[NOTEBOOK]Seoul, not Beijing, to mediateOne of the biggest reasons for the United States to start the war against Iraq was the weapons of mass destruction. At a speech to the Congress in January, 2002, President George W. Bush said that the British government had recently found out that Saddam Hussein had purchased a considerable quantity of uranium from an African country. If the United States did not take an action soon, he said, Iraq would build nuclear weapons, which could end up in the hands of terrorists.
But six months have passed since the war ended, and the weapons of mass destruction haven not been found yet. David Kay, former head of the Iraq Survey Group, said that there is little chance that weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq, and it would be hard to find evidences to prove the U.S. intelligence report that Iraq was near completion of nuclear weapons.
How did the U.S. intelligence evaluation of intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction go wrong? Did U.S. intelligence distort its findings under pressure from the Bush Administration, which was seeking justification to oust Saddam as soon as possible? Washington and London will both launch bipartisan investigations, so the truth may come out eventually.
But a few things are clear. Despite the cutting-edge technology and devises including the satellite, the intelligence gathering capability of the United States is neither accurate nor credible as we used to believe.
Not only Great Britain and Spain, which supported and participated in the war, but also France, Germany, and China, which opposed the war, had no better intelligence on Iraq’s holdings of weapons of mass destruction. Countries all around the world were relying on inaccurate information.
The war has proven how dangerous the idea of preemptive strike is. President Bush wanted to remove a possibly dangerous factor before it grew to become a real threat to the security of the United States.
But when the danger is determined based on inaccurate or unfair information, the preemptive strike could become a unilateral violence exercised by the powerful. The war against Iraq is a product of inaccurate information and fearful military capability of the United States.
The United States could look like a rogue from Pyeongyang’s perspective. But it must also realize that this is the reality whether it likes it or not. Of course, North Korea is different from Iraq or Afghanistan. But the Iraq War has shown that Washington does not always start a war based on accurate judgements and reasonable decisions. The intelligence and judgment of the United States are not as accurate or powerful as the physical, destructive power. It would be wise for Pyeongyang not to assume that Washington knows its every move and understands the hidden intention.
The international climate is not in Pyeongyang’s favor. Libya declared to give up nuclear capability, and Pakistan exposed that it had transferred uranium enrichment technology to North Korea. Iran is expected to follow Libya’s move. Pyeongyang increasingly has little to bargain. It is lucky that Pyeong-yang has finally agreed on the second round of the six-way talk.
As few North Koreans know of the Untied States, few Americans truly understand the North. It would not be easy for Pyeongyang to suddenly make profound progress with Washington. So Pyongyang was right to ask South Korean representatives about the real intention of Washington at the first six-nation talk. The mediator of the U.S.-North negotiation should be South Korea, not China.
* The writer is international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Jae-hak
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