Playing with rice

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Playing with rice

Christopher Hill, the U.S. assistant secretary of state, visited North Korea yesterday. It is hard to see what he can achieve with this visit. However, it will be a watershed in dealing with issues between North Korea and the United States, such as resolution of North Korea’s nuclear crisis and normalizing diplomatic ties. In particular, for the past two years, his visits to North Korea have guaranteed improvements in the relationship between the two countries.
North Korea’s nuclear issue has been driven by negotiations between the United States and North Korea. For more than 10 years, they have had repeated confrontations and numerous agreements before the top U.S. envoy visited North Korea.
We hope that the two countries will prepare a concrete foundation to resolve the North’s nuclear issue, instead of having fruitless arguments.
North Korea must not demand preposterous pre-conditions in return for its implementation of the Feb. 13 agreement reached at the six-party talks, which includes shutting down the Yongbyon nuclear facilities.
Assistant Secretary Hill also must not make the mistake of accepting North Korea’s requests without studying them closely.
He should not think that if we keep yielding on North Korea’s nuclear issue, it will end up being resolved.
Despite Hill’s visit to North Korea, nothing in the February deal has been implemented yet. The North Korean funds that used to be frozen at Banco Delta Asia have been released. This was not even included in the Feb. 13 agreement. That means the resolution of North Korea’s nuclear issue has only just begun and there is a long way ahead.
However, the Roh Moo-hyun administration misleads people, as if the nuclear issue is nearly resolved. Yesterday, it broke its principle of linking rice assistance to North Korea with the resolution of North Korea’s nuclear issue. The government suddenly broke the principle that it had announced at a senior-level meeting held some 20 days ago. That is why the North takes the South’s words so lightly.
It is not too late to send rice shipments to North Korea once Hill’s visit to North Korea is over and North Korea has begun to shut down its nuclear facilities.
The government would then gain more public support from the people for its aid to the North. But the government is very desperate to send rice soon, so we cannot help wondering if it has strategic intentions behind its decision.
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