[OUTLOOK]Only one real option for NorthThe United States and North Korea at last sat down at a negotiating table. The U.S.-North Korea talks ― the long-cherished wish of former President Kim Dae-jung ― finally began.
Many people hoping for a peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue tend to believe that direct talks be-tween Washington and Pyeong-yang would resolve everything automatically. But the three-country meeting in Beijing last week, where the United States, North Korea and China were present, proved that dialogue itself cannot bring about a resolution, despite the beliefs of believers in discussion. After the Beijing talks, instead, resolving the North Korean nuclear issue seems to have become even more complicated.
North Korea reportedly announced its possession of nuclear weapons to U.S. representatives in the talks. North Korea’s intention in doing so is still unclear, but it is evident that the North’s admission engaged China’s serious attention. North Korea has long asserted that its nuclear weapons are a bilateral matter to be dealt with only with the United States.
Its declaration of nuclear arms, however, confirmed that North Korean nuclear issues are international and multilateral concerns. Last week’s talks also proved that Washington and Pyeongyang have not changed their basic positions despite their decision to resume the long-stalled talks.
To forecast how the U.S.-North Korea dialogue will evolve, it is important to go back to square one of this nuclear problem.
The United States has been firm that North Korea’s development and possession of nuclear weapons are unacceptable. That U.S. stance has become set in concrete after the Sept. 11 attacks. Without understanding the aftermath of Sept. 11 and the event’s long-term impact on Americans, it is impossible to understand today’s United States.
The United States worries that North Korean-built nuclear weapons may leak out into the hands of terrorists. Opposition to the North Korean nuclear weapons program is not a political gesture. Washington literally cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea. That is the basis of the U.S. argument.
Unless North Korea gives up its nuclear program and that disposal is verified, Washing-ton is firm that Pyeongyang will have no chance for negotiations and rewards. Washington will employ all possible options to counter North Korea if it reaches the conclusion that the North is at the stage of building nuclear weapons.
Pyeongyang is demanding that Washington end its hostile policy toward North Korea. If it really hopes to improve its relations with the United States, however, giving up nuclear weapons is the key. By doing so, the North would be able to end its diplomatic isolation and begin economic exchanges.
In other words, North Korea could have normal relations with the international community. Giving up its nuclear program, of course, is not an easy decision for the North, but it has no other real options.
Going nuclear means the collapse of the North Korean regime and its independence as a country.
Normalizing relations with the international community also involves some risk; the Kim Jong-il regime would face some dangers. While he tries to make a decision, Kim Jong-il must show some courage. All decision making involves uncertainties.
By trying to reform the North Korean economy in the summer of 2001, the country has already chosen its future path. The North Korean leadership must know that its ongoing economic experiments can never succeed without active exchanges with foreign countries.
North Korea should not waste its time in making the inevitable decision. By delaying its decision, the North Korean people’s suffering will only be extended. Pyeongyang should stop blackmailing the United States ― the threat has not worked.
North Korea must remember that its wrong decision would invite an enormous tragedy far beyond its capacity to endure.
* The writer, a former ambassador to the United States, is president of the Institute of Social Sciences.
by Kim Kyung-won
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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