North Korea's ultimate goal is to become a nuclear weapons state, a former North Korean diplomat said Monday, expressing skepticism over the possibility of the North eventually abandoning its nuclear weapons.
Thae Yong-ho, a former London-based North Korean diplomat who defected to South Korea with his family in 2016, made the remarks during a press conference in which he unveiled his autobiography detailing his decades of experience as a career diplomat for North Korea.
"It is too early to predict (with one month left before the U.S.-North Korea summit), but I think the North will move toward sufficient, verifiable, irreversible dismantling, which is to sufficiently reduce threats from nuclear weapons, rather than seek complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID)," he told reporters.
"The final destination that the North is headed for is not to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program but become a nuclear weapons state covered by the paper called denuclearization," he added.
His remarks come as North Korea and the United States are preparing to hold unprecedented summit talks scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. Denuclearization of the North will likely top the agenda.
In their historic inter-Korean summit on April 27, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un affirmed the goal of "complete" denuclearization.
South Korea and the U.S. have pushed to rid the North of its nuclear weapons program in a CVID manner. The North reportedly suggested a need for phased and synchronous measures for denuclearization.
Thae called into question whether complete denuclearization would be possible in a country where an "omnipotent" and "godlike" figure controls everything, saying any such move is tantamount to hurting the integral part of the overall power structure in the North.
"Kim Jong-un said during a party meeting on April 20 that (nuclear weapons) are a treasured sword for protecting peace. He also said that they are the strongest assurance that guarantees the most respected and happiest life on earth," he said.
"They are, in other words, a sword and a shield for eternal prosperity, prosperity and happiness for generations to come ... He will never give them up."
Thae emphasized that one of the most important preconditions that the North wants in exchange for denuclearization is security assurance for the Kim regime, a demand he suggested would be hard to satisfy.
"Without security assurance for the regime, the North would not accept CVID," he said. "(But) the security guarantee that the North is talking about is to make it possible for the Kim Il-sung family to perpetuate its rule through succession."
"It would be something totally unacceptable (for the North) if it ends up collapsing the absolute power structure of the North," he added. (Yonhp News)