said he is monitoring North Korea to see whether a free market system will expand in the country.

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"If you read North Korea's [Workers' Party] newspaper Rodong Sinmun daily, you can evaluate how North Korea is changing," he said. But he added there is no significant change at present.

Thae's observations about the recent Panmunjom summit comes at a time when South Korean President Moon Jae-in says the meeting was a significant development.

Yonhap reported Tuesday Moon said the quick meeting marks the start of a new era of U.S.-North Korea relations.

South Korea has said the end of hostilities can serve as an "entry point to denuclearization" in previous statements.

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