중앙데일리

Pyeongyang blows hot and cold on U.S. ties

Sept 05,2002
Referring to the earlier U.S. criticism against Pyeongyang's development and stockpiling of chemical and biological weapons, the North's Radio Pyeongyang called the United States on Friday a true rogue state that threatened others with those dangerous weapons. The words of reproach came on the same day that the North's media reported Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's planned visit to Pyeongyang and the inter-Korean agreements reached at the economic talks in Seoul.

The harsh criticism continued the next day. The North's official Central News Agency attacked John Bolton, a senior arms control official in Washington, for labeling the North a global threat armed with weapons of mass destruction.

The two media, however, also offered olive branches to the United States. The news agency said North Korea is ready to talk with the United States once Washington changes its hard-line policy toward Pyeongyang. "The ball is now in the U.S. court," the mouthpiece of the reclusive state emphasized.

The tone of its messages is aggressive and offensive, perhaps, but North Korea watchers said the words show mixed sentiment in Pyeongyang. "No matter how fast relations with Japan and South Korea improve, the North knows it will never be free from the political burden of protecting its regime unless the U.S. administration eases its hostile policy toward Pyeongyang," a South Korean government official said. What Pyeongyang will earn from its economic reform and open-door policy are also directly related to its relations with Washington, he added.

"Unless there is tangible progress on the issue of weapons of mass destruction, Japan will have difficulty paying several billion dollars of compensation for its past aggression in Korea," said Kim Sung-han, a professor of the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security. "Pyeongyang must have realized the importance of its relations with Washington by now."

Only if the North is taken off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terror will it allow the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank make loans to rebuild the North's collapsing economy. Pyeongyang would be eligible to receive up to $4.5 billion from such organizations. Shaking hands with Washington is a short cut to funding for its economic reforms, and the North has already knocked at the door of the Bush administration. "It was ready to resume talks with Washington in April, but the U.S. government's hard-line stance hindered the plan," a well-informed diplomat said.

After meeting U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Brunei in July, North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun rushed to make public a planned trip by a U.S. envoy; some see the move as a sign of the North's frustration and anxiety.

"If Washington assures the existence of the North Korean regime and compensates it for giving up missile development," said Koh Yu-hwan, a Dongguk University professor, "Pyeongyang is probably willing to accept U.S. demands on weapons of mass destruction." But Washington is cool to the idea, seemingly unimpressed by signs of North Korean reform. It recently added new sanctions for years-old sales of missiles to Yemen.

The Sept. 17 summit between Japan and North Korea may also be a barometer of North Korean interest in better ties with Washington.

by Oh Young-hwan




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