[EDITORIALS]Backsliding in Pyongyang

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[EDITORIALS]Backsliding in Pyongyang

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement yesterday, “The U.S. should not even dream of the issue of the DPRK’s dismantlement of its nuclear deterrent before providing LWRs [light-water reactors], a physical guarantee for confidence-building.” It said the North will only return to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and respect the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency after it receives light water reactors. This is a position destroying the roots of the joint statement issued only one day earlier at the six-nation talks.
The joint statement’s core agreement is that the North will abandon all nuclear weapons and existing development programs in return for security assurances and economic assistance. All that was said about the light-water reactor project was that it would be discussed “at an appropriate time.”
The North knows better than anyone why the clause on light-water reactors was inserted. It was the product of a compromise among the six countries, including the North itself. Since the talks ended with a joint statement rather than breaking off, the negotiations have been seen as successful. And yet the North, less than a day after signing the joint statement, completely ignored the accord. Why did the North bother to sign it?
Pyongyang may be seeking to get concessions on light-water reactors from the United States, but that is a serious misjudgment. Seoul and Washington’s bottom line is that they may consider providing light-water reactors after North Korea returns to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and allows inspectors to return.
If the North continues to make unreasonable demands, even before the ink dries, no country will trust the North. If Pyongyang continues to make an agreement and abandon it, why does it need negotiations? The North must remember that it will never win security assurance and economic assistance that way.
The joint statement outlined principles to resolve the nuclear crisis. To resolve the nuclear crisis, many obstacles must be overcome. The North’s attitude proves how hard it will be to reach a final resolution of the nuclear stand-off. This is not the time for Seoul to congratulate itself on a diplomatic victory. It is a crucial time for Seoul to come up with good follow-up measures and coordinate its policy with Washington.
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