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`US Envoy to North Korea May Be Delayed`

Posted June. 30, 2002 08:20,   


The naval clash on Yellow Sea between North and South Korea navies on June 29th is being seen as a major blow to reconciliation efforts between the two Koreas.

During the past June 1999 Yellow Sea naval clash, the U.S., which is one of the Armistice members, has shown concern for North Korean naval intrusion of the de-facto sea border or the Northern Limit Line (NLL). The U.S. then dispatched AWACs, reconnaissance planes and navy ships to strengthen the forces around Korean peninsula.

Because the incident happened on weekend night in U.S. Eastern Time, the Department of State and White House has yet to announce any comments. The North Korea’s intrusion to South Korean maritime border is without question therefore the U.S. response to North Korea’s provocative military incursion is expected to be strong. Especially when the U.S. has kept on alert for North Korea’s provocative act during the 2002 World Cup. A clear warning message to North Korea is foreseen.

The focus of attention is at whether the North Korea-U.S. talks will be held according to schedule. The U.S. has proposed sending James Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State in charge of Pacific East Asia in second week of next month but due to the latest development, postponing of talks is a strong possibility.

Few foreign affair experts foresee a necessity to continue North Korea- U.S. talks and cautiously predict on U.S. envoy going on as schedule. But if the relation between two Koreas gets worse and the tension in the Korean peninsula reaches its peak, nothing is definite.

It is likely that the current North Korean provocation would strengthen the anti-North Korean hardliners in the U.S. and complicates the moderate faction, such as Collin Powel, the Secretary of State who emphasizes the need to talk with the North Korea.

For those who labeled the North Korea as the ’Axis of Evil’, President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and others the latest naval clash in the Yellow Sea will only gives legitimacy to hard-line policies against North Korea.

The Missile Defense (MD) Program, which states the North Korean missile threat as one of it’s development justification will also gain leverage.

Also the U.S. Congress, which shows major interest in North Korean refugees in China is expected to increase their denunciation against North Korea as ‘North Korean regime continues it’s military adventure even while its people starve’.

Actual response from the U.S. will depend upon whether, the North Korean intrusion of NLL was ordered by President Kim Jung-il or by the military hardliners. If the latest incident was cause by North Korean military hardliners outside the control of President Kim Jung-il, the U.S. will gain another problem in their North Korean policies. Problem of cooping with the internal power struggle between the hardliners and the moderates within the North Korea