As concerns grow over North Korea's nuclear advancement, a high-level Pyongyang diplomat who defected to South Korea last year said the United States must aim to eliminate the Kim Jong Un regime. While talking to the Voice of America on Monday, Thae Yong Ho said the U.S. should continue with its pressure tactics against the reclusive country.
The North Korean leader, who has assisted several missile tests conducted by his regime, has been trying to “break the formula” of securing a commitment to abandon his nuclear weapons program, Thae said. Since President Donald Trump took office in January, North Korea has fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, in retaliation to the U.S.-South Korea joint military drills.
On Monday, Thae said Kim is urging adversaries to halt their annual joint military drills and lift off the sanctions on North Korea in exchange for a suspension of its nuclear and missile programs.
“If we recognize the North as a nuclear state, we are providing clear justification for its nuclear and missile tests and admitting its claim that it is developing a nuclear arsenal as a result of external threats [from the U.S. and South Korea],” Thae said. “Kim Jong Un will never give up the nuclear program. As long as Kim Jong Un’s regime is in place, there is no solution for [the North Korean nuclear issue] and any kind of compromises would only serve Kim.”
While talking about what he saw as the downfall of Kim's regime, Thae said: “North Korea is changing in a way that its people no longer rely on the state and the leader for their survival, but rather on themselves. If this process continues, the country will reach a tipping point where the people begin to stand up for not just their economic rights, but also their political rights.”
Tensions between North Korea and the U.S. escalated amid Pyongyang's missile tests and recent reports of activities in its Punggye-ri nuclear test facility.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that "strategic patience has ended" and that a military response was “on the table” against North Korea. Trump also took to his Twitter account to speak out about North Korea, saying that the isolated country was “behaving very badly. They have been 'playing' the United States for years. China has done little to help!"