[EDITORIALS]U.S. Fueling Instability On Peninsula

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[EDITORIALS]U.S. Fueling Instability On Peninsula

We cannot help but express concern over the overly hard-line position toward North Korea expressed by the United States yesterday at the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group meeting where the United States, South Korea and Japan fine-tuned their policies on the North. The consolidated North Korea policy of the United States is said to be based on the strict verification of the North's missile program and non-proliferation of arms in order to resolve the challenges presented by both. The policy is also said to assume talks with the North will resume.

This is tantamount to abandoning the engagement policy of the Clinton administration as codified in the Perry Report. We are disturbed that the United States would apparently negotiate with the North without taking into account the achievements of the former administration, and that it would decide whether to continue the negotiations at every stage, contrary to international practice.

If this were to happen, assuming talks do resume, both sides would confront each other on every issue. The United States would insist on prior examination of the North's facilities suspected of producing nuclear material according to the 1994 agreed framework; the North would counter that inspection depends on implementation of the framework. Since the construction of the light-water reactors for the North is moving slower than was scheduled, the argument by the United States is not convincing. Instead of being productive, negotiations may thus provoke instability on the Korean Peninsula. The United States may then propose replacing the light water reactors with thermal power plants, instigating additional instability. Further, the United States plans to demand not only a halt to missile tests and arms sales by the North, but also a reduction in conventional weapons. Such policies that back the North into a corner would only return the peninsula to the volatility of the past. If the negotiations hit deadlock, inter-Korean dialogue would also be adversely affected. The United States should thus adopt a more prudent stance toward the North lest its policies become a source of instability instead of a means of achieving peace and progress on the peninsula.
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