North Korean defector pushes diplomatic solution in U.S. Congress

Former North Korean deputy ambassador to the UK Thae Yong-Ho talks to the media at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents Club in Seoul, South Korea January 25, 2017 REUTERS/Ed Jones/Pool - RC11EE3C31A0
North Korean deputy ambassador to the UK Thae Yong-Ho talks to
the media at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents Club in


By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A rare high-level defector from North
Korea told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday that disseminating more
information in the reclusive country would ultimately be more
effective than the billions of dollars being spent to address the
military threat.

“We can educate (the) North Korean population to stand up by
disseminating outside information,” Thae Yong-ho, chief of
mission at Pyongyang’s embassy in Britain until he defected in
2016, said during an appearance at Congress two days before
President Donald Trump’s first trip to Asia since taking office.

Asked what kind of information he was discussing, Thae said
background about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, like his birth
date, to convey the idea that he and his family ‘are not gods.”
He said South Korean videos, for example were increasingly
available within the North.

“The U.S. is spending billions of dollars to cope with the
military threat and yet how much does the U.S. spend each year on
information activities involving North Korea in a year?

Unfortunately, it may be a tiny fraction,” he said.

Thae made his first visit to Washington during rising
international tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic
missiles program. The crisis is expected to dominate Trump’s trip
to the region, which includes a stop in South Korea.

Thae also told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs
Committee that U.S. officials should meet with Kim at least once
to try to understand his thinking and convince him that he is
risking mass destruction.

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Thae said Kim thinks he can force the United States to accept
North Korea as a nuclear power and drive U.S. forces off the
Korean peninsula.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Washington was quietly pursuing
direct diplomacy with North Korea, despite Trump’s public
assertion that such talks are a waste of time.

Amid a war of words between Kim, who has called Trump a “mentally
deranged dotard,” and Trump, who referred to Kim as “little
rocket man,” many U.S. lawmakers have been pushing for
non-military solutions to the crisis.

Representative Ed Royce, the committee’s Republican chairman,
called at the hearing for a “dramatic increase” in the number of
individuals and entities targeted for sanctions, without delay.

Thae is the highest-level defector from North Korea in two
decades. In emotional testimony, he described a life before he
left for South Korea that mixed relative privilege and

He said he defected because he could not let his sons lead “a
life, like me, as a modern-day slave.”

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Peter Cooney)