Nirj Deva: North Korea may be ready to accept a nuclear freeze

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A unique opportunity exists to take the first steps towards lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, according to the Conservative MEP involved in behind-the-scenes talks.

Nirj Deva, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with the Korean Peninsula, believes North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be ready to agree a freeze on his country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

Speaking ahead of planned talks between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in next week, and a possible meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump in May or June, Mr Deva urged the international community to see such an outcome as a success.

He said: “Following meetings in recent weeks with most of the international parties involved, I believe that North Korea may be prepared to accept a freeze on its nuclear development. If I am right, it must be seen for what it is – a highly significant step for Kim Jong Un to take – and we should react accordingly.

“It could be a precursor to further engagement and, hopefully,  a move towards our ultimate goal which is the removal of all nuclear weapons and the Korean Peninsula being declared a nuclear free zone.”

Mr Deva argues the international community should resist the temptation to try and push North Korea to go further at this stage.

He said: “We have to understand that the country has radicalised its position on nuclear weapons and institutionalised them. The North Korean leadership does not consider nuclear weapons as simply a deterrent, they are also identity weapons that reinforce the authority of Kim Jong Un, legitimise the sacrifices of the population, strengthen internal cohesion and boost national morale.

“To give them up now would severely damage the regime’s legitimacy and it would be naive to demand that. Sanctions and diplomacy are having an effect and we need to play the long game.”

Mr Deva has held 15 meetings over the past 30 months with senior figures from the North Korean regime and more are planned. He is also liaising with the South Korean, Chinese, US and British governments.

He has relentlessly advocated the case for dialogue without pre-conditions and described President Trump’s decision to accept Kim’s invitation to talks as “an unprecedented act of diplomacy.”

ENDS

Contact Robert Taylor Head of Media, Conservative MEPs robert.taylor@europarl.europa.eu

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