Unbalanced agreementWith North Korea’s first nuclear test, there were some who said that the South should reclaim its right to independent nuclear development, which was given up with the signing of the North-South Basic Agreement of 1992 on denuclearization. The opinions were diverse, but the common thread was that there was no reason for South Korea to abide by the Basic Agreement when North Korea had breached it by conducting nuclear tests. We believe there is no need for Korea to be hasty in deciding how to proceed. However, we cannot allow North Korea to continue misusing the Basic Agreement. Now that the situation has changed with the second round of nuclear tests, there is a need to at least review the Basic Agreement.
The Basic Agreement came into effect after the two Koreas agreed to contribute to world peace and security through denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and creation of an environment for peaceful unification. It bans the testing, manufacture, production, registration, possession, storage, installation and use of nuclear weapons and prohibits either side from possessing nuclear reprocessing facilities and uranium-enrichment facilities.
However, the purpose and contents of the Basic Agreement have been thoroughly violated by the North. The 17 years since the Basic Agreement took effect saw conspicuous nuclear development by North Korea.
The North has now executed a second round of tests and even shamelessly claims to be a “nuclear weapons state.” On that point, experts are divided. Yet there seems to be agreement that the North will become one in three to four years. This means a destructive security crisis will become reality far too soon and we can no longer just stand by and watch.
It is common sense that there is no counter to nuclear weapons but nuclear weapons. The only thing we have against the North’s nuclear arsenal is the nuclear umbrella of the United States. But the question is whether it will function whenever needed. In 1991, the U.S. withdrew its nukes to support the Basic Agreement, in reality weakening its pledge.
In February, North Korea clarified through an announcement by the joint chiefs of staff that denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula included removal of the U.S. nuclear threat to North Korea and that there was no other way than for both countries with nuclear weapons - the U.S. and North Korea - to simultaneously disarm.
North Korea has consistently used the Basic Agreement to justify its nuclear ambitions and it is clear it plans to do so in the future, too.
We do not want to claim that South Korea should revive its right to independent nuclear development, but the lack of balance in how the Basic Agreement is being carried out must be reviewed.