Go to contents

The Prediction of the North’s Nuclear Issue

Posted February. 11, 2005 22:50,   


The government believes that the talks on the North Korean nuclear issue will resume, saying that Pyongyang’s official announcement on February 10 that it has nuclear weapons and that it will suspend participation in the six-party talks indefinitely as a negotiating chip to secure a stronger position in the six-party talks. However, government officials could not hide their puzzlement at the North’s unexpected remark.

Negotiation or Catastrophe?-

North Korea does not deny the major premise of “settlement of problems through negotiations” and explained its willingness to come back to the negotiating table when the “atmosphere” gets mature, which led the Korean government to think that the North does not intend to break the framework of the six-way talks.

The government says that the North’s policymakers would have made such an announcement, remembering that they brought about a dramatic settlement in the first nuclear crisis in 1994 after they culminated the crisis with an extremely strong tactic, saying, “We will turn Seoul into a sea of flames.”

However, the United States maintained an ignoring attitude toward Pyongyang’s brinkmanship tactic ever since the inauguration of the first George W. Bush administration. Meanwhile, experts say the North’s advisors tend to present hardline policies to the head of the nation rather than persuade him to make a reasonable choice because of the country’s unique decision-making structure in which absolute power exists.

Some predict that, for this reason, a collision between Washington’s hard-line policy and Pyongyang’s policy of pushing forward could bring about a catastrophe like the collapse of the framework of the six-way talks. Yoo Ho-yeol, professor of North Korean studies at Korea University, said, “We should think about the possibility that the North would push forward a nuclear experiment,” adding, “Prolonged tensions will be inevitable for the time being due to the stalled six-party talks.”

Futile Optimism-

The government expressed high expectations on the North’s comeback to the six-way talks as recently as early this month. Unification Minister Chung Dong-young said on February 4, “I think the North’s participation in the six-party talks is imminent.” Prior to that, Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said on February 1, “I expect that Pyongyang will participate in the six-party talks at appropriate time after (President Bush’s) State of the Union speech.”

The optimistic expectations were based on the second-term Bush administration’s softened stance toward Pyongyang. Actually, President Bush did not mention provocative expressions like “axis of evil” in his inauguration speech (January 20) and State of the Union speech (February 2).

Accordingly, high-ranking government officials argued for optimism, saying, “There is neither cause nor reason for the North to refuse to return to the six-party talks.” A high-ranking official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that day, “To be honest, I did not expect the North’s announcement of nuclear weapons. Some unknown variables seem to have changed everything, although the objective situation was optimistic.” But government authorities have failed to present an explanation on what those “variables” are.

Hyong-gwon Pu taewon_ha@donga.com bookum90@donga.com