[EDITORIALS]Kerry and PyeongyangThe hot topics in the first U.S. presidential debate were associated with Iraq, North Korea’s nuclear programs and Iran’s nuclear activities. What caught our attention most was the remark by Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, on how he would handle North Korea’s nuclear issues if he were elected.
Mr. Kerry said the Bush administration’s failure to engage in talks with North Korea resulted in Pyeongyang’s possession of four to seven nuclear weapons. He said he would immediately open a bilateral dialogue with North Korea to discuss all pending issues such as the Korean War armistice, economic and human rights issues, the DMZ issues and the nuclear crisis. Mr. Kerry made clear that it would accept the longtime demand of North Korea to hold bilateral talks.
In an earlier interview with the ABC broadcasting network, Mr. Kerry, said he would not rule out the possibility of a preemptive strike against North Korea if diplomacy failed. Therefore, the nuclear crisis would not be resolved toward the direction of Pyeongyang’s wishes even if Mr. Kerry is the next U.S. president.
Mr. Kerry would use a hard-line military policy, if dialogue fails, because he made it clear that the North Korean nuclear crisis should be the top priority of U.S. security policy. During the Clinton administration, Washington tried to resolve the earlier nuclear crisis through bilateral talks, but did not rule out the possibility of military action.
North Korea must be aware that conditions could turn more and more unfavorable if it plays a wait-and-see game by reading Mr. Kerry’s message wrongly. North Korea must know that it does not have much time to resolve the nuclear crisis, because it has already become an issue of the U.S. presidential election.
The debate also provided an important lesson for Seoul. President Roh Moo-hyun has been addressing the nuclear crisis as if it were not an urgent matter. Regardless of our wishes, the nuclear issue will highly likely be handled between Pyeongyang and Washington ― or by Washington alone. It is not the time to hold on to the six-nation talks and to repeat “peaceful resolution.”
South Korea must be alert to the situation and read the changes promptly and accurately. We are in desperate need of alliance and diplomacy with the United States.