[OUTLOOK]No-carrot, no-stick policy for North

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[OUTLOOK]No-carrot, no-stick policy for North

Considering that we in Seoul live within artillery range of a failed state run by a pathological liar with a huge army, deadly missiles and a nuclear weapons program, the situation seems pretty stable.

So I have a solution -- "regime change," as they say in Washington.

No, not by force of arms, the way President Bush wants to change Iraq's regime. That would be lunacy. Call me chicken, but I don't want Kim Jong-il's soldiers marching this way chanting our fair city's catchy new slogan, "Hi Seoul!"

I am thinking rather of what Mr. Bush and Ariel Sharon are trying, without much success, to do to Yasser Arafat -- declare him irrelevant and wait for "moderate elements" to come forward. It could be a long wait. Kim Jong-il is only 60; his father lived to 82.

We all intone the virtues of "dialogue," but what is the use of dialogue with an interlocutor who won't be bound by his promises? Dialogue with North Korea is like the running gag in the "Peanuts?comic strip: Lucy holds the football and invites Charlie Brown to kick it, but as he runs up she snatches the ball away, and Charlie Brown collapses in an inglorious heap.

We have had three "negotiated solutions" with North Korea in the past decade. In 1992, agreed with South Korea that neither would have nuclear weapons. In 1994, after a confrontation with the Clinton administration that nearly led to war, Pyeongyang signed a Geneva agreement to suspend its nuclear weapons program. In 2000 at the Korean summit, it signed more pieces of paper about peace and cooperation on the peninsula.

Now Kim Dae-jung is picking himself up from the heap again and dusting himself off. He's game for another run at the football. It's very saintly of him, but it doesn't seem likely to be productive of what he and we all want, a secure peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Exactly who knew what and when is not yet clear. But South Korea claims to have been the first to spot the nuclear shenanigans in the North three years ago, and to have tipped off Washington. It also says the evidence was not "conclusive" until three months ago.

"Conclusive" or not, this means that when President Bush embarrassed President Kim in Washington in March 2001 by saying he had "some skepticism" about Kim Jong-il, he was not lacking goodwill or acting like a right-wing know-nothing. He had good reason to harbor "some skepticism."

And if means that President Kim went to the summit -- perhaps paid a hard-currency bribe to lure Kim Jong-il into the same room -- and never confronted the North Korean with his duplicity. Get the family reunions going and the rails linked, the president evidently felt, and overlook the naval provocations. Eventually, North Korea will realize that we mean it no harm and voluntarily give up its nuclear hole card.

It was a brave and generous policy, worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. It showed the single-minded determination of a great leader. Unfortunately, it also shows that Kim Dae-jung is a patsy.

Now we are being told that Pyeongyang's "voluntary" confession of its nuclear program shows that it is eager for dialogue and ready to show "transparency." First of all, this confession was not volunteered; it was elicited by a U.S. diplomat who produced irrefutable proof, reportedly even including receipts and customs documents, of Pyeongyang's cheating.

Should we nevertheless try one more time to kick Lucy Jong-il's dialogue football? The danger of isolating North Korea, as Kim Dae-jung pointed out, is that it will only go ahead with both nuclear programs -- the plutonium reprocessing that was stopped by the 1994 agreement and the new uranium enrichment program. In short order, Pyeongyang could have 10 or a dozen bombs, and could sell fissile material to terrorists or rogue states.

North Korea is cornered and desperate, and it has us where it wants us.

Maybe not. Every country in the Northeast Asian neighborhood is against Pyeongyang on this issue. China certainly does not want nukes in North Korea to be a pretext for nukes in Japan. It should be possible to give an unambiguous message to Kim Jong-il: "Show us! If you want help, stop all the nuclear nonsense and open up to inspections. When we are satisfied that you are no longer a nuclear menace, we will talk -- not before."

It's a no-carrot, no-stick policy. Carrots don't induce desired behavior from Kim Jong-il; he just eats them. Sticks -- threats of what we will do if he doesn't comply -- won't work either because we really don't want to run the risk of using our sticks, and he knows it.

If U.S. intelligence can produce receipts and customs documents, it should be able to detect and intercept attempted sales of bomb material to terrorists and rogue states. If Kim Jong-il builds 10 bombs, so what? He can't use them and survive.

If he is as desperate for help as Seoul's doves fervently hope, Mr. Kim will do what he has to do to get it. If not, we can afford to wait for regime change. He can't.


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The writer is editor of the JoongAng Daily.

by Hal Piper

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