[EDITORIALS]A real agreement is neededIn an interview with an ABC News team now visiting Pyongyang, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan said that North Korea had nuclear bombs and was building more. Three days ago, North Korea offered hope by sending the message that it would return to the six-party talks. Now, the country is sounding a completely contradictory note on the same issue.
When the North expressed its willingness to return to the six-party talks, it seemed there was reason for optimism. But Mr. Kim’s remark threw a wet blanket on such expectations. He reconfirmed North Korea’s intention to “be recognized as a nuclear power.” Pyongyang’s intention in staying tightlipped about when it would return to the talks, even while saying it intended to do so, is now clear. On the one hand, it wanted to demonstrate a willingness to engage in dialogue; on the other, it wanted to claim that the talks should become mutual disarmament negotiations, on the grounds that it is now a nuclear power. North Korea is defying the demands of the international community.
In recent weeks, while not refusing to negotiate outright, North Korea has announced that it had finished reprocessing spent fuel rods, and that it had a nuclear “deterrent.” It employed harassment tactics. These were calculated to improve its bargaining position. Mr. Kim’s remark might be in the same vein. But the North is making a major miscalculation if it thinks international negotiations will be swayed by such word games. In the end, it is substance that matters. If North Korea really has nuclear weapons, it will have to pay the price, no matter what its officials may say. Therefore, South Korea and the United States should never be swayed by the North’s remarks.
At the summit today between the presidents of South Korea and the United States, therefore, a clear agreement on the nuclear issue should be reached. The two leaders should emerge with a common understanding as to whether the North intends to stay on the path toward becoming a nuclear power, and they should produce detailed measures to cope with that. If the six-party talks are resumed, they should not be meetings for meetings’ sake. There should be intense debate on producing a practical outcome. If Mr. Roh and Mr. Bush conclude the summit with a mere agreement to resolve the issue peacefully, as they have agreed in the past, then we should expect to be dragged around by North Korea endlessly.