15 April 2017

News Story: U.S. should not insist on preconditions for talks with DPRK - expert

By Lu Jiafei, Guo Yina

WASHINGTON, April 14 (Xinhua) -- The United States should not insist on any preconditions for direct talks with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and China's "suspension for suspension" proposal could serve as the basis for further negotiation, a U.S. expert said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

Joel Wit, senior fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, said the recent increased tensions at the Korean Peninsula seemed puzzling.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula are rising as the DPRK on Friday warned of "toughest counteraction" in response to what it called "reckless miliary provocation" after the United States sent USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group to waters near the Korean Peninsula in what it called a "reaction to provocations" by the DPRK with recent missile tests.

"I don't see why tensions are going up," said Wit. "There's nothing that has happened in the past month that necessitated sending a carrier battle group there, or increasing tensions."

Tensions could heat up if the DPRK conducts a new nuclear test, but right now nothing had happened that could really change the situation dramatically, he added.

Long before joining the Johns Hopkins University, Wit served as senior advisor from 1993 to 1995 to Robert Galluci, then chief U.S. negotiator with the DPRK during the Korean Peninsula nuclear crisis of 1994. Later, Wit became the U.S. official in charge of implementing the 1994 U.S.-DPRK Agreed Framework from 1995 to 1999.

He told Xinhua that the main lesson from dealing with the DPRK in the past two decades is to realize that the DPRK is not irrational as the United States would think.

"They keenly understand their own national interests, and act on those interests. Right now their main national interest is to build nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. That's very clear to them," said Wit.

The main reason for the DPRK to move forward with its nuclear weapons program is "to defend itself against what it feels is a threat from the United States and U.S. allies in the region, South Korea and Japan," said Wit.

"In the past, there have been times when they thought their national interests required better relations with the United States, and as a result of that, they were willing to limit their nuclear weapons program, or even get rid of it," said Wit. "We need to keep that in mind as we try to find a way out of this problem."

Read the full story at Xinhua