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[Exclusive] Ex-US Nuke Envoy Warns against Downplaying N. Korea's Latest Aggression

Written: 2024-01-22 18:49:43Updated: 2024-01-23 16:33:21

[Exclusive] Ex-US Nuke Envoy Warns against Downplaying N. Korea's Latest Aggression

Photo : KBS WORLD Radio

Anchor: Robert Gallucci, a former U.S. negotiator on North Korea nuclear issues, has warned that a nuclear war in the region is not entirely out of the question, and that downplaying the North’s latest provocations and rhetoric may lead to catastrophe. He shared his thoughts on the matter and what response measures he believes Washington should take when he spoke with KBS World Radio’s Korea24. Our Bae Joo-yon has more.

Report: Former U.S. nuclear negotiator Robert Gallucci says he believes the isolationist North Korea may be considering taking drastic action, which may lead to a nuclear war in the region within the year, despite the U.S. assertions that they can deter such catastrophe.

[Sound bite: Ambassador Robert Gallucci (English)]
“They may have in there that they can deter an American response to aggressive behavior by the North. That would be a miscalculation. That would be a mistake, and it could be a catastrophic one for all parties. So I issued that stark warning because I'd like us all to work to avoid miscalculation.”
By stark warning, Gallucci was referring to a piece he recently wrote for the National Interest in which he said the thought should be entertained that a nuclear war could break out in Northeast Asia this year. 

Gallucci was speaking in an interview with KBS World Radio’s Korea24 regarding 
Pyongyang’s complete disinterest in engaging with Washington while forging stronger ties with Beijing and Moscow.

On the North’s designation of South Korea as an enemy, Gallucci, who serves as Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, said the move is “new and troubling.”

In his speech at the rubber-stamp Supreme People's Assembly earlier this month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said unification with the South is no longer possible, and that the constitution should be changed to designate it the "principal enemy."

Gallucci said he is worried that the North will have the misperception that they can succeed in nuclear blackmail and can deter an American response to Pyongyang’s aggressive behavior. 

Experts have recently expressed concern over North Korea’s escalating aggressions and rhetoric, saying that recent remarks by Kim Jong-un may be more than bluster. They’ve repeatedly warned that the U.S. and its allies should take heed and act accordingly.

North Korea also touted a successful test of a solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) earlier this month carrying a hypersonic warhead the previous day as part of regular activities to develop powerful weapons systems.

Gallucci said the North shouldn’t be testing the deterrent posture of the U.S. as well as Washington’s ability to extend the deterrence to South Korea and Japan. 

[Sound bite: Ambassador Robert Gallucci (English)]
“The United States extends deterrence to South Korea and to Japan. We value their non-nuclear weapon status. And we're serious about that extended deterrence. So we want the North Koreans to understand that we will not be intimidated and nor will, nor will our allies. And it's important not to test that, because that can lead to a catastrophe.”

The ambassador said he believes Washington “must leave absolutely no ambiguity in the minds of the leaders in Pyongyang” about the clarity and strength of its alliance with South Korea and Japan and to be clear about its willingness to engage with the North when Pyongyang decides it would be in their interests.  

Bae Joo-yon, KBS World Radio News.

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