WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 (UPI) — A former U.S. Forces Korea commander said North Korea is not likely to give up its nuclear weapons before Korean unification.
Retired four-star Gen. Walter Sharp told a group of visiting South Korean lawmakers North Korea’s nuclear crisis is likely to continue as long as Kim Jong Un remains in power, Yonhap news agency reported.
Sharp made the comments during a private meeting with the lawmakers at the Watergate Hotel on Wednesday, according to the South Korean press report.
Chung Jin-suk, a South Korean ruling party parliamentarian who was part of the delegation, relayed Sharp’s remarks to reporters.
Sharp also suggested unless the Kim regime opts for reform and pursues policy more compatible with international regulations, the only way the North Korea nuclear crisis will resolve itself is through regime change.
The retired military commander also told Seoul’s politicians there is high demand for THAAD, the U.S. missile defense system, in other parts of the world.
Israel has requested THAAD deployment within its borders, Sharp said, according to South Korea press.
Sharp’s remarks come at a critical time in South Korea, where opinion is divided over THAAD.
Residents of candidate areas for THAAD deployment have staged protests because they are wary of the system’s impact on their health and also because of China’s stern opposition.
Sharp had also said in May North Korea could collapse sooner than expected, and instability could lead to the demise of the regime.
North Korea is under multiple pressures including U.N. Security Council sanctions, but a source in the country recently said vibrant trade with China has prevented economic hardships for the residents of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.