[Viewpoint] Time to hold the North accountable

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[Viewpoint] Time to hold the North accountable

North Korea has resorted to brinkmanship again. It

declared on Tuesday it would boycott the six-party talks

and restart its partly disabled nuclear facilities.
The action came after the United Nations Security Council

condemned the North for violating a 2006 resolution

banning it from developing ballistic missiles and

demanded the North stop further launchings. Pyongyang

ordered the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy

Agency to leave North Korea.
The Obama administration, which has not yet formulated

a concrete North Korea policy except that it would use

both carrot and stick in dealing with the North, seems to

be at a loss. Washington had to hold off on using its

missile defense system, even though the North fired a

long-range missile in defiance of repeated warnings.
After the test-launch, Washington said it would punish the

North by adopting a resolution at the UN Security Council.

But the U.S. effort to put the North under international

pressure was foiled by opposition from China and Russia.

It had to be satisfied with the adoption of a statement to

tighten sanctions against North Korea.
Now that the North has threatened to restart its nuclear

program and boycott the six-party talks, it is a pity that

the White House spokesman has only commented that the

move was “a serious step in the wrong direction,” and

that the North should return to the bargaining table.
North Korea observers predict the incident will take one of

the following two courses.
First, as was the case in 1998 and 2006, there could be

contact between the U.S. and North Korean authorities

after a cooling off period of a few weeks, and both sides

could have negotiations on a new set of demands from

the North.
Or, the North could go a step further and try either to

tame the Obama administration by carrying out another

nuclear test, or put the Lee Myung-bak administration to a

test by provoking a military conflict along the Northern

Limit Line in the West Sea.
In the case of the latter, the North will probably try to get

even bigger concessions than an economic package,

including a generous supply of heavy oil, electricity and

light-water reactors.
It is absurd to assume that North Korea will still take

hostilities to the next level even after all these

provocations. I don’t mean to discount the possibility that

the North will go ahead with a nuclear test or provoke a

military conflict along the NLL, nor do I underestimate the

adverse effects these would have on the security of the

Korean Peninsula.
But overestimating the North Korea threat will mean

admitting defeat to North Korea’s brinkmanship. One past

example of this was that Washington started direct talks

with Pyongyang one month after Pyongyang fired a

Taepodong-1 missile in 1998, and the two sides agreed on

a missile moratorium under which the United States was

to compensate the North with $1 billion. Due to the

change of government in Washington, the agreement did

not materialize, but it must have stimulated North Korea’s

appetite. The same applied to the rapid development of

talks between Washington and Pyongyang after the North

fired a Taepodong-2 missile and tested a nuclear bomb in

North Koreans seem to remember the Perry Process in

1998, under which the North had the pleasure of having

direct talks with Washington on a variety of issues,

including a missile moratorium, high-level visits, diplomatic

openings and even an inter-Korean summit, separate

from the nuclear issue. North Koreans might, somehow,

expect that they can get more concessions from the

Obama administration than from its predecessor.
But the Obama government seems uninterested in direct

talks with the North outside of the framework of the six-

party talks. At the moment, Washington pins its hopes on

China’s role as a mediator between North Korea and other

participants at the six-party talks. Its primary goals are

sending Stephen Bosworth, the special representative for

North Korea policy, to Pyongyang through the good

offices of Beijing and returning Pyongyang to the

bargaining table.
If the United States shows only interest in dialogue at a

time when Pyongyang resorts to its typical brinkmanship

tactics, however, it will make the North elated. The United

States must take the measures mandated by its

agreements with the North.
It must, first of all, reinstate Pyongyang on the list of state

sponsors of terrorism. In August last year, Washington

removed the North from the list to salvage the nuclear

Now that the North is restarting its nuclear facilities, it is

only natural that Washington cancel the removal.
It is also important to strengthen financial sanctions

against North Korea. The U.S. Treasury had to close

investigations on North Korean accounts frozen at Chinese

banks in Macau, including Banco Delta Asia, to clear the

way for the nuclear agreement signed on Feb. 13, 2007.

The U.S. can now put the owners of the accounts on the

sanctions list wanted by the Security Council. In view of

the fact that the North used Macau as a base for weapons

deals over 20 years, many of them must be connected

with transactions dealing with weapons of mass

Financial sanctions are more effective than the

Proliferation Security Initiative itself in that they not only

block the flow of money for the development and

manufacturing of weapons, but they also interrupt

financial transactions that enable the program to begin in

the first place.

*The writer is a visiting professor of media studies at Myongji University.

by Park Sung-soo
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