It’s time to talk nukesTalks between the parties addressing the North Korean nuclear problem are now on the fast track.
North Korea and the United States have agreed to deactivate the nukes in North Korea, and nuclear technicians from the U.S., China and Russia are to go to North Korea this week. This progress exceeds expectations considering the North’s previous practices when it refused to disclose its nuclear facilities.
This progress is the foundation for the attention being given to the inter-Korean summit scheduled for early October. The leaders of South Korea and the U.S. agreed to tell Kim Jong-il that the U.S. will sign a peace treaty with the North ending the Korean War if the North denuclearizes and allows inspectors to see the results. In other words, President Roh and U.S. President Bush urged Kim to make a decision at this summit.
Accordingly, the course of the nuclear issue and future peace on the Korean Peninsula rests in Kim’s hands. North Korea has longed for half a century for a peace treaty and normalized relations with the United States. General Kim should not pass up this opportunity. He should completely discard his country’s nukes.
The Korean government should exert renewed efforts concerning the North Korean nuclear issues. So far the members of this government have been hesitant to include nuclear issues in the inter-Korean summit. Roh stopped at saying that he would make the coming summit a basis for the success of the six-party talks. That is, he did not explicitly say he would tackle the nuclear issues at the summit. Moreover, former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan and the chairman of the Presidential Committee on the Northeast Asian Initiative, Lee Soo-hun, remarked that nukes are not the agenda of the summit. That is far from meeting the expectations of our international allies and opinions of our citizens.
Contrary to the hopes of ruling party members, nuclear issues have become the top priority of the inter-Korean summit as a result of the talks between Korea and the United States. Roh agreed to tell Kim that denuclearization with inspections is the precondition for a peace treaty, which means we cannot skirt the issue any more.
So the first thing we should do is to shed our previous mindset of avoiding the issue. If the inter-Korean summit fails to produce tangible results, the success of the six-party talks and North Korea-U.S. talks are also likely to suffer.