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Roh: Threats North cites are ‘exaggerated’

Oct 11,2006
Pyongyang’s claim that it needs nuclear weapons to counter the threats from the United States is off the mark, President Roh Moo-hyun said yesterday afternoon, according to the Blue House spokesman, Yoon Tae-young.
“From our perspective, the security threats that North Korea claims to face do not exist or are exceedingly exaggerated,” Mr. Roh said in a meeting with National Unification Advisory Council members at the Blue House.
When it pledged on Oct. 3 to conduct a nuclear test, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency added that “our nuclear weapon thoroughly aims to confront the threat of invasion by the United States.” The agency announced six days later, on Monday, that North Korea had conducted a test, causing Mr. Roh to say he might rethink the administration’s conciliatory policy toward the North.
Mr. Roh’s comments yesterday continued to reflect a new and notably different stance toward the communist state, this time in his thinking about its nuclear weapons. In 2004 in Los Angeles, for example, Mr. Roh said North Korea “has a point” in saying it needed nuclear weapons for self-defense.
Mr. Yoon said the president repeated yesterday his urging of North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs. “Excessive armaments only damage the order of peace and the trust of neighboring countries,” he said. “North Korea, in particular the North Korean regime, must understand such a principle well.”
Mr. Roh called the presumed nuclear test a “grave security threat” and, according to his spokesman, moved even more clearly away from saying carrots alone could influence the North’s behavior. He said both enforceable sanctions and a peaceful settlement of the crisis would clearly be effective. “We cannot give up either of them,” he said, “and the two need to be properly combined.”
He added, “But ultimately, the problem must be solved without the use of military power and without unfortunate incidents.”
Like his predecessor (Article, Page 2), Mr. Roh defended his engagement policies of the past toward Pyongyang.
“Imagine if North Korea had conducted a nuclear test when inter-Korean relations had not become reconciliatory and cooperative as they are now,” he said. “How anxious the public would be.”
He praised South Koreans’ “calm coping” with the crisis and the absence of hoarding of necessities by the general populace despite their concern about the situation. He called his constituents “superior” people and said that his administration’s “great progress” in reconciling with North Korea were the reason for the calm.
Earlier yesterday, Mr. Roh unexpectedly called business leaders who are operating at Mount Kumgang and the Kaesong Industrial Complex to a lunch meeting. He told the group, “It will probably take more time to settle the issue. It’s not something to be decided within a couple of months.”
Continuing his theme of taking his time to set a new course, he said, “The public now is shocked, indignant and anxious; therefore any decisions now may not be cool-headed.”
Fifteen business leaders and the unification minister, Lee Jong-seok, attended the lunch. Hyun Jeong-eun, the chairwoman of Hyundai Group, the main South Korean actor in economic projects in North Korea, urged Mr. Roh to continue to support those projects.
Mr. Yoon, the Blue House spokesman, quoted her as saying, “We will continue the Mount Kumgang project even if we have only one tourist left. Please help us.”
In the evening, Mr. Roh presided at a closed-door meeting with a group of civilian security advisors, as a part of his opinion gathering on next steps, Mr. Yoon said.


by Chun Su-jin


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