[VIEWPOINT]Talks with North at what price?

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[VIEWPOINT]Talks with North at what price?

A new nuclear crisis arises on the peninsula as North Korea pursues its nuclear development program. To deal with this issue, we have to keep in mind two key premises. One is that in no case should we let North Korea possess nuclear weapons. We should cope with this issue from the perspective of the threat to mankind. We should not gloss over the true nature of this issue by appeals to Korean "blood." The other premise is that South Korea should not initiate or mediate to solve the North Korean issue.

The issue broke out because North Korea refused to abide by its obligations under pacts concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The nuclear watchdog exists under the auspices of the UN Security Council to implement the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, an international accord overseen by the Security Council. The five nuclear powers -- the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France and China -- have exclusively dominated the international nuclear order since World War II. After the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the United States monopolized the order. In 1994, clumsily fancying itself a sheriff on the Western frontier, the Clinton administration managed to form the so-called Geneva Agreed Framework by negotiating with North Korea outside the structure of the United Nations and the IAEA.

The Geneva Agreed Frame-work turned out to be a failure. Though the United States and North Korea addressed two different nuclear issues, they whistled up a makeshift hut in which the two issues coexist, without being coherently integrated. The U.S. intention was to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. But North Korea wanted to change the U.S. hostility that it says forced it to develop nuclear weapons.

The Agreed Framework is collapsing. Not the Bush administration's hawkish line, but framework's hasty interweaving of two different nuclear issues brought about the collision. Accordingly, there is only one solution. The United States should give up its sheriff role and let the IAEA take over. If the IAEA cannot solve it, the UN Security Coun-cil should handle the matter of deterring North Korea from developing nuclear weapons.

The Kim Dae-jung administration and President-elect Roh Moo-hyun are asking the United States to start dialogue with North Korea in order to mediate the North's nuclear problem. But there is one thing we must point out -- the price the United States is asked to pay for a new dialogue with Pyeongyang. North Korea is demanding that the United States repudiate its hostility against North Korea as a precondition of dialogue. The demand includes the pullout of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, the conclusion of a nonaggression pact to substitute for the Korean War armistice, repeal of the mutual defense treaty and combined military operations between South Korea and the United States and so on. In other words, North Korea is asking for the complete removal of the war-deterrent apparatus on the Korean Peninsula that has lasted since the 1950-1953 Korean War. Should the dialogue between North Korea and the United States take place at the price of accepting such absurd demands by the North?

In 1992, under a rosy and premature illusion of North-South progress, the Roh Tae-woo administration cashed in Team Spirit, a joint military drill by South Korea and the United States, for the bounced check of the Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. In 1994, a sense of sovereignty and a lack of confidence in the United States led the Kim Young-sam administration to blunder horribly by unnecessarily taking on 70 percent of the cost of building the light-water reactors.

Our choice is simple and clear. We should not repeat past blunders. In order to do that, we should not try to take charge of solving North Korea's nuclear problem. The government should mobilize all diplomatic means to persuade the United States, Japan and other members of the international community to take this issue to the IAEA and the UN Security Council and let this issue be handled in the framework of the Nonproliferation Treaty. We have seen that the North Korean nuclear issue cannot easily be solved. The government should admit that this issue may last as long as the Kim Jong-il regime rules North Korea.

* The writer is a visiting professor of North Korean studies at Myongji University.

by Lee Dong-bok

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