The new US administration will not recognise North Korea as a nuclear state, but will instead push stalled negotiations forward through tough, experienced officials, a former envoy to South Korea has said.
North Korea has sought to establish itself as a nuclear weapons state since conducting its first atomic weapon test in 2006. "We don't know whether they are actually weaponised devices," Thomas Hubbard said in a Seoul forum, "What we do know for sure is that we will not recognise North Korea's nuclear power."
Hubbard, who was the US ambassador to South Korea from 2001-2004 under the Bush administration and advised the Obama campaign on North Korea, said the new administration will seek both direct and multilateral talks with Pyongyang in a break from Bush's approach.
"I think the Obama policy will be quite different from Bush policy," he said, recalling the day in 2002 when Bush called North Korea part of an "axis of evil" as "the worst day of my 40-year professional career." "I'm also impressed with the lineup of senior officials selected by the Obama administration to deal with North Korea," he said in the forum titled "Directions to Resolve the North Korean Nuclear Issue and Prospects for Changes in North Korea."
Stephen Bosworth, a former ambassador to Seoul reportedly named as chief US envoy on North Korea, is "a tough negotiator with deep experience" who will engage Pyongyang, but never "cozy up" to its claim of nuclear-armed status, he said.