(LEAD) Trump may like to ‘solve’ N. Korean nuclear problem if reelected: ex-official


(ATTN: RECASTS 8th para; ADDS more info in 13th para)
By Song Sang-ho

WASHINGTON, May 16 (Yonhap) — Former President Donald Trump may like to “solve” North Korea’s nuclear quandary if reelected, a former U.S. official during Trump’s presidency said Thursday, noting how to address the issue is “unpredictable.”

Allison Hooker, former senior director for Asia at the National Security Council, made the remarks, underscoring that leader-level diplomacy with North Korea is the “right ” approach given that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is the “top decision-maker.”

“I think he (Trump) looks at North Korea and thinks … we could give that another go,” Hooker said during an online forum hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“He’d like to see that problem solved, whether that’s the nuclear problem or the threat problem, or whatever it is … but how we get there is unpredictable,” she added.

With Trump seeking to win the White House in the Nov. 5 election, questions have emerged over whether he would resume personal diplomacy with Kim in what is dubbed a “top-down” approach that led to three in-person meetings between the leaders, including their first summit in Singapore in 2018.

This AFP photo shows then U.S. President Donald Trump (R) shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after signing a joint statement at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. (Yonhap)

This AFP photo shows then U.S. President Donald Trump (R) shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after signing a joint statement at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. (Yonhap)

Hooker underlined her support for that top-down approach.

“I think leader-level engagement is the right approach with North Korea,” she said. “Kim is the top decision-maker and I still think that that is the best approach if you are going to get any major policies implemented there, any of your major breakthroughs there.”

The former official also said that Trump, if reelected, may want to see North Korea knock on the door for the resumption of dialogue.

“I don’t think President Trump is going to be the one knocking on the door,” she said. “The right circumstances and situations would have to occur to have that reengagement.”

Hooker raised the possibility that the North Korean leader could opt to return to dialogue when he determines it serves to advance his regime’s strategic goals and interests.

“I think Kim is opportunistic, and if he sees where it would be more beneficial to him or North Korea will advance other goals, then we can see him pull back and reengage,” she said.

“But the point is to reengage from a position of great strength. I think that’s what he is working on right now … to continue to build that platform, that position of strength.”

On the campaign trail, Trump has boasted his personal ties with the North Korean leader, saying he “got along very well” with Kim. His remarks have raised speculation that Trump could restart direct contact with Kim should he return to the White House.

While Trump was in office, Hooker was involved in key engagements with North Korea, including the summits in Singapore in 2018 and Hanoi and at the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas in 2019.

She also served as a senior analyst for North Korea in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research from 2001 to 2014.

This photo, captured from a YouTube account of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, shows Allison Hooker, former senior director for Asia at the U.S. National Security Council. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This photo, captured from a YouTube account of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, shows Allison Hooker, former senior director for Asia at the U.S. National Security Council. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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