Great nuclear progressNegotiations on North Korea’s nuclear program have made an eye-opening progress. North Korea has turned over to Washington about 18,000 pages of records on its nuclear activities, including those concerning the North’s reprocessing of weapons-grade plutonium. The U.S. Department of Defense said the action would serve as an important milestone in the process verifying the North’s activities. It is our sincere hope that the declaration by the North will satisfy the criteria of the United States and that the North’s program will no longer create controversies.
The North Korean nuclear crisis posed a serious threat to the South Korea-U.S. relationship, bilateral relations between North Korea and the United States, and relations between the South and North. This was mainly caused when the two nations failed to reach an agreement on the North’s nuclear issue under the Roh Moo-hyun administration. The Roh administration tried to see the situation from the North’s perspective, saying, “It makes some sense that the North is insisting that it is justifiable to develop nuclear technology in the interests of self-defense.” Furthermore, the government tended to regard the nuclear issue as a “political tool,” not a “military threat.” The United States shook its head regarding the Roh administration’s approach. The U.S. was unwilling to provide the South with North-related information. They continued to have a tense relationship on the nuclear issue, even though it was a crucial problem that the two nations should resolve.
The same may be said of food aid to the North. There had been no agreements between the two nations regarding this issue during the Roh administration. In particular, even though the North conducted nuclear experiments, the Korean government still retained a positive attitude toward the North, confounding the United States. Now the situation has totally changed. The U.S. is taking the lead in providing food aid to the North. However, the United States and South Korea are closely cooperating with each other on this issue.
The plutonium records eradicate just one obstacle among the myriad of “serious and complex” hurdles to the North’s nuclear disarmament. There is a long way to go. South Korea and the U.S. should join hands to complete the nuclear disarmament process. Bear in mind that the negotiations between the North and the U.S. should not be regarded as the final phase to achieving our dreams. In the past, South Korea covered all the expenses in providing aid to the North. The past should not be repeated.