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North Korea sees nuclear weapons as key to its survival

"The Takeout" previews Trump's N. Korea summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sees nuclear weapons, not alliances, as the "ultimate guarantor" of survival, according to former top CIA analyst Jung Pak, who joined CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett for lunch on this week's episode of "The Takeout."

That, she told Garrett, complicates the question of what "denuclearization" ultimately means, particularly ahead of President Trump's summit with Kim beginning next Wednesday.

"The first summit produced very little in terms of how we were going to move toward North Korea denuclearization," Pak said, adding that Kim has been "developing all of the ingredients for this recipe of mating the nuclear weapon on top of the ballistic missile that is shown to be able to fly across the world, to hit virtually any spot, frankly."

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"Kim has been intent on showing us his capabilities, and he's also been pretty clear about his intentions. He's not going to unilaterally disarm, he said -- unless the U.S., and frankly, the world give up its nuclear weapons."

Trump administration officials say they do not know if North Korea has made the choice yet to denuclearize, but they're engaged in these talks because they believe in the possibility.

President Trump himself has asserted that if North Korea does achieve verifiable "denuclearization," which he simultaneously said he is now in "no rush" to achieve, the country could become a "tremendous economic power" due to their "unbelievable location" tucked in next to Russia, China and South Korea.

Pak believes "there is something to be said" for that point. But the North also sees its location as a real vulnerability, she told Garrett. 

"They're surrounded by the second, third and eleventh largest economies, and the only thing that sets them apart, and the only thing that makes them relevant is nuclear weapons."

For more of Major's conversation with Jung Pak, download "The Takeout" podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, or Spotify. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).

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