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Is North Korea On A Path To Abandoning Its Nuclear Weapons?

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People watch a TV screen showing images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, center, and U.S. President Donald Trump at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 7, 2018.
Ahn Young-joon/AP
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0307juliette.mp3

In a surprising development, officials from South Korea say that the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, is willing to engage in talks with the United States about ending its nuclear weapons program. He also reportedly said that he would stop conducting missile tests during diplomatic talks.

Homeland security expert Juliette Kayyem told Boston Public Radio she was cautiously optimistic about the development.

"I don't know if credit is due yet, because these are just overtures from North Korea. But [they are] nevertheless good overtures," Kayyem said. "This could all fall apart if they test a missile in the midst of these conversations with South Korea."

Despite the current rhetoric, however, Kayyem believes that the diplomatic conversation between North Korea, South Korea and the United States has fundamentally shifted on North Korea's nuclear program, from complete "denuclearization" to merely maintaining the status quo.

"All three countries, actually have moved the goal posts," Kayyem said.

"Giving up their nuclear weapons, I think, is not on the table," she said. "But keeping the status quo is."

That's a win for Kim Jong Un's regime, Kayyem said.

"In some ways, they have succeeded in getting to a place they want to be, which is a protection of their power," Kayyem said. "That's why they [built up their nuclear weapons program], to ensure that family remains in power until the end of time."

National Security expert Juliette Kayyem joins Boston Public Radio every week. She’s a faculty member at Harvard’s Kennedy School, a CNN contributor and CEO of ZEMCAR. To listen to her interview in its entirety, click on the audio player above.

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