[EDITORIALS]Did he think before speaking?Speculation abounds as to why President Roh Moo-hyun chose to make public his view on North Korea’s nuclear program during his visit to the United States, just before his summit with U.S. President George W. Bush. Some say Mr. Roh did so intentionally, taking the timing and the location into account. Mr. Roh first said that the North’s claim that its pursuit of nuclear arms is in self-defense was a reasonable one. He then quickly amended his wording, to say simply that there was some validity to the North’s claims. Such a change in wording supports the speculation that he was speaking with particular intent.
Others say that Mr. Roh’s remarks did not differ from Seoul’s existing position, because he stressed that North Korea must give up nuclear arms, and that the six-nation talks must bring about a successful outcome. It is hard to say what the president’s real intention was. We should wait to see how his remarks influence the nuclear crisis in the future.
Still, Mr. Roh’s statement that there is some validity to the North’s claims of self-defense ― that its nuclear programs are meant to deter outside threats ― concerns us. It could be interpreted as meaning that Mr. Roh tolerates the North’s possession of nuclear arms. That could bring about serious misunderstanding among the international community. Based on such logic, other countries could commit to nuclear weapons development. Mr. Roh’s remark could be seen as a challenge to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Domestically, Mr. Roh’s remark has prompted even more serious concerns. As the president, Mr. Roh spoke too irresponsibly. If this nation’s president tolerates a nuclear North Korea, he then has to explain how he will protect South Korea’s security. Unless he does so, the people will become skeptical and insecure.
Diplomacy and security are our reality; they are not mere theory. We believe in a firm U.S.-South Korea alliance to resolve the nuclear crisis. Whether we like it or not, we believe the United States is the country that will assure our security, surrounded as we are by superpowers. Therefore, we want to ask Mr. Roh whether he had thought about what impact his remarks would have on the alliance. We are concerned that he made this sensitive point openly only because of inexperience in diplomacy. We certainly hope to see no disharmony at the upcoming U.S.-South Korea summit.