ROK Unification Minister: Denuclearization Still In The Cards
Speaking to Yonhap News TV, South Korea’s Unification Minister Kwon Young-se asserted that he remains optimistic about the possibility the DPRK could denuclearize despite recent statements to the contrary from Kim Jong Un himself. Kwon revealed a policy position that favors an arguably tougher stance under the current administration in Seoul than the previous one, yet one with the ultimate goal of brining about negotiations. The following is a translation of a partial transcript of the interview produced by Yonhap News TV.
Kwon Young-se: North Korean denuclearization is still a worthy goal… we must keep trying
Minister of Unification Kwon Young-se gave a joint interview with Yonhap News and Yonhap News TV.
Mr. Kwon emphasized that even with North Korea’s rising nuclear and missile capabilities, the shared ROK-US goal of North Korean denuclearization still remains valid, and that sanctions as well as pressure and efforts to convince North Korea to denuclearize must continue.
He also broached the subject of calls to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea.
Now over to our reporter, Ji Sung-lim
Kwon Young-se stated that while the DPRK legally codified its nuclear policy and Chairman Kim Jong Un declared that Pyongyang “will not give up its nuclear weapons”, North Korea’s denuclearization is not outside the realm of possibility.
Even so, ROK-US extended deterrence must be strengthened, and sanctions, pressure and efforts to convince North Korea must continue, he insisted.
[Unification Minister Kwon Young-se] “Whether it be through sanctions, pressure or extended deterrence, I do not think that these measures in and of themselves will not immediately bring about North Korean denuclearization, but are ways to bring North Korea to the negotiating table.
Mr. Kwon insisted that even with increased calls among the public for the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons in light of the rise of the DPRK’s nuclear threat, the government “is not currently considering it”.
However, he added that this could become an inflection point in public opinion.
[Unification Minister Kwon Young-se] “As inter-Korean ties continually fail to improve and continue to be fraught with tensions, I fear that we cannot ignore that at some point public opinion may come to broadly support the idea that we have to acquire nuclear weapons.”
Mr. Kwon assessed that while North Korea is prepared to carry out a seventh nuclear test, insofar as North Korea benefits from having its nuclear policy enshrined in law, there may not be an immediate need for North Korea to conduct a nuclear test at this time.
With this, one factor in the moment when North Korea conducts a nuclear test could be Chairman Xi Jinping’s reelection at the National People’s Congress next March, he explained.
However, he noted, with Xi Jinping’s third term secured, anxieties within China may subside, and this was not an absolute opportunity to curb North Korea’s determination.
Mr. Kwon asserted regarding the summit between President Yoon Suk Yeol and Chairman Xi Jinping that the mere act of securing such a high-level meeting between South Korea and China was quite significant.
Partial transcript of the interview produced by Yonhap News TV. Translated by Anthony V. Rinna.
 Source: “Kwon Young-se: North Korean denuclearization is still a worthy goal… we must keep trying [권영세 “북한 비핵화목표 여전히 유효…계속 노력]”, Yonhap News TV, November 17, 2022, https://www.yonhapnewstv.co.kr/news/MYH20221117002600038