N.K. leader ultimately wants alliance with U.S.: expert

SEOUL-- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ultimately wants an alliance relationship with the United States similar to that between Seoul and Washington in an effort to hedge against China, an American expert said Tuesday.

Leon Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the New York-based Social Science Research Council, made the remark during a peace forum in Seoul, stressing that Pyongyang is seeking a "fundamental change" in relations between the two countries.

"They're not looking for security assurances. It's much deeper than that. They want to see us move. Kim's goals are far-reaching," Sigal said during the Northeast Asia Peace and Security Forum, referring to the North's leader.

"Based on what North Korean diplomats have told U.S. officials for years, this entails a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, normalization of political and economic relations and ultimately an alliance like U.S.-ROK. Why? Because of China," he said.

Sigal, who has been involved in unofficial talks with North Korean diplomats in recent years, also pointed out that the North's founding leader, Kim Il-sung, was able to play off China against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but he later reached out to Washington and Seoul in an effort to "end enmity and hedge against China's rise."

Sigal said that an alliance with the U.S. will assure the North to consider giving up its nuclear program.

The expert also said he believes that U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are aware of Kim's desire to end enmity.

"Ultimately Trump will have to find a way to address Pyongyang's expressed desire for alliance," he said.

The expert also noted that the notion of an alliance between Washington and Pyongyang could face "intense conservative opposition" in Seoul and Tokyo, and therefore a comprehensive approach is necessary that involve all players in the region.

Sigal suggested five parallel processes for negotiations, including a four-party peace process culminating in a peace treaty; denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula involving gradual elimination of nuclear weapons; normalization of the North's relations with the U.S., South Korea and Japan; sanctions easing and economic normalization; and regional security building.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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