Chance of N. Korea abandoning nuclear weapons 'near zero': expert

BEIJING, Nov. 14 (Yonhap) -- The chance of North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons is "close to zero," a former South Korean national security adviser said Thursday, voicing pessimism over diplomatic efforts to restart the long-stalled talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear ambition.

Chun Yung-woo, a former career diplomat who served as the top presidential security adviser between 2010 and 2013, said North Korea may decide to abandon its nuclear weapons only if it faces a regime collapse because of its pursuit of a nuclear arsenal.

"Given the sacrosanct value Pyongyang attaches to nuclear weapons, the chance of denuclearization is close to zero even under the best of circumstances," Chun told a forum in Beijing hosted by Seoul-based think tank the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

"Under the current circumstances, North Korea has no reason to abandon its nuclear ambition. However, I do not agree with those who argue that North Korea will never give up its nuclear capabilities at any price under any circumstances," said Chun, who also served as South Korea's top nuclear envoy between 2006 and 2008.

"If North Korea is given no other choice but between regime collapse with nuclear weapons and survival without them, there is a chance that they will opt for the latter, although I would not rule out the possibility of Pyongyang preferring a collapse with nuclear weapons," Chun said.

China is accelerating its diplomatic efforts to reopen the six-party talks, "however, the best time to reconvene the six-party talks is when there is a reasonable chance to produce anything positive," Chun said.

Unless North Korea publicly demonstrates its willingness to give up its nuclear weapons, the six-party talks "would become nothing more than a talk shop where North Korea would keep playing games," Chun said.

The six-party talks, which involved the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, have been dormant since late 2008. Since conducting its third nuclear test in February, North Korea has repeatedly expressed its willingness to rejoin the six-party process "without preconditions."

South Korea and the U.S. have been demanding North Korea to show its sincerity by first taking steps to denuclearize itself. China has been more accommodating toward North Korea, urging South Korea and the U.S. to lower the bar for Pyongyang to sit down at the negotiating table.

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