Power Plays on the Peninsula

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Power Plays on the Peninsula

The relationship between the United States and North Korea is progressing fast. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright held talks with National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang over a period of two days, and she has arrived in Seoul. She has met with President Kim Dae-jung and presided over a three-way foreign ministers'' meeting with her Korean and Japanese counterparts.

It seems that she is taking steps to resolve North Korean issues and prepare for President Clinton''s possible visit to North Korea. Judging from Albright''s press conferences in Pyongyang and Seoul, it appears that important progress has been made about North Korea''s long-range missile development and a freeze on test-firing missiles - the largest stumbling blocks in the two nations'' relationship. The two nations also appear to be talking about plans to normalize ties.

In principle, we believe that the United States and North Korea should normalize their relationship as soon as possible. What we would like to know, however, is whether cooperation between South Korea, the United States, and Japan will be maintained and what burdens South Korea will be expected to take on.

In settling the missile issue, some people have already have suggested a system of sharing the burdens in the multinational style of the Korea Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO). When North Korea''s nuclear issue was resolved in 1994, the United States agreed in talks with North Korea that it would build South Korean-style light water reactors with guaranteed security in lieu of North Korean nuclear power plants. That was how the KEDO came into being, and at present, light water reactors are being built in Sinpo, North Korea. However, South Korea ended up picking up most of the bills.

It will not do if the solution to North Korea''s missile issue follows this precedent. On the surface, North Korea claims it is developing a rocket to launch a satellite, and it is willing to drop rocket development as long as a third nation launches a satellite on the North''s behalf and compensates them for the losses in foreign currencies to be incurred from stopping missile exports.

In a situation where some people claim that U.S. assertions about North Korea''s missile threat are exaggerated, it is not logical for South Korea to shoulder costs to avert such a dubious threat. It is said that a missile measures meeting will be held starting next week, and the government is advised to make thorough preparations.

What is most important is how a peace treaty between the United States and North Korea will be signed.

The current peace mechanism on the Korean Peninsula is fragile, based on the Armistice Treaty, which North Korea has already rejected. Therefore, the signing of a peace treaty to replace the Armistice Agreement is urgent.

Nevertheless, if it is to be replaced by a peace treaty between the principals of the Armistice Agreement (U.N. Commander and North Korean Commander), it will be an incomplete one, excluding South Korea.

If North Korea intends to shut off South Korea and turns the issue into the one between the U.S. and North Korea, it will not be realistically appropriate. Nor will it fit the spirit of the June 15 inter-Korean joint declaration, in which the issue of the Korean Peninsula is agreed to be solved "between us" and independently.

In view of that understanding, the government should restore cooperation between South Korea and the U.S. as well as make diplomatic efforts to recover basic negotiation rights for inter-Korean issues.


by Kim Young-hie

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