[EDITORIALS]Nuclear test issue resolvedBy deciding not to send Seoul’s case to the UN Security Council and settling for a chairman’s statement instead, the International Atomic Energy Agency has practically closed the case on South Korea’s unauthorized nuclear experiments of two decades ago.
The watchdog agency has acknowledged the cause of the tests were not for developing nuclear weapons, but a result of simple curiosity by the scientists involved. It also reflects a positive assessment of Korea’s efforts to cooperate with international society. The decision is fortunate.
In fact, some of the suspicions surrounding South Korea’s nuclear experiments were exaggerated by foreign news agencies and bureaucrats. Most of the tests related to the enrichment of uranium and reprocessing for plutonium were done over twenty years ago and the amount of uranium obtained through the atomic vapor laser isotope separation method was also very little.
Despite these facts, suspicion spread that the tests were part of the South Korean government’s efforts to secretly obtain nuclear weapons and that they had been systematically covered up. The suspicion eventually grew into an international issue as Europe’s negotiations with Iran on nuclear development, deliberate pressure from hard-line conservatives in the United States and Japan’s sensitive and excessive reaction overlapped. Japan especially came out with a double standard, leading the criticism on Seoul’s nuclear tests while running a more massive nuclear program than Korea.
We believe that the government’s decision to reveal all related information regarding the experiments was successful. Announcing that it would fully cooperate with the IAEA and convincing its allies that the tests differed from the nuclear development programs in Iran and North Korea through diplomatic efforts also deserve acknowledgement.
The recent incident can be recorded as a welcome success for Korea’s diplomacy, which has been the target of criticism and reprimand in the past, and a case where the cooperation and assistance of allies like the U.S. has proved to be valuable. Through this occasion, the government should rethink the importance of strengthening relations with allies. It must also use this as an opportunity to receive recognition for expanding peaceful use of nuclear power by improving transparency in the nuclear program and strengthening its non-proliferation intent.