Only a day after announcing its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, North Korea has hinted that it might end its self-imposed missile-test moratorium. At the same time, Pyeongyang held an anti-American assembly, with 1 million North Koreans gathered in the capital. Pyeongyang has been escalating the tension on the peninsula day by day; it is unclear whether it intends to resolve the situation through peaceful means or wants to drive it to catastrophe. North Korea said it had no intention to build nuclear weapons, but it walked away from the nuclear pact.
North Korea's contradictory moves are largely based on its misjudgment of international affairs. First, it has an extremely poor understanding of the United States. Washington's world view in this century is far different from what it was in the 1990s, when Pyeongyang and Washington drew up the Geneva Agreed Framework. North Korea, however, has missed the point. The Bush administration's hard-line policy arises from the Sept. 11 terrorist attack; it now puts its priority on the nonproliferation of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
The United States, therefore, is trying, despite severe criticism at home and abroad, to justify its strategy of preemptive strikes to attack terrorism. If Pyeongyang continues to play brinkmanship by developing nuclear weapons and missiles, it is possible that the worst scenario will emerge. In that case, is North Korea capable of countering the U.S. military? Pyeongyang may be courting disaster by driving the situation to the verge.
North Korea must get international help to draw the United States into negotiations. But it has brought complete isolation onto itself; even China's President Jiang Zemin turns his back. North Korea must not find an ally in South Korea, since South Koreans will never accept nuclear weapons development in the North. Seoul must make that point crystal clear. We must not let the North court disaster through misjudgment and arrogance. North Korea must stop undermining its interests by repeating extreme moves. It is time for the North to show real courage. Restoring the situation to the original condition to begin negotiations is the North's first task.