Washington, Jan 26 (IANS) Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has said he does not believe North Korea will abandon its nuclear weapons in exchange for a suspension of the US joint military exercises with South Korea.
"A freeze-for-freeze under which Washington and Seoul would suspend their regular military exercises in exchange for the North halting its nuclear and ballistic missile testing will not... fulfil this purpose or even advance it," Kissinger said on Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the security challenges facing the US.
"That would equate legitimate security operations with activities which have been condemned by the UN Security Council for decades," he was quoted as saying Yonhap news agency.
"And it would encourage demands for additional restraints on, and perhaps the dismantling of, America's alliances in the region."
Kissinger, who served under the administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford in the 1970s, said the "most immediate challenge to international peace and security is posed by North Korea".
A freeze, pushed by China and Russia, would also give legitimacy to North Korea's nuclear establishment and results of its previous tests, he said.
"Paradoxically, it is only after Pyongyang has achieved nuclear and intercontinental missile breakthroughs accompanied by threatening assertions and demonstrations, that measures to thwart these activities have begun to be applied."
The former US Secretary of State said there has been some success in the Donald Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign to curb the North's nuclear ambitions, but added there has been "no breakthrough".
"North Korea acquired nuclear weapons to assure its regime's survival. To give them up would be tantamount to suicide for them," he said.
"An outcome that was widely considered unacceptable is now on the verge of becoming irreversible," Kissenger said.
He called for an agreement on Korea's future through the revival of the now-stalled six-party talks or a separate forum led by the US and China. That, he said, would be the "best road to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula".
"Interim steps towards full denuclearization may well be part of an eventual negotiation," Kissinger said. "But they need to be steps towards this ultimate goal: the dismantlement of Pyongyang's existing arsenal."
The mistake of past negotiations, which only helped North Korea buy time to advance its weapons development, must not be repeated, he added.