War’s endChristopher Hill, the assistant secretary of state for Asian and Pacific affairs, said that normalization of U.S.-North Korea ties and talks for a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula will start only after North Korea disposes of its 50 grams of plutonium. As the top U.S. envoy at the six-party talks, he said the disabling of North Korea’s nuclear facilities is not the final step in the removal of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and that North Korea must get rid of its nuclear fuel. He expressed the U.S. stance on normalization with North Korea in concrete terms.
At the recent summit meeting, South and North Korea agreed to have the leaders of three or four countries convene to end the Korean War. There have been debates as to when such a meeting will be held. The Roh Moo-hyun administration implied that a meeting of this kind could possibly be held while it is still in office but Washington has denied this. Alexander Vershbow, the U.S. ambassador to Korea, made it clear that discussions to end the Korean War will start only after North Korea abolishes its nuclear development programs.
There is no doubt about Washington’s will to improve its relations with North Korea. A New York Philharmonic concert in North Korea will demonstrate that the two countries are increasing their contacts. However, North Korea must entirely abolish its nuclear program for this to continue.
Regarding the peace regime that the incumbent South Korean government longs for, Washington made it clear that discussions to that end can start after North Korea gets rid of its plutonium.
Thus the administration needs to focus on specific goals. First, it must free itself from the temptation of organizing a meeting to declare the end of the Korean War. It is unreasonable that the leaders of South Korea, North Korea, the United States and China should gather just to declare the end of the Korean War. Some question whether a declaration to end the Korean War is needed at all. But if such a declaration is required, it must be done by consensual diplomacy.
Second, the South Korean government must exert diplomatic efforts to make North Korea abolish its nuclear programs to the level that the United States requires. It would be good if the United States and North Korea have a confidential agreement between themselves, and that explains the American envoy’s remark.
But if that isn’t the case, we should remember that there is a long way to go before North Korea abolishes its nuclear programs.