[EDITORIALS]Seoul further out of stepThe United Nations Security Council adopted a statement strongly warning North Korea against proceeding with its nuclear test plans. During the process of adopting the statement, China’s response was especially noticeable as it demonstrated a much stronger stance compared to when North Korea launched seven missiles in July. It did not apply the brakes to the adoption of the statement, which includes the possibility of forceful intervention. China’s ambassador to the UN, Wang Guangya, also said that the North will face a severe situation should it proceed with its nuclear test plans and that “for bad behavior in this world, no one is going to protect them.” Considering that China had refrained from criticizing North Korea in the past, the recent actions suggest an enormous change in position. They reflect China’s urge to prevent the Kim Jong-il regime from testing nuclear weapons.
Our neighbor up north must catch the meaning of China’s recent actions. North Korea knows all too well that the decisive factor that allows it to maintain its current regime is economic aid from Beijing.
Contrary to the firm stance shown by the international committee, including China, we are worried about Seoul’s lukewarm response. Of course there have not yet been any unreasonable comments billing the recent developments as having “political intentions,” as came immediately after North Korea’s missile tests. Instead, the South Korean government has only been releasing statements stating that it is prepared for all situations. What is missing is a specific and firm warning to Pyongyang. Japan had its vice foreign minister, Shotaro Yachi, meet immediately with the U.S. deputy national security advisor, Jack Crouch, in Washington to discuss countermeasures. But all our government did was arrange phone calls between the foreign and defense ministers of the two countries. If a change in the U.S. policy toward Pyongyang is so urgent, shouldn’t the government at least dispatch a special envoy to Washington and try to persuade the Bush administration to do so?
Seoul must bear in mind that preventive measures are more important than coming up with countermeasures after a nuclear test occurs. In order to do that, it must shed its current passive stance. The administration must notify the North through unofficial channels that a nuclear test would bring the end to all aid packages, including the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mount Kumgang tourism programs. Unproductive comments from the ruling party, emphasizing diplomatic efforts to sanctions and dialogue between North Korea and the United States, do not help in solving the problem. Those comments are responsible for worsening things, resulting in the current status. Seoul must keep in line with the international community and strongly warn North Korea while pressing Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks.