[EDITORIALS]The worst nuclear scenario“It has been confirmed that North Korea’s five-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon has been shut down,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said.
“Although U.S. patience is running out, the reservoir of the patience still has water,” he added. We are concerned that the nuclear issue has been worsening the confrontation between Pyongyang and Washington.
North Korea’s recent action sent a signal to the United States that it can harvest more weapons-grade plutonium. The action shows North Korea’s intent to increase its nuclear arsenal as the country said in February when it announced it has nuclear weapons.
What is more important is that North Korea has expressed its intention to change the basic framework of its U.S. policy over the nuclear issue.
An American expert on North Korea who recently visited Pyongyang said officials expressed a new position that they would freeze nuclear activities rather than discuss full dismantlement at the six-nation talks. North Korea wants to discuss the complete disposal of its nuclear program after the U.S.-North Korea relations are normalized. Pyongyang has made clear its intention to be recognized as a nuclear-armed state.
We wonder if the North’s idea will come to fruition. None of its neighbors will approve such a condition. It is particularly wrong to assume that the United States will concede to the heightened threats. Christopher Hill, the U.S. chief negotiator for the six-nation talks, and other senior U.S. officials have said the issue must be resolved through the six-party talks. North Korea must listen to the advice.
As North Korea has shut down its reactor, it is highly likely that the nuclear crisis will face a decisive moment within a few months. The next step for the North could be unloading the spent fuel rods and reprocessing them. North Korea is likely to employ such nuclear brinkmanship, but the United States has no intention to accept it.
Under such a situation, it is worrisome to see discord among South Korea, the United States, China and Japan. A nuclear-armed North Korea is the most serious threat to our survival, and the South Korean government must cope with this matter with determination firmer than any other country.
It is not enough to repeat that we will not allow a nuclear-armed North Korea. It is time to prepare for the worst scenario possible.