[OUTLOOK]Security prospects after Lim visit

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[OUTLOOK]Security prospects after Lim visit

The special envoy Lim Dong-won is back from his visit to North Korea. Many people are wondering just what Mr. Lim said when he was in Pyeongyang and what was the reaction from the North Korean leaders. Some details of the conversation, understandably, cannot be revealed. However, as Mr. Lim had emphasized before his departure for Pyeongyang that the main aim of his visit was the alleviation of tension that will threaten the security of the Korean Peninsula next year, we can more or less guess what the main gist of his message to the North Korean leaders was.

Specifically, it would be safe to say that Mr. Lim's message contained something about the following two problems. First, there is the problem of implementing the provisions agreed in 1994 between North Korea and the United States about the prevention of North Korea's production of nuclear weapons. Second, there is the potential problem that Pyeongyang may resume missile tests that have been suspended for three years.

Initially, the Geneva Agreement was not formed to solve the North Korean nuclear problem but to create time for finding a solution. That is, Pyeongyang agreed to allow special inspections of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency before the completion of the light-water nuclear reactors that the United States agreed to provide.

The problem is that while the nuclear agency is requesting that the inspections start now, as special inspections could take three or four years, Pyeongyang is showing no signs of agreeing to such inspections.

Moreover, the problem has gotten more serious with some conservatives in the United States claiming that the Geneva Agreement is no longer valid, as North Korea is refusing to allow the nuclear inspections. In these circumstances, the tension surrounding the North Korean nuclear problem will not only repeat itself; it could likely cause a more serious crisis than the one in 1994. It has been confirmed that the United States was fully prepared to wage a war on North Korea at that time should things have gone wrong. Should things have gone really wrong, the Korean Peninsula would have been nothing but ashes.

Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the United States has shown a much firmer stance against nations, such as North Korea and Iraq, producing mass destruction weapons, even compared to the Cold War era.

The unstoppable prevalence of missiles in the world makes them a problem not addressed in international law. Seen from the United States' foreign policy point of view, however, missiles are as significant a challenge as the nuclear problem. Should North Korea start to produce and export long-distance missile with nuclear warheads, it would be dangerous for the United States not to take immediate action.

This is why the Clinton administration took such pains to make Pyeongyang give up its long-distance missiles even at the cost of offering great compromises. It has been reported that the negotiations between Pyeongyang and the former Democratic administration went on for a long time but concluded with no satisfactory results. There was only the announcement by North Korea that it would postpone its long-distance missile testing for three years, merely putting off the missile problem for later.

We should not be surprised to find the problem once again shaking up the peninsula once the three-year postponement ends next year.

It would not be an unreasonable fear to say that we should expect great tension on the Korean Peninsula next year. It would not be excessive to say that we should do something beforehand to prevent such tension. The problem, however, is knowing what exactly we should do to prevent such tension.

On the technical side, there are various little disagreements over the interpretation of the Geneva Agreement that need to be worked out between the two parties.

In the larger picture, North Korea should be persuaded to give up all ambitions of producing or keeping weapons of mass destruction for the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea and the United States must formulate a strategy to convince North Korea to give up all its obsessions about nuclear weapons as well. In some ways, the potential for a crisis in 2003 that puts such a heavy burden on the back of the South Korean-United States alliance could also be an opportunity for a way out of the current problem of unstable peace and security we are facing.

In this sense, it is definitely worth waiting for the results of the reopening of North-South Korean talks.


The writer is the president of the Institute of Social Sciences.

by Kim Kyung-won

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