North Korea’s Kim Jong Un can not denuclearize, former diplomat says

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In his first interview since defecting to the South greater than a 12 months in the past, Ryu Hyeon-woo instructed CNN that “North Korea’s nuclear energy is immediately linked to the steadiness of the regime” — and Kim seemingly believes nuclear weapons are key to his survival.

Ryu additionally stated earlier US administrations had boxed themselves right into a nook by demanding denuclearization up entrance in negotiations with the totalitarian state.

“The US cannot again down from denuclearization and Kim Jong Un can not denuclearize,” he added.

The previous diplomat, who adopted the identify Ryu upon shifting to the South, is one among a number of high-profile North Korean officers to defect in recent times. The nation’s prime diplomat in Italy fled to South Korea in 2019, and Thae Yong-ho, the previous deputy ambassador to the UK, defected in 2016. Thae has since been elected to South Korea’s Nationwide Meeting.

Ryu and his household defected to South Korea in September 2019, however their actions had been solely made public final week. Decided to provide their teenage daughter a greater life, Ryu stated he and his spouse deliberate their escape for a few month whereas residing in Kuwait.

Ryu stated that if they’d been caught, North Korean brokers would have shortly taken all of them again to Pyongyang for sure punishment, as defection is taken into account a serious embarrassment to the Kim regime and isn’t taken flippantly.

They lastly instructed their daughter concerning the plan whereas pretending to drive her to high school.

“Include Mother and Dad to seek out freedom,” Ryu recalled telling his daughter. “She was shocked, then stated, ‘Okay.’ That is all she stated.”

Ryu took his household to the South Korean embassy in Kuwait to assert asylum. They traveled to South Korea a number of days later.

Defection from North Korea comes at a monumental price, with defectors having to immediately sever ties from all household left of their house nation.

The regime typically punishes nuclear and prolonged households of defectors to discourage individuals from leaving, Ryu stated — particularly diplomats. These posted overseas are sometimes compelled to depart a toddler at house as a hostage, guaranteeing their dad and mom don’t defect.

“I believe that North Korea having such feudal collective familial punishment within the 21st century is appalling,” Ryu stated.

He’s now anxious about his three siblings and 83-year-old mom nonetheless in North Korea. “I simply need to see them stay lengthy,” Ryu stated. “Any considered them being punished for what I’ve accomplished simply hurts my coronary heart.”

He additionally worries for his spouse’s aged dad and mom residing in Pyongyang.

Ryu and his spouse each got here from North Korea’s ruling elite. His father-in-law ran Workplace 39, a department of the North Korean authorities a former worker likened to a “slush fund” for the Kim household. Nominally, it’s accountable for getting onerous foreign money for the cash-strapped regime.

North Korea has lengthy been accused of utilizing its embassies as money cows for the ruling Kim household. Ryu stated that whereas he was a educated diplomat coping with politics, there have been additionally “financial buying and selling staff” assigned to diplomatic posts. They got a quota on the sum of money they need to make for the state, Ryu added.

Kuwait was a very vital income stream for Pyongyang, because the Persian Gulf nation used to make use of about 10,000 North Korean laborers. These staff had been allegedly handled like modern-day slaves, and consultants say nearly all of their earnings had been funneled again to the federal government, paying for Kim regime priorities such because the nuclear program.

Ryu stated solely China and Russia had been larger money earners for the regime from North Korean laborers than the Gulf nations of Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE — at the very least till 2017, when the United Nations punished Pyongyang for its repeated missile and nuclear checks by barring nations from using its staff.

“Because of the UN decision, most laborers within the Gulf area left,” he stated.

Ryu additionally was posted to Syria, a detailed ally of North Korea, from 2010 to 2013. Whereas Ryu was charged with overseeing relations with Syrian politicians, his countrymen had been promoting standard weapons to the Bashar al-Assad regime, together with long-range a number of launcher artillery and anti-aircraft weapons programs. Nonetheless, Ryu stated the nation’s bloody civil conflict compelled Pyongyang to tug its personnel from the nation. He stated he had not heard of any new weapons offers with the Syrians since leaving the nation.

Ryu’s expertise within the Center East gave him an up-close take a look at how the USA handled Iran’s nuclear program throughout former President Barack Obama’s administration. He believes that have will come in useful for US President Joe Biden.

“Based mostly on his expertise resolving the Iranian nuclear challenge, I’ve little doubt he’ll be capable to deal with North Korea’s nuclear challenge correctly,” Ryu stated.

Ryu stated he believed North Korea could also be prepared to barter a discount in its nuclear weapons, however is unlikely to ever give them up totally. Nonetheless, he stated sanctions could have performed a think about pushing North Korea to the negotiating desk in 2018, when Kim and former US President Donald Trump met for his or her historic summit in Singapore.
Weapons that appear to be submarine-launched ballistic missiles are shown during a military parade celebrating the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang on January 14, 2021.
Many analysts consider Kim got here to the negotiating desk as a result of he had already developed nuclear weapons and efficiently examined a long-range missile that would attain United States territory.

“The present sanctions on North Korea are unprecedented and powerful,” Ryu stated. “I believe sanctions in opposition to North Korea ought to proceed.”

Ryu additionally stated it will be important to not abandon the difficulty of human rights, which was largely swept beneath the carpet throughout nuclear talks with the Trump administration.

Pyongyang claims to be a socialist paradise and denies allegations of gross human rights violations. North Korea, nevertheless, doesn’t permit freedom of speech or meeting, and residents can not go away. Kim’s regime is accused of operating a system of gulags and political jail camps that home greater than 120,000 males, girls and kids.

“Human rights is a matter of morality, and within the North Korean regime, the human rights challenge is a delicate and critical one,” Ryu stated.

Wanting again over the previous 16 months, Ryu says his solely remorse is what would possibly occur to his remaining relations again in Pyongyang. He and his spouse consider they did the proper factor for his or her daughter, by taking her away from her house nation.

Ryu instructed CNN he requested his daughter what she likes most about her new house. “I like the truth that I can use the web as a lot as I would like,” she replied.

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