[EDITORIALS]Pyongyang raises stakes againNorth Korea’s foreign ministry has declared, “The negotiations over freezing the nuclear program in return for compensation at the six-way talks are over.” It also insisted, “The six-way talks should be disarmament talks.” Since declaring its possession of nuclear weapons in February, the North has been raising the stakes, and has done so once again.
Clearly, it is North Korea’s intent to be recognized as a nuclear power. In its February declaration, Pyongyang claimed it had “produced nuclear weapons,” but in this statement, it insists it “has become a full-fledged nuclear weapons state.” This means North Korea will not take the Libya-style approach of giving up its nuclear program in return for compensation, but instead wants to follow Pakistan’s example. Pakistan succeeded in being recognized as a nuclear state by insisting on its need to defend itself from India. It seems the North has decided that only nuclear weapons will protect it from U.S. forces in Korea and in Japan.
Pyongyang must be thinking that Washington will accept its terms if it continues its brinkmanship tactics. But that is a failure to see the reality. The United States has responded, “It is not clear what the North wants to say. It must return to the six-way talks without conditions.” The North’s demand that the six-way talks become disarmament talks is difficult not just for the United States to accept, but for China and Russia as well. Ultimately, this demand must be seen as another North Korean excuse for evading the negotiations.
North Korea is, again, demonstrating its desire for bilateral talks with the United States, since that is the country that would be its counterpart at any disarmament talks. North Korea must be calculating that such talks would draw attention to problems with the U.S. forces in Korea and Japan. While the North plays for time, the United States is warning that it won’t wait forever for the country to come back to the table.
Given these developments, our government must review its North Korea policy from a new angle. As has been revealed by the foreign ministry’s statement, the North takes no notice of South Korea as far as the nuclear issue is concerned. Under the present circumstances, it is not possible to keep saying that we won’t tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea but that we will “promote economic cooperation” with the North.