North Korea, with cajoling from China, eventually will agree to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for more aid, said a former U.S. diplomat and Kansas native.
"This time I think there is a real chance for an agreement," said David Lambertson, who spent more than a year in North Korea. He spoke Monday to more than 100 people during a noon luncheon meeting of the Lawrence Rotary Club at the Lawrence Holidome, 200 McDonald Drive.
China wants an agreement as much as the United States does, and it will play a key role in influencing North Korea, said Lambertson, interim director of the Center for International Business Education and Research at Kansas University. Lambertson also said there will be a resumption of the six-country talks on North Korea's nuclear capability.
An agreement probably will include more aid to North Korea from the United States as well as diplomatic recognition, Lambertson said, and North Korea will agree to close inspection of its nuclear sites.
"This might set forth a number of changes that will gradually transform North Korea," Lambertson said.
Lambertson spent more than 30 years in foreign service, including work as U.S. ambassador to Thailand from 1991 to 1995. He was a U.S. representative for the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, established to implement the 1994 U.S.-North Korea agreement that froze that country's nuclear power plant development center at Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center.
Lambertson described the North Korean regime as "undoubtedly the worse government in the world."
The country's people have long faced fuel shortages and many homes lack heat, he said, while equipment problems have idled factories.
North Koreans get no outside news and constantly are subjected to information that includes "excessive praise" for dictator Kim Jong Il and daily criticism of the United States, Lambertson said.
The North Korean military has been affected by equipment shortages, but most of its military manpower and artillery have been placed near the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, Lambertson said.
The country also may have developed as many as eight nuclear bombs, he said. North Korea announced in October that it had successfully tested one of those bombs.
"We need to recognize North Korea as a formidable foe," he said. "We have to take the North Korean threat to South Korea as seriously as we have done the last 50 years."