More sticks, fewer carrotsKoreans are used to North Korea’s lying and delaying tactics in the six-party talks, but its failure to meet the deadline to announce its nuclear programs and disable its facilities is a great disappointment. Nevertheless, the North’s repeated failures to meet the deadline, which was the end of last year, seem to be attributable to the North’s intentional maneuvering to make the best use of the last card they think they have. We also hope the suspicion that North Korea made secret nuclear deals with Syria can be cleared away as soon as possible.
What matters now is that North Korea seems to be using delay tactics again. They are saying that the other six-party talks partners (the United States, Russia, Japan, China and South Korea) are not delivering on the economic assistance programs they offered to the North. In addition, the North is making efforts to delay the disabling of its main nuclear site. In the past, it’s been a common occurrence for the North to delay its commitments in the six-party talks.
Under the careful watch of experts from the International Atomic Energy Association and the United States, the disabling process of one of the nuclear operating reactors and on the other two plutonium programs seems to have been going, according to plan, even 10 days ago. However, all of a sudden, the North made an improper announcement that it would probably miss a year-end deadline to declare all its nuclear activities and disable its main nuclear site.
That proves my argument that the North will never give up all of its nuclear programs until the complete demise of the parochial totalitarian Kim regime, no matter if North Korea receives economic aid from the other countries or not.
Notwithstanding the delay tactics, South Koreans are more disappointed by their government’s soft attitude and probable willingness to pardon the North, which once again violated agreements it made in the six-party talks. Five years ago, in 2002, we vividly remember that Washington confronted Pyongyang because it was trying to build a uranium enrichment program using centrifuges manufactured with aluminum tubes. This doubt has not been cleared away. North Korea has not given any clear explanations as to what it was doing with those aluminum tubes.
South Korea must be very tough toward the North’s denial that it was trying to build a uranium enrichment program. It also should use more sticks against the North, which has violated its promise to declare all of its nuclear programs.
As we all know, North Korea has also acknowledged that it imported a lot of high-strength aluminum tubes from Russia. The North should follow the rules and norms of international society, including the nuclear agreements that it agreed to.
It is a great pity that the U.S. and its allies have given the North more time and the South Korean government has said that what is most important is how complete the declaration is in the future.
Our government must not be soft on this issue. We should not give any excuses this time for the North for failing to meet the deadline.
If North Korea points to the fact that the other five nations involved in the six-party talks have not yet sent Pyongyang the 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil (or its economic equivalent) in return for nuclear disablement, that does not make sense.
The North so far has already received 150,000 tons of oil and 5,010 tons of steel products to renovate its aging power plants. The rest will be implemented, as promised, according to the agreement that has been signed. If our Foreign Ministry thinks we are at a critical juncture regarding the North’s nuclear issue, our government must also declare that penalties will be imposed, in alliance with other six-party members, if Pyongyang fails to keep its agreements. This is how the South Korean government must behave.
*The writer is a visiting professor at the department of diplomacy of National Chengchi University, Taiwan.
by Park Tae-woo