North Korea seeks recognition of its de facto nuclear status – expert

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MOSCOW. Feb 18 (Interfax) – If South Korean reports on North Korean preparations for the next nuclear test are correct, this would indicate that North Korea want to strike a deal with the United States as an equal and receive a nuclear status similar to that of India, head of the Korean Studies Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for Far East Studies Alexander Zhebin told Interfax on Monday.

“If North Korea has really prepared two devices, as South Korean and other sources allege, it would hardly be expedient from the military-technical point of view to retrieve the remaining device. It will be easier to detonate it,” he said.

The new nuclear test will be more significant than every earlier one for Pyongyang, the expert said. “If they (the North Koreans) conduct another nuclear test, it would obviously be the test of a warhead. Pyongyang may conduct this test, remaining true to its tactics. If the missile is tested, the North Koreans will acquire deterrence forces which, in their opinion, can guarantee national sovereignty and preservation of the current regime,” the expert said.

Preparations for the possible test obviously send a message to Washington, the expert said. “This is the North Korean standpoint. Tests have been conducted in spite of the Russian and Chinese advice to the contrary. If Pyongyang conducts another test, it will mean that North Korea is not inclined to believe U.S. promises,” Zhebin said.

The final goal of Pyongyang is to put pressure on the United States and to receive a status similar to India’s. “Actually, the North Korean policy corresponds to the course chosen in 2006 when the United States concluded the nuclear deal with India. The deal exempted the Indian military nuclear program from IAEA control and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Washington declared the readiness to cooperate in the civilian part of the Indian program,” Zhebin said.

“What North Korea is doing is an attempt to force Washington and other countries to recognize a similar status for North Korea. I believe these attempts will go on. De facto the policy has been accomplished,” the expert said.

Pyongyang views the start of equal talks with the United States as an important stage in the achievement of this goal, he remarked.

“Concerning continuation of the tactics towards forcing the United States to launch negotiations, a lot will depend on the position of other members of the UN Security Council in response to Pyongyang’s latest actions. If the position of Russia and China, who believe that the response must not worsen the situation, the Americans may fail to legalize the sanctions they count on. Then, probably, the North Korean tactics will work,” Zhebin said.

He presumes the North Korean administration realizes that negotiations with Washington are a distant prospect. “Obama’s immediate agreement to hold direct negotiations with North Korea, especially on equal terms, would look like an act of capitulation. Clearly, he will not do that now,” the expert said.

South Korea media reported that North Korea had started preparations for a new nuclear test.