Washington (VOA) – North Korea’s threats of nuclear attacks on the United States are mere “blusters,” a former senior White House official said Wednesday.
In a phone interview with VOA Korean Service, the former White House Coordinator for Arms Control, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation, and Terrorism Gary Samore said he does not take such threats coming out of Pyongyang seriously.
The United Nations tightened sanctions against North Korea for its latest nuclear test and the North responded with bombastic threats, including threatening to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against both the United States and South Korea.
“I do not think the North Koreans are suicidal” said Samore, adding that the use of nuclear weapons will result in the country’s total destruction.
Samore, Obama’s former nuclear non-proliferation advisor, however, is concerned with the possibility of another military provocation by the North, which would present the South Korean government with a need to respond.
“President Park Geun-hye made it very clear that she will take action if the North Koreans engage in any kind of provocation,” said Samore.
As the threat pertains to conventional military provocations, Samore believes there is no need for Seoul to develop nuclear weapons. Referring to the U.S. nuclear force, Samore said “South Korea is well-protected in terms of having a very strong nuclear umbrella.”
While Samore recognizes such a need might arise if and when the US-South Korean military alliance weakens, he stressed Washington is fully committed at present to defending its long-time ally.
The biggest reason not to worry about Pyongyang’s nuclear threat? “I don’t think North Korea has that capacity now,” said Samore.
That conclusion comes from a number of reasons. North Korea tested several rockets in recent years but only one was successfully put into space. Not only that, it never tested a re-entry vehicle.
“It takes a lot of technical challenges to making a re-entry vehicle work because as it comes back into the atmosphere, it experiences a lot of pressure, turbulence, and heat,” Samore explained.
The Kim Jong Un regime appears determined to keep its nuclear program despite the continued difficulty it faces in developing long-range missiles. Samore assessed that is why the United States is leaning towards containment, rather than seeking denuclearization.
“I think everyone is very realistic about the prospects of denuclearization in the immediate future,” said Samore.
In the long-term, however, Samore said the U.S. is still committed in achieving denuclearization and continues to refuse to accept North Korea as a nuclear state.
Samore currently works as the Executive Director of Research at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Reported by Sungwon Baik for VOA Korean Service. Written in English by Jeewon Lee.
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