[EDITORIALS]The North isn’t bluffingWe must not dismiss North Korea’s statement that it has finished reprocessing the spent fuel rods from its nuclear facilities in Yeongbyeon. Its tactic of using its nuclear development as a card in negotiations with the United States is nothing new. Yet South Korea, along with Japan and the United States, has always thought Pyeongyang was bluffing, using typical brinkmanship tactics.
Although North Korea in the last few months has been progressing much in the way that it said it would, the United States has stuck to the logic that time is against the North Koreans and has refused any substantial talks with Pyeongyang. Of course, in the long run, time is against North Korea. But the situation has reached too serious a level to dismiss the North’s threat as usual tactics of the past.
We cannot risk dismissing North Korea’s statements as bluffs or brinkmanship. We should not try to diminish their significance but rather take these statements at face value. There is nothing as foolish as finding comfort through denial.
We have reached the point where we must establish our North Korean policies and strategies based on cool-headed understanding of the situation. Be it carrots or sticks, our policy must take the form of countermeasures recognizing the fact that North Korea’s nuclear program is a reality. We must also make it clear to Pyeongyang that the responsibility of the consequences of our countermeasures lies with them.
It is the common official position of South Korea, Japan and the United States that information on North Korea’s nuclear reprocessing still is presumptive. Yet our government must prepare for the worst. The three countries need to share information and must coordinate their positions on the interpretation of that information. Coordination with China and Russia also is required. Without such prior efforts, multilateral talks or sanctions against North Korea would be of no avail. As the North declared reprocessing fuel rods, we must promptly conclude an agreement among the countries involved. A creative and shrewd diplomacy is required from the government here.