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13 Dec, 2017 13:09

US ready to talk to N Korea: ‘It’s a breakthrough, but many twists & turns might be ahead’

US ready to talk to N Korea: ‘It’s a breakthrough, but many twists & turns might be ahead’

Washington-Pyongyang talks now seem to be possible and, hopefully, without any preconditions set by the US, said Joseph Cheng, professor of political science at Hong Kong City University, adding that a lot of pitfalls might be ahead.

The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Washington is willing to engage in direct talks with North Korea over the country's nuclear program.

“We're ready to talk anytime they'd like to talk,” Tillerson said about North Korea on Tuesday afternoon at an Atlantic Council think-tank event in Washington.

The statement came two weeks after North Korea tested its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile.

RT: Rex Tillerson admitted the possibility of peace talks with North Korea. Do you think talks could actually happen?

Joseph Cheng: I guess so. Obviously, the negotiations will be very frustrating, they will be quite slow, but this is a very important breakthrough in a sense that the Donald Trump administration has finally come around and accepted the importance of negotiations. In the past weeks, it has been proven that various attempts to indicate the use of violence has been proven empty and ineffective. The use of military means on the part of the US does not have the support of Seoul and meets significant opposition from Beijing and Moscow. At least, the parties concerned are willing to talk, and that is important that Rex Tillerson has indicated that negotiations hopefully will begin without any preconditions.

RT: Back in October, Trump said talks with North Korea would be a "waste of time." Are we seeing a reversal of US policy on North Korea?

JC: We all know that Donald Trump is rather unpredictable and there may be different views existing in his administration. At least, this is an important beginning. There may well be a lot of twists and turns and a lot of pitfalls ahead, but the world has got to understand that negotiations are possible and that the Donald Trump administration is at least willing to try to negotiate.

RT: To what extent has previous warnings from the Trump administration (about destroying North Korea) damaged the prospect of peace talks?

JC: Negotiations normally demand an appropriate atmosphere; the threat of the use of force, fiery rhetoric does not help. Especially, when the Donald Trump administration and Kim Jong-Un administration are both very concerned with the respective images and international standing. The indication of the willingness to talk is just the beginning, and there are many difficulties ahead. One can rest assured that rational governments understand the tremendous danger of a nuclear war and the danger of intentional or unintentional escalation leading to the prospects for the possibility of war.

‘North Koreans will not give up nuclear weapons, want legitimacy for their regime'

North Korea doesn’t want to be obliterated and threatened by the US military maneuvers, said Dr. Chris Ogden, an Asia security expert and senior lecturer at St. Andrews University.

RT: Is this U-turn from Tillerson a direct result of North Korea's missile-testing which Pyongyang says is now capable of reaching mainland America?

Chris Ogden: I think the twist is more of North Korea clearly isn’t backing down, it is clearly continuing its missile tests, it is increasing its capabilities. And the stakes are still very high in terms of imminent conflict. And I think the major thing that has happened is that analysts and some leaders have started to understand the North Koreans will not give up their nuclear weapons, so that has to change from being the starting point of the negotiations. And I think Tillerson’s comments in terms of “Let’s just talk about anything including the weather,” even though it sounds quite frivolous is actually quite positive. At least, the leaders could sit down formally, face to face.

RT: Will North Korea even be willing to open talks with Washington?

CO: I think the North Koreans want legitimacy for their regime, they certainly don’t want to be obliterated, they don’t want to be continually threatened from what they see from the US military maneuvers, threats from South Korea. That is what they would like immediately and in terms of talking the leaders have said that they are willing to talk face to face. The issue in the past has been that the Americans has seen that as being too equal. That they somehow are becoming equal partners that North Korea is the minnow and they are the giants. They have always wanted to talk. I think that it is more the American mindset that is maybe changing or needs to change further.