Washington's intelligence chief has said a US goal of persuading N. Korea to denuclearize is a "lost cause." The State Department and South Korean officials rejected the remark, stressing the policy has not changed.
The US National Intelligence director James Clapper suggested on Tuesday that Washington's goal of persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons is wishful thinking.
"The notion of getting the North Koreans to denuclearize is probably a lost cause. They are not going to do that. That is their ticket to survival," Clapper said in remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank.
"They are under siege, and they are very paranoid. So the notion of giving up their nuclear capability, whatever it is, is a nonstarter with them," the intel chief added.
The United States has maintained it cannot accept North Korea as a nuclear state. Under President Barack Obama, the US has made any talks with Pyongyang conditional on tangible commitments towards denuclearization.
'Nothing has changed'
Clapper's comments reflected an opinion which is widely held among experts on North Korea. The position though is one which is only expressed in private by senior US administration officials who believe policy changes on North Korea are overdue.
State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters he had not seen Clapper's comments, but stressed that "nothing has changed" in the Obama administration's approach to North Korea.
"We want to continue to see a verifiable denuclearization of the (Korean) peninsula," Kirby said, adding that the US still hopes for a resumption of six-nation aid-for-disarmament negotiations, which stalled since the North pulled out of talks in 2009.
South Korea also emphasized there would be no changes to their hardline position on the North.
"The determination of not only South Korea and the US but of the international community to end North Korea's nuclear program is stronger than ever," a foreign ministry official told news agency AFP.
"We will work with the international community to impose stronger sanctions and pressure on the North so it will have no other choice but to denuclearize," the official said.
Clapper's comments come amid growing concerns that the North is moving closer toward having an operational nuclear-tipped missile that could threaten the US mainland.
North Korea has conducted two atomic test explosions and over 20 ballistic missile tests this year.
rs/kl (AP, AFP)