Libya’s lead

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Libya’s lead

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Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was always a headache for the American government. In 1979 after rioters burned the U.S. Embassy in Libya, President Ronald Reagan called him “a crazy dog.”

In 1986, the U.S. military attacked the presidential residence in Tripoli, killing Qaddafi’s adopted daughter. Two years later, the Pan Am airline terrorist bombing, that cost 270 lives, was his revenge.

Libya even started developing biological weapons and enriching uranium to build nuclear weapons. So it’s quite extraordinary to think that President George W. Bush has exempted Libya from his “axis of evil” list.

It was in 2003 that Libya started to change. It agreed with the U.S. to rid itself of all weapons of mass destruction. Then Libya and the U.S. established full diplomatic relations in 2006. The excited neo-conservatives of the Bush administration praised themselves, saying, “Qaddafi saw the Iraq war, and surrendered in order not to become the second Saddam.” However, Qaddafi had already himself criticized his own socialist economic system as “not functioning efficiently,” and opened Libya to the international community.

Now whenever change in Libya is mentioned, North Korea is brought up. In 2003, Libya announced it would quit developing nuclear weapons as the second North Korean nuclear crisis was unravelling.

North Korea staunchly refused to follow Libya’s model of first giving up nuclear development and then improving relations. Pyongyang’s reasoning is that if it disarms first, the U.S. would change its mind. What the North instead came up with was the principle of synchronized action, whereby both nations take step-by-step actions at the same time.

It’s been five years since North Korea and Libya took different paths. Qaddafi had face-to-face talks with the U.S. Secretary of State last week for the first time in 55 years at the same residence that the U.S. had bombed. Meanwhile North Korea was heightening tensions by declaring that it would halt its dismantling of nuclear facilities.

Pyongyang seems to believe that if it puts pressure on the U.S., it will be quickly removed from the list of terrorism-sponsoring states.

Libya gave up nuclear weapons and accepted U.S. inspection. In 2006 it was removed from the terrorism list.

“We are different from Libya,” North Korea claims. However, when we see the photograph of Colonel Qaddafi sitting face-to-face with Condolezza Rice, we can’t help but feel frustration.


The writer is a deputy political editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by By Yeh Young-june [yyjune@joongang.co.kr]
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