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Verification vital for N. Korea's denuclearization: Ex-US Senator Lugar

Former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (Mainichi)

WASHINGTON -- Former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar said the most important element in international efforts to get rid of nuclear weapons is verification, and the U.S. and North Korea must figure out details of denuclearization they agreed upon in the June 12 summit through additional negotiations.

The former senator made the observation in a recent interview with the Mainichi Shimbun in Washington D.C., based on his experience as one of the authors of the Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act of 1991. Also known as the Nunn-Lugar Act for its authors, the law provides for funding and expertise for the U.S. effort to help former Soviet Union states such as Russia and Ukraine to dismantle nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

While welcoming the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Lugar pointed out that the agreement was very general and just the beginning.

"We really have not had any conversation about verification," he said, adding that issues such as who will be dismantling nuclear weapons or who will be paying the cost are not included in the joint statement. "These are all factors still to be negotiated," the former senator emphasized.

According to Lugar, Vice President Mike Pence invited Lugar and former Senator Sam Nunn, who coauthored the threat reduction act, to the White House one week before the Washington-Pyongyang summit, and introduced them to the president. They briefed the president on the dismantling of nuclear weapons at former Soviet states in the 1990s for some 25 minutes.

Lugar said they explained that the cooperative threat reduction program they promoted dealt with vast nuclear armament resources of countries including Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus, and various efforts were needed to realize the plan of dismantling up to 10,000 nuclear warheads. Details such as how to dismantle those weapons, how to secure the manpower needed to do the actual work on the ground and how to get the needed funds all had to be worked out, Lugar said. On top of that, preventing the proliferation of know-how on nuclear weapons development by providing jobs to researchers and workers involved in Soviet programs was a critical goal pursued by the project, explained the former senator.

"And so our advice (to President Trump) was to have his people visit with the Cooperative Threat Reduction Agency in the Pentagon, who have done this sort of planning extensively before and could be very helpful in creating a plan for the denuclearization of North Korea," said Lugar.

Verification -- finding out if North Korea's future declaration on its nuclear weapons program is complete -- will be the most important and challenging task, based on the U.S. experience in the threat reduction program, according to Lugar.

"I was far out in the eastern part of Russia, and we came upon a warehouse that had many missiles and chemical weapons. We had not been informed we were going to find that," said the former senator, adding that similar things would happen in North Korea if actual denuclearization work would begin. "Most of us are not that familiar with North Korea, terrain, it's not been opened really to scrutiny by others. So this will be a news story all by itself," he said.

(Japanese original by Haruyuki Aikawa, North America General Bureau)

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