Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Defector: Kim's ouster would stop nukes

Associated Press Writer
October 17, 2006

The man once considered the mentor of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il said Tuesday that the reclusive country's nuclear weapons program cannot be stopped unless the strongman is ousted.
But Kim's total grip on the communist society makes that only a remote possibility, Hwang Jang Yop, the highest-ranking North Korean government official ever to defect to South Korea, told The Associated Press.

The 83-year-old Hwang, wearing a lapel badge in the shape of the South Korean national flag, is also skeptical that United Nations sanctions imposed on the North for a nuclear test explosion will hurt Kim's rule.

"I don't think his grip on power will be significantly weakened," Hwang said, adding that South Korea continues to give aid to North Korea, while other countries, most notably China and Russia, are opposed to the idea of pressuring the North.

Hwang, who seldom gives interviews, made his surprising defection in 1997 when he and an aide took refuge in the South Korean embassy in Beijing while on a visit to the Chinese capital. At the time, he was a longtime member of the North's elite, serving as secretary of the ruling Workers' Party.

He had been close to the country's founder, Kim Il Sung, the father of Kim Jong Il, and is often described as the younger Kim's former mentor. Hwang is also widely seen as the intellectual architect of the North's "juche" philosophy of self sufficiency.

After intense negotiations between China and South Korea, Hwang eventually left Beijing for the Philippines, where he stayed briefly before making his way to Seoul.

Now under police protection 24 hours a day to prevent any North Korean attempt on his life, Hwang said the six-nation talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear weapons program will not resolve the crisis.

He said South Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan should not bargain with the North. They should instead isolate the regime, he said, calling it an "international criminal organization and the enemy of democracy."

The North's nuclear test last week was not Kim's last card and the North Korean leader could still test fire more missiles like he did in July and even mount nuclear warheads on them, Hwang said.

"It is nonsense to urge the North to abandon its nuclear weapons with Kim in place," he said.
Hwang said China is key to bringing an end to Kim's regime.

China is the last remaining ally and main aid donor to its impoverished neighbor, but their relations have been strained by Beijing's support of the U.N. resolution. Still, Beijing succeeded in blocking an even tougher one pushed by the U.S. and Japan.

"No Chinese officials like the North Korean leader, but they keep him in power," Hwang said, adding that Kim's regime serves Beijing's interests by helping keep U.S. influence in the region at bay.

Hwang said the best-case scenario would be if the North pursued economic openness and reform in trying to rebuild its dismal economy, which he said would likely lead eventually to Kim's overthrow and naturally resolve the nuclear dispute.

But Hwang doubts that will happen. "Kim Jong Il actually fears Chinese-style economic reform and openness coming to North Korea," he said.


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