[EDITORIALS]Time to get stern with NorthThe recently reconvened six-nation talks in Beijing aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear arms programs are on the brink of rupture after the United States flatly rejected North Korean demands for light-water nuclear reactors.
In the first stage of the talks, North Korea claimed that it has the right to pursue nuclear development programs for peaceful purposes and that it should have the right to operate light-water reactors. The United States, however, turned down the demands, saying that the North has broken past agreements. A compromise was worked out between Washington and Seoul: If the North gives up all its nuclear programs and returns to international nuclear safeguards and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, it will be given the right to run peaceful nuclear programs.
The possibility of an agreement was high just before the talks began, but the hope has now disappeared. North Korea, from the beginning of the talks, claimed that the supply of light-water nuclear reactors should be included in the agreement. That is a clear indication that it will show absolutely no respect to the U.S. position. In other words, the North has shown that it has no intention of giving up nuclear programs. North Korea, by securing light-water reactors, wants to hold on to the last nuclear card while maximizing the compensation. This shows that the North has failed to give up its attitude of the past. If Pyongyang continues ignoring the good will of Seoul and Washington as well as other participants in the talks, it will lose all.
North Korea must be aware of the changed U.S. negotiation strategy. The United States has already given a significant part of what the North demanded. Washington has recognized that North Korea is a sovereign state and said it had no intention of attacking the North. The United States even said it would not only provide large-scale economic aid but also was willing to discuss normalization of relations if the North choses to dismantle all nuclear programs. If the talks break off because of demands for light-water reactors, the North is responsible for the rupture. If no agreement is reached at this session, the nuclear crisis will escalate. North Korea cannot win security guarantees by playing for time. South Korea and the United States must act sternly this time in order to teach the North a lesson and stop it from making irrational demands.