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Offer of talks could be ‘wedge,’ says McMaster

Jan 05,2018
U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Tuesday the purpose of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year address was to “try to drive a wedge” between Seoul and Washington.

That assessment of Kim’s 40-minute speech was in stark contrast to that of the Blue House. President Moon Jae-in’s Spokesman Park Soo-hyun said Monday his office “welcomed” Kim’s overture about sending a delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, set to kick off next month in Gangwon.

Park made no mention of Kim’s threatening the United States with a nuclear attack in the address.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Tuesday in New York that her country is “not going to recognize” or “acknowledge” any talks other countries have with the North unless the regime agrees to foreswear its nuclear weapons program.

Asked by Greta Van Susteren, a contributor for the Voice of America (VOA), about Kim’s Olympic gesture to South Korea, McMaster replied: “Anybody who thought that the speech was reassuring was drinking too much champagne over the holidays.....he is building a hair-trigger nuclear force that can place the world at risk.”

McMaster continued that it was “pretty clear” Kim was trying to separate Seoul and Washington, but, “Of course, that’s not going [to] happen. His provocative actions, what he’s been doing, is driving our alliances closer together.”

The security adviser explained that the “only reason” why North Korea was developing weapons was to “coerce or blackmail or extort the United States to leave the peninsula and Northeast Asia.”

Beyond that, he continued, it wants to unify the two Koreas under its own “failed system.”

McMaster didn’t go into the details of Washington’s military plans against the regime but stressed “those plans exist” in case its maximum pressure policy doesn’t work.

According to Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence in a separate interview with VOA Wednesday, that time won’t be coming any soon.

The U.S. “managed to marshal an unprecedented amount of economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea,” said Pence, “and after decades of North Korea stalling and ignoring the world community and continuing to develop nuclear and ballistic missiles, we’re literally beginning to see some movement among nations in the region.”

China is one, he continued, which is “doing more than ever before.” Still, it “needs to do more” to isolate the North economically and diplomatically, Pence said.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]