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Kim Jong Un said he would give up nukes, South Korean official says

Kim Jong Un said he would give up nukes, South Korean official says
Chung Eui-yong (L), South Korea’s foreign minister nominee, meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in March 2018. Kim said he would denuclearize, according to Chung on Friday. File Photo by South Korean Presidential Blue House/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 5 (UPI) -- South Korea's foreign minister nominee said he had heard directly from North Korea's Kim Jong Un of his willingness to denuclearize, and that Kim has kept his "promise" since 2018.

Chung Eui-yong, former national security adviser to President Moon Jae-in, was answering questions on Thursday during a parliamentary committee hearing, local news service EDaily reported.

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When asked by main opposition lawmaker Cho Tae-yong about his meeting with the North Korean leader in March 2018, Chung confirmed Kim had expressed his willingness to give up weapons of mass destruction. That statement was followed by Kim's decision to start denuclearization negotiations with the United States, Chung said, according to the report.

Chung, who played a key role in coordinating the first U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore, said Kim confirmed he was "willing to give up nuclear weapons if the security situation on the Korean Peninsula is fully guaranteed," the report said.

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The South Korean foreign minister nominee also said U.S.-North Korea negotiations during the Trump administration could have turned out differently if the United States had accepted North Korea's proposal to dismantle its Yongbyon nuclear facility in 2019.

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Urgent issues like plutonium production could have been resolved if "hundreds, thousands" of international experts had access to Yongbyon, Chung said. The South Korean official also said Kim "clearly disclosed" his intentions to relinquish Yongbyon to Moon, who met with Kim four times from 2018 to 2019.

Chung's assessment of North Korea comes at a time of transition in Washington.

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the Biden administration will use the best tools available to deal with Pyongyang. U.S. intelligence officials are also taking a different approach to North Korea.

Sydney Seiler, a national intelligence officer for North Korea at the National Intelligence Council, said at a webinar hosted by Georgetown University North Korea's biggest security concern is that their system is "vulnerable to internal pressures for change," Yonhap reported Friday.

Seiler also questioned North Korea's justifications of "U.S. hostility" for pursuing nuclear weapons, according to the report.

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