[OUTLOOK]Look to Bush’s father for solutionWhy is North Korea attempting to test-fire a missile? What is its intention in placing a missile on the launch pad?
U.S. President George W. Bush said on June 26 that he has no idea what Pyongyang’s intention is. Repeating that statement, he also said that North Korea, a society that lacks transparency, should make its intentions known to the outer world.
Is President Bush exaggerating or pretending when he says he has no idea? Probably not, because Pyongyang has said absolutely nothing about its rumored imminent missile launch.
While neither acknowledging nor denying a planned missile launch, Pyongyang is watching the moves made by the international society.
On June 23, The Associated Press reported that the world knows little about North Korea’s intention for a missile launch or the capabilities of the missile. Apart from that Pyongyang seems to be preparing to test-fire a Taepodong-2, everything else is mostly based on assumptions, the article read.
In the article, a U.S. military expert was quoted as saying that Washington does not even know what type of fuel will be used for the missile.
The Washington Post said on the same day that U.S. intelligence on North Korea is at such a low level that analysts cannot even tell whether the data captured by a satellite is crucial evidence or not.
As North Korea has kept silent on this matter and the Western world lacks information, too many assumptions are swirling around. Different forecasts have been coming up on how far the range of a Taepodong-2 missile is, what would be carried as the warhead of the missile and whether it has even been fueled or not.
Under these circumstances, it is hard for Washington to take the lead in resolving the problem.
If Washington is to find a clue to resolve the problem, President Bush should figure out Pyongyang’s intentions. It is not enough just to guess that what Pyongyang wants is to have direct talks with Washington. The United States needs to look into Pyongyang’s intentions.
Washington then should have contact with Pyongyang. The North has said it wants to talk with Washington. However, Washington has kept to its stance of not having direct talks with Pyongyang.
The United States has a principle that it will not offer rewards to stop bad behavior and the nation won’t break with that principle.
Thus, the confrontation continues and insecurity builds up around the Korean Peninsula.
The Bush administration emphasizes resolution by diplomacy, neglecting an alternative of a pre-emptive attack on the North’s missile launchpad. But can it be called diplomacy, while Washington appears to depend solely on China’s mediation?
There is no doubt that Washington would be able to find a way that allows it to abide by its principle and also to exert diplomatic power as well, if it really wanted to.
What if George Herbert Walker Bush, father of the current U.S. president, met with Kim Jong-il, the leader of the communist country?
In 1994, during the Clinton administration, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visited North Korea and met with Kim Il Sung, who was then the head of North Korea. Mr. Carter found a solution for the issue of the North’s nuclear weapons programs.
If George H. W. Bush visits the North not as a special envoy but as an individual, Washington can still say that is not in the form of direct talks.
His visit would be different than a visit by Christopher Hill, the Assistant Secretary of State and the head of the American delegation to the six-party talks.
A visit by Mr. Hill to North Korea would be a direct talk, which is the exact reason why his visit has been deferred.
The world wants to know what Kim Jong-il has on his mind. Trying to find a solution without talking with him makes no sense. Somebody needs to meet with him and listen to him. Mr. Kim would probably welcome former President Bush, because his visit would enhance Mr. Kim’s status and give him a good chance to say what he has to say to the United States.
If such a meeting took place, the circumstances could change drastically. It could be a solution, not only for the missile issue, but also for the North’s nuclear weapons development programs. The meeting could bring North Korea back to the six-party talks.
Even if prospects seem unclear, Washington should think about a visit by the former president to North Korea. That is diplomacy in the truest sense and the right way to take the lead in the current situation.
* The writer is the Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Sang-il