Washington will consider ‘interim steps’ toward N.K. denuclearization: U.S. official

The United States will consider laying out "interim steps" on the path to North Korea's denuclearization, a White House official said Monday. Mira Rapp-Hooper, the U.S. National Security Council senior director for East Asia and Oceania, also said Washington is "ready and willing" to engage in discussions with the North about threat reduction. "The United States remains committed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula but we're also going to consider interim steps on that pathway to denuclearization, provided that these steps will make the region and the world safer," she said at a forum in Seoul co-hosted by South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper and the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The remarks came as North Korea has ramped up weapons tests in the new year in what appears to be an effort to strengthen its capabilities to deliver nuclear warheads. In January, the North fired a solid-fuel hypersonic missile and launched what it claimed was an und erwater nuclear attack drone. The U.S. denuclearization negotiations with North Korea stalled following a no-deal Hanoi summit between then U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in 2019. Matt Pottinger, a former U.S. deputy national security adviser, emphasized that the North's recent labeling of South Korea as its "principal enemy" and escalating military provocations are not signs of leader Kim Jong-un's readiness to go to war but rather aimed at stepping up the ante for negotiations. "I think it's far more likely that Kim is dusting off an old playbook of manufacturing a crisis in pursuit of the following goals to deter the United States and South Korea at a time when Kim is shipping large quantities of ammunition and weapons to Russia, which is the last thing he'd be doing if he were planning a war, and also to tee up renewed negotiations with the United States following our presidential election in November," he said. He voiced concerns over the growing military cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow, saying it is "emblematic of the new axis" of aggression they are waging or planning around the world. Source: Yonhap News Agency