[Outlook]The tip of the icebergNorth Korea’s nuclear issue is emerging again after subsiding for a while. North Korea’s funds at Banco Delta Asia had been stuck while the North and the United States played the blame game.
The funds at the Macao bank were transferred through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to a North Korean account at Russia’s Far East Bank. The North Korean authorities then invited delegates of the International Atomic Energy Agency into their country, making it appear as if they have begun measures to shut down the Yongbyon nuclear facilities.
We did not expect these swift changes. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said on June 13 in public that many things could happen within a couple of days. Will the Yongbyon nuclear complex be sealed and will the Feb. 13 agreement be implemented? Will this lead to North Korea’s complete abolition of its nuclear weapons program?
Will denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and peace in Northeast Asia be achieved, as promised in the agreement produced on Sept. 19, 2005?
Inside Korea, an optimistic view is gaining momentum. Closing down the Yongbyon complex means implementing the Feb. 13 agreement, and if we win over North Korea, with patience, its past nuclear issues will be resolved. Thus, denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula will be achieved, just as the members of the six-nation talks agreed in 2005.
Of course, we cannot achieve all of this at once. From this point on, we need to move step-by-step. We need to know exactly what must be done so that we can keep from making new errors or the same mistakes as before.
First, shutting down the Yongbyon nuclear facilities will be a meaningful achievement. But that does not mean that all of the Feb. 13 agreement is being carried out, and it does not mean North Korea’s nuclear issue is totally resolved. Under the February agreement, not only must the Yongbyon nuclear facilities be shut down, but also all nuclear programs, including plutonium extraction from spent fuel rods, must be revealed.
Despite North Korea’s constant denial, it is believed to have a highly enriched uranium program. It will be difficult to find out how far the program has been developed.
The Feb. 13 agreement requires that North Korea should reveal all its current nuclear programs, stop the programs and shut down its nuclear facilities. The Sept. 19 agreement will be implemented when North Korea eliminates warheads that it has produced and plutonium it has extracted. That will create a foundation for peace in its truest sense on the Korean Peninsula, including normalization of ties between North Korea and the United States, and between North Korea and Japan.
So far, North Korea has tried to change the six-party talks into meetings about nuclear disarmament in an attempt to establish its nuclear status. It is very likely that North Korea will demand that it not be asked about its nuclear weapons of the past, in return for giving up the Yongbyon facilities, and that it will likely continue to pursue becoming a small yet definite nuclear state.
Thus, important issues and difficult negotiations lie ahead. Can we really trust North Korea’s decision to implement the agreement? There are many flaws in the analysis that says North Korea will accept international society’s requests for denuclearization because the Banco Delta Asia issue was resolved as the North demanded. Just because the United States promised to resolve the Banco Delta Asia issue and carried out its promise later, does not mean North Korea will also implement the February agreement.
We should not view North Korea as a regime of credibility and principles. What the United States promised was to help North Korea collect its funds at Banco Delta Asia. Trouble erupted when North Korea insisted that normal international financial transactions must be guaranteed as well.
The Banco Delta Asia issue was sparkled by the United States’ financial sanctions against North Korea. But the issue is not entirely resolved because no financial institution in the world wants to accept North Korea’s dirty money.
If North Korea wants to open its doors and come out to international society, it must abandon its nuclear weapons and instead build trust. Days ago, North Korea marred the festival commemorating the seventh anniversary of the inter-Korean summit meeting on June 15, 2000. At the ceremony, North Korea broke its promise and refused to seat a delegate from South Korea’s Grand National Party as an honored guest.
We should wait to see if the Banco Delta Asia issue and the implementation of the Feb. 13 agreement will lead to the resolution of North Korea’s nuclear issue. Important issues still need to be resolved. This is only the beginning.
*The writer is a professor of political science at Sungkyunkwan University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Tae-hyo