[TODAY]Time to educate U.S. on NorthAll But Clinton. ABC for short, meaning that everything goes opposite to the policies of Clinton. The Bush administration’s policies have basically stuck to the ABCs over the past three years. Announcing the “axis of evil,” turning down talks with North Korea, showing a will to get rid of the Kim Jong-il regime and putting a halt to the light-water reactor project are all examples.
The Bush administration, however, seemed more relaxed about the North Korean nuclear issue at the six-way talks last month. It proposed that if North Korea declared to abandon its nuclear weapons program, Korea, China, Japan and Russia would immediately supply North Korea with tens of thousands of tons of fuel oil and that the United States would guarantee “North Korea’s security provisionally.” The United States nevertheless added a condition that North Korea would have to freeze all its nuclear facilities and have them ready to be shipped out of the country within three months of the date promised by North Korea.
Is the new U.S. proposal enough to get North Korea to give up on the development of nuclear weapons? Three American specialists on North Korean affairs were asked to give their opinion through e-mail:
Selig Harrison, director of the Asia program at the Center for International Policy, said that America was asking too much from North Korea compared to what they were offering to give. “To be acceptable, the U.S. would have to include reciprocal pledges in the statement, including the normalization of relations.” Don Oberdorfer, a journalist and author who has written extensively on Korea, held the opinion that America’s proposal is the first step down the road to a whole series of new negotiations with North Korea. He added an interesting remark: “I suspect that some in the administration were hoping, perhaps expecting, that North Korea would reject the U.S. proposal out of hand, thus freeing the United States from having to pursue it further. Wisely, North Korea has not done that, at least until now.”
David Sanger of The New York Times said of the security guarantee the United States offered North Korea, which included the promise that it would not get rid of the Kim Jong-il regime, “I suspect that the neoconservatives, among others, in Washington would want to limit the American security guarantee quite strictly. Several have suggested to me that they don’t want the Bush administration promising to perpetuate or prop up the current regime.”
The Bush administration has come to tolerate the continuation of the Kim regime for the time being. But they do not have a comprehensive policy on North Korea, including normalization of diplomatic relations or a peace accord. From North Korea’s point of view, a U.S. declaration of a security guarantee is only a necessary condition, but it does not fulfill all of Pyeongyang’s needs.
North Korea will only agree to complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of all its nuclear programs if there is a comprehensive U.S. policy that gives North Korea a vision for normalization of diplomatic relations and a peace accord with Washington.
The Blue House, which wants a summit meeting between President Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong-il, and the Uri Party, which is eager to bring Mr. Kim to Seoul for political purposes, need to fully appreicate the reality that the Bush administration only struggles to solve North Korea’s nuclear problem, and is not at all concerned with solving the problem of North Korea itself. North Korea’s having nuclear weapons or pretending to have nuclear weapons is a strategy for survival that they cannot give up until a peace treaty is concluded with America. It is a vital card for negotiations. Do we have an inducement that can make them give it up?
The ball is still in America’s court. The bus going to Pyeongyang has to go via Washington. The U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is coming to Seoul today. We have to educate her on the differences between the North Korean nuclear problem and the North Korean problem and help her understand that there is a limit to solving the nuclear problem outside the problem of North Korea.
Unless President Roh meets Kim Jong-il with Bush’s commitment to solving the nuclear problem comprehensively within the framework of the North Korea question, Mr. Roh will not be able to get away from repeating the same basic position aimed at a peaceful solution of the nuclear problem, no matter how many summit talks he might have.
According to Selig Harrison, the Bush administration is having an internal struggle about what to offer North Korea at the six-way talks in September. Doesn’t this mean that South Korea now has the time and a chance to persuade America?
There is also another problem that should be thought about in advance. When Kim Jong-il comes to Seoul, hundreds of thousands of people might spill out onto the streets carrying national flags of North and South Korea and welcoming enthusiastically “the great leader of all Korean people.”
South Korean society’s sentiment toward Kim Jong-il has changed after candle-light demonstrations and the spreading of anti-American sentiment. Now we are even living in a society where espionage agents are honored as democracy fighters. Mr. Kim’s Seoul visit should be promoted keeping the bizarre circumstances in mind.
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie