Bell: hard stand is only option

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Bell: hard stand is only option

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Burwell B. Bell

Six-party talks as a way of taming the belligerency of North Korea have failed and should be replaced by tougher military responses and economic embargoes, said a former chief of the U.S. Forces Korea on Friday.

Burwell Baxter Bell, who was the U.S. commander in Korea between 2006 and 2008, said South Korea and the U.S. should implement stronger, asymmetric retaliatory military strikes against North Korean provocation. Even shutting down the Kaesong Industrial Complex should be implemented, he said.

Addressing a forum in Seoul, titled “Korea-U.S. Alliance: Current Status, Issues and Future Directions,” Bell judged that the recent provocative behaviors by the North, including the Nov. 23 deadly shelling of the Yeonpyeong Island, have proved the policies implemented over recent years to engage the North were ineffective.

“Sixteen years of failed diplomacy since the signing of the Agreed Framework has resulted in a nuclear-armed North Korea,” Bell said.

The Agreed Framework, instituted between the U.S. and North Korea in Geneva in 1994, was for the U.S. to give economic aid to the North in return for it giving up nuclear programs.

But that framework became unsustainable when the North walked out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 and held nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Last month, it revealed a uranium enrichment facility that could provide the North an alternative way of producing nuclear weapons.

“For now, we should abandon six-party talks processes. It has failed,” Bell said, referring to the multinational negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament that started in 2003 and has been stalled since April 2009 with the North’s walkout. “As long as Kim Jong-il is in power, the six-party talks process is dead.”

Bell’s words came as China is trying to resume the six-party talks to save its communist ally.

Bell said recent provocations by the North are to lure the U.S. to sign a peace treaty with it, but that is unacceptable, Bell said, because that would bring a permanent division of the two Koreas.

Bell said the only options effective toward the North are military responses and more pressure such as economic embargoes. He said Seoul should strike back at North Korean aggression in a more effective way than it did over the Yeonpyeong attack.

“Next time the North attacks, there should be asymmetric retaliatory military strikes by South Korea. Allowing North Korea to attack the South with no counterstrike consequences sends a message of weakness and timidity to Kim Jong-il,” he said.

On the U.S. part, Bell said, the annual land exercises should involve increasing the number of U.S. combat soldiers participating in them. He said the naval drills involving U.S. carriers should be ramped up and conducted more frequently.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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