[Outlook]View the North with the right lensOn Aug. 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber of the U.S. Air Force flew over Hiroshima in Japan. Col. Tibbets named the plane Enola Gay after his mother. The plane was loaded with a torpedo-like nuclear weapon made with enriched uranium.
The bomb, nicknamed Little Boy, was detonated 40 seconds after it was dropped at an altitude of 600 meters. A mass of uranium was fired and then crashed into another mass of uranium in a steel barrel. In the lump of uranium, which weighed 60 kilograms, a nuclear chain reaction occurred, creating flashes, a mushroom cloud, a nuclear storm and taking the lives of 150,000 people in a split second.
Three days later, another B-29 bomber was loaded with Fat Man, a nuclear weapon using plutonium. Fat Man was an implosion-type weapon in which many detonators surrounding a lump of plutonium the size of a softball were exploded, putting pressure on the core. The weapon killed 70,000 people.
When the United States named its dreadful nuclear weapons Little Boy and Fat Man, it believed it would keep its nuclear secrets forever. Sixty years later, however, recipes for nuclear weapons are being circulated around the world.
If a country is prepared to confront the United States, producing nuclear arms is almost always possible. Nukes no longer make superpowers appear majestic. They instead have become a means of self-defense that a country unable to afford to defend itself conventionally resorts to in desperate situations, knowing it will face retaliation.
Nuclear weapons have lost their mystique, but North Korea, a country that clings to a military-first policy, still considers them great. In the recent six-party talks in Beijing, Pyongyang made it impossible to talk about facilities for uranium enrichment or nuclear weapons, other than plutonium reprocessing facilities in Yongbyon.
Although President Roh Moo-hyun said he had high expectations for the agreement reached in that meeting, the United States and North Korea are very likely to focus on different issues at the same negotiating table. The United States will try to resolve the issues of North Korea’s nuclear facilities, materials and arms and missiles designed to carry nuclear arms, while North Korea wants to resolve energy issues and ensure the security of its regime. The abolition of North Korea’s nuclear development program is the goal of the United States, but it is only a tool for North Korea. Thus, negotiations are not balanced.
Negotiations like this come to an end only when both sides are clear on what they want. There are no signs of that happening. When Vice President Dick Cheney’s principles on North Korea and the realism of the State Department were at odds, the president temporarily sided with the State Department. President George W. Bush’s political calculations must have come into play as the Iran and Iraq issues are urgent. A consensus even eluded the White House, as shown by the fact that the incumbent presidential aide for security sent e-mails criticizing the Beijing pact shortly after it was reached.
It is more or less the same with Pyongyang. Pyongyang used the expression “the halt of operations,” not the closing of plutonium facilities in Yongbyon. When negotiations address existing nuclear weapons and nuclear facilities outside Yongbyon that manufacture “little boys,” there is a chance that North Korea will derail negotiations. President Roh said we would still benefit even if we give North Korea as much as it wants.
Diplomacy is a game in which one starts with pessimistic views rather than optimistic forecasts. It is not about dreaming but about waking up from dreams. On the Korean Peninsula, where two states confront each other, inter-Korean relations are in essence international relations. But as long as Pyongyang sees its strategies against South Korea as a dependent variable of its war against the United States, any statements and agreements between South and North Korea cannot be taken as diplomatic promises.
North Korea’s nuclear test is a good example of this. It conducted a nuclear test with Washington in mind. The test exploded the dreams of the June joint declaration. Thus, before dreaming of another joint statement, we should have conditions by which aid to North Korea is proportional to the progress the North makes in abolishing its nuclear program. That is impossible with the current North Korea policy. Currently, the dialogue only takes place at the Ministry of Unification. Diplomacy on the part of the foreign ministry is a thing of the past. Political issues such as nuclear issues cannot be resolved if we are too emotional about North Korea. It is urgent to transform North Korea policy to diplomacy against North Korea. Through this we should keep things straight.
*The writer is a professor of international relations at Kyonggi University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Gweon Yong-lib