Kim Jong Un ‘desperate to get rid of nuclear weapons’, claims former South Korean leader

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the country's artillery weapon system and attends the test-firing of such weapons
Kim Jong Un reportedly made it clear that Pyongyang did not intend to use nuclear weapons - KCNA/REUTERS

Kim Jong Un was desperate to get rid of his nuclear weapons and said he would only ever use them defensively, a former South Korean president has claimed.

In a new memoir, Moon Jae-in, who oversaw the unprecedented summits between Kim and former US President Donald Trump, wrote that the North Korean leader “repeatedly” and “desperately” made clear that Pyongyang did not intend to use such weapons and was frustrated by international mistrust.

Mr Moon wrote: “He also mentioned that he has a daughter and doesn’t want her generation to live with the burden of nuclear weapons. He sincerely explained his commitment to denuclearisation.”

But the memoir, released last week, provoked strong criticism from Kim Yung-ho, the South’s unification minister and top official on North Korea, who compared the recollection to Neville Chamberlain’s “appeasement” policy in the lead up to World War II.

If South Korea relies only on North Korea’s “good faith”, its people and national security could be at risk, said Mr Kim.

He told a press conference: “While ignoring North Korea’s [nuclear] capability, if we only focus on the North’s intentions, this could result in a miscalculation of the security situation.”

Collapse of diplomatic talks

Diplomatic efforts by South Korea and the United States to persuade Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme ultimately collapsed in a disagreement at the Hanoi summit in 2019 over the lifting of sanctions.

The North Korean regime has since significantly stepped up its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons development and Kim has since declared that his country will “never give up” its nuclear firepower.

In a further sign of his shift in direction, he revealed his “beloved daughter” Ju-ae to the world for the first time in 2022 at the launch of the Hwasong-17, an intercontinental ballistic missile.

South Korea, under Yoon Suk Yeol, the current president, has also taken a more hardline stance towards the North, warning that if it attempts to use nuclear weapons it will “face an immediate, overwhelming and decisive response.”