The first American to visit North Korea’s nuclear plant – NKNews Podcast Ep. 231

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The Yongbyon complex located some 60 miles north of Pyongyang has been the center of North Korea’s nuclear program for decades, producing fissile material for multiple nuclear weapons tests. As the DPRK has not allowed independent experts to visit the site for years, analysts now pore over satellite imagery to divine the status of enrichment activity and estimate the number of warheads in its nuclear arsenal. But back in the early 1990s, North Korea was relatively more open about the complex as it negotiated and then implemented the Agreed Framework with the U.S. on freezing its nuclear program. And at that time, C. Kenneth Quinones became the first American to visit Yongbyon, as well as the first U.S. diplomat to meet with North Korean counterparts. This week, Quinones joins the podcast to discuss the cumulative six months he spent in the DPRK over the years and his interactions with North Koreans. He shares his assessments of U.S. policy toward Pyongyang under Trump and Obama, his experience relaying messages between North and South during a flare-up in tensions, holding talks with North Korean diplomats in New York over bagels and orange juice, and more. C. Kenneth Quinones is a former U.S. diplomat and a retired professor of East Asian history at Akita International University in Japan. His most recent book, “Imperial Japan’s Allied Prisoners of War in the South Pacific: Surviving Paradise,” was released in December. About the podcast: The North Korea News Podcast is a weekly podcast hosted by Jacco Zwetsloot (@JaccoZed) exclusively for NK News, covering all things DPRK — from news to extended interviews with leading experts and analysts in the field, along with insight from our very own journalists.

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