WASHINGTON-- The United States is unlikely to seek South Korea's permission should it decide to strike North Korea, a former U.S. nuclear negotiator said Wednesday.
Speaking at a forum, Robert Gallucci, who brokered the 1994 nuclear freeze deal with North Korea, said he delivered that view to President Moon Jae-in when they met in Seoul last month.
"It is completely understandable that the South Korean president and South Korean Assembly people and South Korean people would like ... to be consulted about any decision the United States would take, which would cause retaliation by the North against the South," he said.
But Gallucci noted that U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis once said it would be "game on" if North Korea takes action that directly threatens the U.S. or its allies.
"He didn't say if that happens, the president sends an emissary to the Blue House and we will consult and ask permission of South Koreans as to whether we can adequately defend America and its interests," he said, referring to South Korea's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. "He didn't say that because it's not true."
Gallucci, who now heads the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, noted it would have been useful for Moon and U.S. President Donald Trump to discuss the issue during the summit last week if it was so important to Seoul.
He added the caveat that he does not think Washington would take military action without communicating its decision with Seoul, but the bilateral alliance does not mean the U.S. will not defend itself if necessary.
"It means we will take action taking full account of our obligations to our allies South Korea and Japan," he said.
Gallucci made the remarks shortly after he took part in a separate public discussion with South Korea's ruling Democratic Party leader Choo Mi-ae.
Choo, who is currently on a visit to Washington, had told the forum that South Korea would not accept war on the Korean Peninsula without its consent under any circumstances.
"I find that a reach, which is my way of saying it's not likely at all," Gallucci said.
The 1994 agreement he negotiated called for North Korea to freeze and ultimately dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for political and economic concessions. It later fell through with the outbreak of the second nuclear crisis in 2012 after the North was found to have been running a clandestine program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.
Source: Yonhap News Agency