[EDITORIALS]Watch your step, NorthWith a U.S. war against Iraq apparently imminent, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell sent a strong warning to North Korea not to reactivate its nuclear reprocessing facilities or test-launch its long-range missiles. He thus drew a clear line that the North must not cross. The message cautioned Pyeongyang not to misjudge the situation by attempting to take advantage of U.S. preoccupation with the campaign against Iraq.
A senior Pentagon source told South Korean correspondents in Washington that the United States continues to maintain an impregnable defense for the security of the Korean Peninsula. Americans on the peninsula would die together with Koreans if an armed collision occurs, the official said. He confirmed that the U.S. forces automatically will fight if North Korea strikes the South.
It seems almost certain that North Korean nuclear issues will be Washington’s next task after the Iraq war is over. Thus, Pyeongyang may try to reactivate its nuclear programs and test missiles while U.S. attention is focused on Iraq, in a bid to induce Washington to enter negotiations. It may attempt armed provocations because U.S. forces will be dispersed between Asia and Mideast. Mr. Powell’s warning admonished the North not to act based on such a miscalculation.
As the ultimatum to the Iraqi regime demonstrates, the United States is determined to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. If the North is trying to demonstrate that it has such weapons and missiles capable of carrying them, then it will be the next U.S. target. We must warn the North that shallow schemes to initiate provocations are a shortcut to a more unfortunate outcome.
Military tension triggered by the North’s nuclear aspirations is a clear and present threat to our security and economy. Seoul supported the U.S. attack on Iraq, noting the importance of the South Korea-U.S. alliance. Apart from the Iraq matter, the international community and Korea’s Asian neighbors agree with the principle of a nuclear-free peninsula and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. North Korea must remember that it has more to lose than to gain if it tries to test South Korea and the international community.