“The North Koreans emphasize over and over, denuclearization is completely off the table,” she said. “We are smoking something if we think this is something that is achievable. They say it’s not negotiable, it’s over, it’s done, this is not something we can talk about.”
Terry went on to say her North Korean counterparts said, “We are so close to completing the nuclear program, we are so close to perfecting this nuclear arsenal, we did not come this far to give it up.” She added that they gave the examples of Libya and Iraq as regimes that abandoned nukes only to face regime change later.
It’s not just Terry who at this point is persuaded the goal of a denuclearized North Korea is not attainable. Bill Clinton’s former secretary of defense, William Perry, told a group of journalists last month in Washington that the best the U.S. could hope for now would be a freeze on North Korea’s program, similar to the one the Obama administration negotiated with Iran. But again, this would not roll back the considerable progress the regime has made. What’s more, he said he would not recommend today a pre-emptive strike against the regime’s arsenal. This is in part because North Korea has thousands of mortars capable of hitting Seoul, but also because a military strike wouldn’t be able to take out the country’s entire nuclear infrastructure.