[OUTLOOK]Time for new strategy with North

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[OUTLOOK]Time for new strategy with North

Japan has struck a decisive blow against the six-nation talks that were already at a deadend due to the U.S. pressure on North Korea. The Japanese government's announcement that Megumi Yokota's husband was Kim Yong-nam, who was abducted by North Korea in 1978, brought a two-fold effect. First, the notification helped the U.S. justify its severe sanctions against the North. Second, kidnapping by North Korean agents, which used to be an issue between Japan and the North, has now become a matter between the South, the North and Japan.
Japan announced the result of DNA tests on samples from Ms. Yokota's daughter taken when the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue conference was held. This notification gave significant messages. It put North Korea under heavy pressure; it criticized the South for not having taken action on abductions by the North and to other members of the six-nation talks, it showed that Japan takes the abduction issue more seriously than the talks. Japan now seems intent on breaking away from the talks.
Japan and the United States made it clear that they won't follow South Korea's policy on the North, which is to make the North give up its nuclear program in return for rewards, while ignoring sensitive matters such as counterfeiting, human rights violations and kidnapping. This means the failure of the Roh administration's strategy that aimed to bring the North to the six-nation talks by pacifying them. South Korea is cornered into needing to change the basic pattern of its inter-Korean dialogue. As the future of the six-nation talks is foggy and the North's wrongdoing has been revealed, we should assume the likelihood of the failure of the talks. We need to adjust the frame and pace of inter-Korean dialogue and to prepare comprehensive policies in case the North continues its nuclear development program.
North Korea is in a dilemma. If it attends the six-party talks, it will give the impression that the North has finally surrendered to pressure from the United States and Japan. If it resists participating in the talks, the North will become responsible for the failure of the talks and the United States and Japan will impose even more severe sanctions. The two nations have already begun to block possible economic resources heading for the North. Soon, North Korea will be isolated and General Secretary Kim Jong-il will have difficulty dealing with the hardliners inside his military.
Mr. Kim has few choices. The most desirable is to make a decision like he did in 2002 when he admitted that Japanese had been abducted by North Korean agents. Mr. Kim apologized to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and promised cooperation. He said some thoughtless agents had committed the crime. Although he blamed others for the regime's wrongdoing, that was better than nothing. The North should state whether Ms. Yokota is dead or alive and, if dead, the exact cause. It also should confirm to their family members living in Japan and South Korea whether Ms. Yokota's husband, Kim Yong-nam, and their daughter, Kim Hye-gyong, are still alive in the North, and talk about sending them to their home country.
The problem is the Korean government. It set up the tactic of not stirring up the North with matters like abductions and ended up with no concrete achievement but spoiling the North. Seoul shook the alliance of Korea, the U.S. and Japan against the North and was criticized as being insensitive to human rights violations and national crimes. We can no longer use that tactic of not offending the North. We need a larger-scale strategy.
In the minister-level talks scheduled in Pyongyang next week, Seoul officials should talk openly about these sensitive issues and get an answer to how to bring Kim Yong-nam home. Mr. Kim is one of 485 innocent South Koreans kidnapped by the North and there are also 540 prisoners of war remaining in the North, so it will not be easy to negotiate on one specific person. However, the international society seems to expect that we not delay his return until all the other abductees can come back, which is hard to foresee for now. We need to bring Mr. Kim home first, which will serve as a symbolic breakthrough. Still, it is regrettable that even if we bring him home, it will be more to the credit of Tokyo than to Seoul.

* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-hie
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