Nuclear stalemate

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Nuclear stalemate

Negotiations aimed at resolving North Korea’s nuclear issue have reached a stalemate. For nearly two months, the United States and North Korea have failed to agree on the methods to verify the North’s declaration of its nuclear facilities and materials. North Korea said it was determined to maintain its status as a nuclear state, making the outlook for negotiations darker.

The United States and North Korea have quite different approaches to verification. The United States maintains that the complete declaration of North Korea’s nuclear program should be followed by thorough verification, according to the agreement reached on Feb. 13, 2007. North Korea, however, refutes the U.S. argument, saying that the agreement doesn’t have any guidelines for verification and thus, it is not its duty to follow the verification process dictated by Washington. That means, it is impossible to inspect facilities, such as military sites, that North Korea didn’t declare.

Besides, it has been known that North Korea’s declaration is not complete. North Korea didn’t declare storage facilities for nuclear waste, saying they are linked to the military. It is said that North Korean negotiators believe nonproliferation on the Korean Peninsula is important but that North Korea’s self-reliance is even more so.

Of course, there have been achievements, such as disabling nuclear reactors. But what is being discussed now is merely a nuclear program; the subject of nuclear weapons has not yet been breached. It is truly worrisome if North Korea doesn’t have the will to abolish its nuclear weapons and international society in the end accepts North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.

The South Korean government must mobilize all its resources to prevent this from becoming reality. South Korea must work hard on its relations with the United States and China. A high official at the Blue House said North Korea’s nuclear issue will be the main topic at the South Korea-China summit on Aug. 25. This is timely. South Korea should search for concrete measures to induce China to take a leading role in nonproliferation on the Korean Peninsula, instead of clinging to such cliches as “strategic, cooperative partners.” South Korea should consult the United States closely and at the same time, it should also remain alert to whether the United States has the willpower to make North Korea abolish its nuclear weapons. There is a slight indication that the United States takes the transfer of North Korea’s nuclear substances more seriously than the abolition of nuclear arms.
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