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How to address differences in Korea, U.S. views on NK

Posted February. 22, 2001 13:22,   


With the gradual revelation of the George W. Bush administration`s North Korea policy direction, the differences in viewpoints between Seoul and Washington are becoming clearer. Before the gap develops into a knotty diplomatic problem, the two countries should work to coordinate their policy stances to the greatest degree possible.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has put forward three conditions for establishing diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. The North must reduce its conventional weapons, conclude negotiations with Washington on the missile issue and implement agreements with the U.S. on various issues.

Meanwhile, National Intelligence Service (NIS) director-general Lim Dong-Won, who recently visited Washington for policy consultations with U.S. government officials, testified before a National Assembly committee that Washington maintains a deep distrust of the Pyongyang leadership.

Judging from Powell and Lim`s remarks, it is not easy to understand why the U.S. wants to maintain its hard-line policy toward the communist state. If the U.S. keeps to its present course, the \"uncomfortable relations\" between Seoul and Washington could gradually escalate, as The New York Times reported.

It is true that some government officials and North Korea watchers have given upbeat forecasts with regard to the Bush administration`s North Korea policy direction, saying there would be no serious problems in future U.S.-North Korea relations. What`s more, when Powell`s aforementioned remarks were reported, the Foreign Affairs-Trade Ministry hurriedly issued a statement of denial, stating that the U.S. secretary of state did not present the three conditions for U.S.-North Korea rapprochement at the foreign ministers` talks in Washington last month. NIS director Lim said at the Assembly committee session that he expected the Bush administration to reach an understanding with Seoul on the government`s North Korea policy in a few months. Seoul seems to be denying that there will be any serious problems with their bilateral relationship.

Secretary of State Powell`s reported demand that the North should scale back its conventional weapons clearly indicates the Bush administration`s position toward Pyongyang, regardless of where he made the statement. The NIS director said that the U.S. side raised the issue of the North`s conventional weapons and that he just responded to it, stressing that it was a matter to be addressed by the two Koreas alone.

Nonetheless, the Foreign Affairs-Trade Ministry maintained that the U.S. did not raise the issue with the ministry.

The question of establishing peace on the Korean peninsula, including a mutual arms reduction, is best addressed by the two Koreas. Yet both South and North Korea ought to pay heed to the Bush administration`s concerns. Of course, the U.S. role in peace efforts needs to be considered, and it must be pointed out that the new U.S. government`s requests for substantial action from Pyongyang are reasonable. It is hoped that the government would frankly acknowledge its differences with the Bush administration and on this ground endeavor to narrow the gap.