[GLOBAL EYE]Time for some vigor from Seoul

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[GLOBAL EYE]Time for some vigor from Seoul

It has been three months since North Korea and the United States confronted each other over issues of nuclear weapons. International sentiments on this problem are focused on peaceful agreement through a dialogue. The United States has been telling other countries that it will try to work things out in diplomatic and peaceful ways, but it does not seem that the two parties will ever sit down with each other, which puts more and more diplomatic pressure on North Korea.

It is necessary to look back on the reasons why the agreement made in Geneva in 1994 between the United States and North Korea failed. The world's most powerful nation has been sticking with the principle of crime and punishment when it comes to nuclear proliferation. If a country violates a pact on nuclear proliferation, then the country should be punished by the world's big brother.

The Geneva agreement, however, is exceptional in that it was based on diplomatic give and take. As the unique official name of the agreement, "Agreed Framework," implies, the agreement between the United States and North Korea is not a perfectly agreed pact but a framework for preventing nuclear proliferation by giving to and taking from each other.

The United States said North Korea allegedly has two nuclear weapons, so the Geneva agreement tacitly approved the North's possession of those two weapons. The agreement is intended to prevent North Korea from developing and possessing more weapons by promising that the United States would supply fuel oil while two nuclear reactors are built in compensation for North Korea's shutdown of its old reactor. After the two countries signed the agreement, the Republican Party dominated the Senate and the House of Representatives after the midterm elections of 1994. The American conservatives began to criticize the Clinton administration and said they would not honor the Geneva agreement. Construc-tion of the light water reactors did not start for three years, and the shipments of oil were sometimes delayed. Diplomatic relations between the two countries have not improved very much for the last eight years, while North Korea secretly developed a uranium enrichment nuclear program.

In addition, George W. Bush made two huge mistakes amid the mutual distrust between the two countries. First, Mr. Bush clearly disapproved of President Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine policy" to Mr. Kim's face in March 2001. Secondly, Mr. Bush painted North Korea as one of the "axis of evil" countries in his State of the Union address in January 2002.

Mr. Bush implied that North Korea could be attacked preemptively to prevent nuclear proliferation. Mr. Bush has continued his personal criticism of Kim Jong-il.

It is disputable who broke the agreement first, but there was no mutual trust. North Korea recently insisted that it must have a secure regime and a nonaggression pact with the United States. The United States wants to talk only after the North dismantles its nuclear program.

The former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, went to Pyeongyang in 1994 to defuse tensions. He kept North Korea from a catastrophe; the basic principle of diplomacy is to open the rear door when the front door is closed.

The situation between the United States and North Korea is getting more complicated as South Korea moves to mediate. The solution can be obtained within the framework of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The most desirable way to a solution is to find another Jimmy Carter and to come to a final conclusion of the Geneva agreement. And South Korea, whose interests are most at stake, should concentrate on improving its own diplomatic relationships with other neighboring countries as well as with the United States and North Korea.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Byun Sang-keun
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