April 02, 2010 12:54
The highest ranking official ever to defect from North Korea on Wednesday warned against placing any expectations in the Kim Jong-il regime. "It's wrong to try and do anything directly with Kim Jong-il," said Hwang Jang-yop, a former secretary of the Workers' Party, in a lecture he gave at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C.
Commenting on attention focused on Kim's imminent China visit, Hwang said, "There is no need to pay detailed attention to Kim Jong-il's moves. Although changes may come, what is needed for us is the end of dictatorship and the introduction of the market economy in the North."
Hwang also warned against giving aid to North Korea if it returns to six-party nuclear talks.
Hwang is visiting the U.S. for the second time to meet with American officials and lawmakers. After defecting to South Korea in 1997, he last appeared in the U.S. in 2003. Former deputy secretary of State Richard Armitage presided over the lecture, which was attended by former and current U.S. administration and intelligence officials. Asia experts Victor Cha and Michael Green were also present.
So long as China maintains an alliance with North Korea, Hwang said, "it's an illusion to expect it to play the role of an intermediary. China is North Korea's lifeline. If China ever broke with North Korea, it would be the death knell for the regime, so North Korea-China ties have to be broken." He said China has no territorial ambitions in North Korea but it worries about a shift to liberal democracy in the North and ensuing wind of reform and opening blowing among 800,000 Korean-Chinese along the Apnok (or Yalu) and Duman (or Tumen) Rivers.
"We don't need to resort to force against North Korea," Hwang said but called for ideological, economic and diplomatic strategies. "The core of ideological warfare against Pyongyang is the protection of human rights, and the U.S. and South Korea should raise the human rights issue in the North," he said. "The masters of the North are the 23 million North Koreans."
One way of surprising the North would be a free trade agreement between South Korea and China, Hwang added.
Asked about possible North Korean involvement in the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan, Hwang replied, "That's possible. But responsibility cannot be pursued based on possibility alone... I can't say anything because at the moment I have neither relevant information nor evidence."
Hwang said a sudden regime collapse in North Korea is unlikely. "No emergency will take place in North Korea so long as China continues to support it," he said. "At the moment, North Korea has no forces powerful enough to oppose Kim Jong-il, and no internal split of the system can be expected."
Since before his defection, Hwang said he was aware that the Japanese abducted to the North were working as interpreters. He is reportedly scheduled to visit Japan on Sunday to meet with families of the abducted.
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