The US has worked hard over the past year to work with North Korea on denuclearization — but Pyongyang has shown no interest, said Victor Cha, senior vice president for Asia and Korea and chair of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“We can’t just assume that North Korea comes to the table because the United States wants to talk,” Cha told CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia on Tuesday.
“The problem right now is that North Korea is not picking up the phone, not answering the door, and showing no interest from various interlocutors that it is willing to come back for a conversation.” [about] “They must abandon their nuclear program now,” he said.
The two countries have been at odds for years over North Korea’s nuclear threats and actions towards South Korea.
Early Wednesday, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles east, hours after a US nuclear-powered submarine docked in South Korea — the first in decades.
Last week, the reclusive country launched a long-range ballistic missile toward its eastern waters. Experts say it was likely the Hwasong-18 ICBM under development, which is more difficult to detect or intercept than the liquid-propellant missiles.
It was North Korea’s first long-range missile test since April and was believed to have been triggered by alleged US spy plane incursions.
People watch a TV show showing a stock image of a North Korean missile launch at Seoul Station May 31, 2023 in Seoul, South Korea.
Chung Sung-jun | Getty Images News | Getty Images
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and White House Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell met Tuesday in Seoul for the inaugural meeting of the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG).
Cha said the goal of the meeting is for the US to give South Korea a “look inside the nuclear box” and gain confidence that the US is committed to using its nuclear capabilities to defend South Korea against North Korea.
The meeting comes almost three months after US President Joe Biden and Yoon released the Washington Declaration.
According to the Washington Declaration, the US will not send nuclear weapons to South Korea, but will instead temporarily increase the number of military weapons and vehicles it sends to the country.
South Korea’s relationship with China
China has raised concerns that the NCG may lead to an arms race and instability on the Korean Peninsula.
But Cha said the US is merely “proactive” and not “provocative.”
“China doesn’t like what the United States is doing with its allies to strengthen the alliance… The Chinese will always present this as a threat to their interests because they would like to dismantle the US alliance system,” he said.
“If the US alliance system in Asia were to collapse, it would have a huge impact not only in the security sphere, but also in the economic and financial sphere,” Cha added.
Despite differing views, South Korea still strives for a good relationship with China, its key economic partner.
South Korea wants a relationship based on mutual respect, meaning that “they don’t want the Chinese dictating to them how to manage their own sovereign security,” Cha said.