UK ambassador to North Korea encourages pragmatism in China Centre speech

Alastair Morgan said that American investment in North Korea is a “carrot which they are rejecting”

Alastair Morgan spoke at the Oxford China Centre. PHOTO: Tom Fowdy

The UK ambassador to North Korea today encouraged the US to proceed pragmatically to protect the possibility of denuclearisation ahead of President Trump’s meeting with South Korea’s President Moon tomorrow.

Alastair Morgan told an audience in a speech at the Oxford China Centre that American demands for fast denuclearisation and a “Libya model” have been poorly received by North Korea, and that both the US and South Korea are prepared to guarantee the security of the North’s regime to achieve denuclearisation.

Morgan said American investment in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a “carrot which they are rejecting”, citing the North’s “particular concern about US military assets” on the peninsula.

The North has been growing increasingly concerned by the US’s promise of economic aid in exchange for nuclear disarmament. Mr Trump responded angrily on Wednesday to the North’s chief nuclear negotiator’s declaration that the country would never trade away its nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions and greater financial intervention.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the state broadcaster of North Korea, has upped its propaganda warning of “bourgeoisie capitalism” in recent weeks, marking a striking shift in tone from the conciliatory gestures proffered by leader Kim Jong-un and his administration.

Mr Morgan, who was appointed ambassador in December 2015, said that North Korea “never anticipated the degree of coordination amongst members of the United Nations Security Council members.”

President Trump has begun pressing his aides and allies about whether he should proceed with the historic summit meeting planned for next month with Mr Kim in Singapore, the New York Times reported on Sunday, now increasingly concerned that his meeting with the North’s leader could turn into a political embarrassment.

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North Korea cancelled a meeting with South Korea last week and warned that they could cancel the Singapore meeting due to US-South military drills, which they believe are in preparation for invasion of the country.

Mr Morgan said that the North is actively seeking a “step-by-step” or “phased” approach to denuclearisation, which is at odds with the US’s position. The North will be seeking simultaneous rewards at each step until the regime’s fundamental security concerns are alleviated, he said.

The latest “pushback” in dialogue between the US, South Korea, and the North is directly connected to US demands, Mr Morgan said. The American position on the issue is reported to have been made clear to Mr Kim during a visit to Pyongyang by Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, earlier this month.

President Trump contradicted his newly-appointed national security advisor, John R. Bolton, last Thursday when asked by reported about Libya, confounding the importance of economic intervention for the trade of the North’s nuclear programme.

“The Libyan model isn’t a model that we have at all, when we’re thinking of North Korea,” he told reporters.

Referring to Western military intervention in Libya in 2011, Mr Trump said: “If you look at that model with Qaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him. Now that model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy.”

Mr Morgan referred to China’s recent relaxation of sanctions on North Korea and its attempt to find new “loopholes” to its aid of the country. He said that China has a greater “tolerance” of North Korea than the US, and a bigger timeline for resolution concerning it.

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Mr Trump and Mr Moon will meet in Washington on Tuesday to discuss the June summit meeting. “The two leaders will work closely and unwaveringly for the successful hosting of the North Korea-US summit set on June 12, including the upcoming South Korea-US summit,” a South Korean presidential official said yesterday.