Measured responsesChristopher Hill, the U.S. assistant secretary of state, said that the United States and North Korea have reaffirmed that both sides want to fully implement the Feb.13 agreement. He came to Seoul yesterday after his visit to the North. He said that North Korea expressed its willingness to shut down the Yongbyon nuclear facility and resume the six-party talks at an early date.
But a specific timetable for denuclearization has not been released, so we need to wait and see whether things will proceed as Hill said. Nonetheless, there seems to be a better chance of achieving this goal than previously. Most of all, both the United States and North Korea desperately want to improve their relationship.
U.S. revealed its stance through its handling of the financial sanctions against North Korean funds at the Banco Delta Asia. At first, Washington pressed Pyongyang hard, saying that the frozen funds had nothing to do with denuclearization. But Washington softened its stance to the point where it used its central bank to get North Korea the money it wanted.
President George W. Bush sent Assistant Secretary Hill to North Korea even though none of the points from the Feb. 13 agreement had been implemented, which also signals Washington’s change in its dealings with North Korea. This sends a message that if North Korea implements measures to commence denuclearization, Bush will speed up normalization of ties with the North.
The question is whether North Korea will make a crucial decision. Considering that it invited the U.S. assistant secretary, North Korea will likely meet U.S. expectations, such as the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear complex. However, it is unknown whether North Korea will take that measure only in return for heavy fuel oil as described in the agreement. There is a possibility that North Korea will make other demands, such as its removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. North Korea must be aware that an absurd request of this kind can ruin the whole situation. It must abandon the idea of receiving a guarantee of security or economic assistance while holding onto its nuclear weapons.
When the North Korean nuclear issue is resolved smoothly, there will be many abrupt changes on the Korean Peninsula.
Thus, we need perfect cooperation with the United States and we must adjust the timeline of assistance to the North in accordance with the pace of its resolution of the nuclear issue.