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Controversy May Undermine Korea’s Nuclear Diplomacy

Posted September. 14, 2004 21:51,   


The IAEA has already scheduled the dispatch of a team of investigators to Korea in order to expand its investigation into reports of undisclosed uranium conversion experiments, and is also pushing to submit a referral to the U.N. Security Council, increasing international suspicion over the alleged recent Korean nuclear experiments.

However, the Korean government, which has been busy defusing problems that have surfaced on a case-by-case basis, has come under harsh criticism and may have its credibility undermined, which would conclusively decrease its “nuclear diplomatic capability.”

On the IAEA announcement of its dispatch of a team of investigators, a high-ranking Korean government official quoted on September 14 that “the uranium conversion experiments were conducted 20 years ago; they cannot be a problem now.”

However, some think that the South Korean nuclear problem is escalating to a crisis along with the North Korean nuclear crisis, and some are pushing the IAEA to submit a referral on the Korean nuclear crisis to the U.N. Security Council.

A high-ranking government official during a recent press conference stated, “A security council referral is only made when a direct violation of nuclear treaties is made, such as in the case of North Korea.” Only after learning of the seriousness of the IAEA’s intent to submit a referral did an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade say, “At that time, the IAEA will submit a report to the Security Council in order to close the case,” during a September 14 briefing, taking a step back from its previous position.

Under the current circumstances, Korea has no capacity to produce nuclear weapons after having abandoned all its nuclear reprocessing facilities, and experts unanimously agree that the absence of a central administrative system to coordinate nuclear diplomatic actions is the reason why the situation has now escalated to the point in which possible U.N. Security Council intervention may occur.

After suspicions of recent experiments surfaced, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade stated “the scientists who took part in the experiment should be prosecuted accordingly to suppress international suspicion.” On the other hand, the Ministry of Science and Technology said, “There were no problems with the experiments,” taking a different stance on the situation.

Another government official said, “The National Security Council should have taken a comprehensive approach towards the problem from the initial stage. After foreign news agencies reported its suspicions, the administration took limited action to solve the problem, which made international suspicion worse.”

One expert said, “Japan, after having experienced nuclear catastrophes during the war, immediately allocated funds in 1954 to ‘peacefully develop nuclear capabilities’ and has managed its nuclear policy in a comprehensive and successful manner for over 50 years, making Japan one of the world’s nuclear powers. We should learn from its success and must find a way to manage our nuclear policy to deter international suspicions while maintaining sufficient nuclear capability.”