‘No other realistic option’: Former intelligence chief says US needs to accept North Korea’s nuclear capability

  • Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that “the North Koreans are not going to denuclearize” and that negotiations between North and South Korea would be beneficial.
  • Clapper’s comments come amid rumours of a looming North Korean missile test and US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s fiery warning that the US will not take the bilateral talks seriously.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper gave sobering assessment of North Korea’s efforts to advance its nuclear and missile capabilities during an interview with CNN on Tuesday.

“That train left station a long time ago,” Clapper said of North Korea’s willingness to halt its weapons program. “The North Koreans are not going to denuclearize.”

Clapper’s comments stood in contrast to a fiery warning from the US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who said on Tuesday that the US would not take talks between South Korea and North Korea seriously after South Korea proposed holding high-level talks between the two nations at the North-South Korean border.

“We won’t take any of the talks seriously if they don’t do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea,” Haley said during a press conference Tuesday. “We consider this to be a very reckless regime, we don’t think we need a Band-Aid and we don’t think we need to smile and take a picture.”

“So North Korea can talk with anyone they want but the US is not going to recognise it or acknowledge it until they agree to ban the nuclear weapons that they have,” Haley continued.

South Korea’s willingness to negotiate with North Korea came after the annual New Year’s Day speech given by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un who, according to Reuters, said that he was “open to dialogue” with South Korea, which is set to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

But Kim Jong Un’s remarks also accompany new reports that North Korea may be staging another missile test in the coming days, military officials told NBC News.

Clapper said he was not discouraged by a dichotomy between a possible missile test and negotiations.

“I can well envision a scenario where they would juxtapose a missile test and as well agree to talk with the South Koreans, which I think would be a good thing,” Clapper said. “It would do a lot, I think, to relax some of the tensions. I think negotiation is the only way ahead here, to me is no other realistic option.”

A thaw between the two Koreas would follow what had been considerably icy relations between the North and South in 2017, after North Korea conducted several missile tests, including one that reached the highest altitude achieved by the country. And while White House officials have been quick to fire off threats against a nuclear North Korea, many North Korea analysts have reached conclusions similar to Clapper’s.

“And I think for the moment, we have to accept the fact that the North Koreans have a nuclear capability,” Clapper said. “They are going to insist on proving it, because when they do talk, when they do negotiate, they want to do so from a position of strength.”