Posted February. 13, 2005 22:33,
After the North Korean Foreign Ministry declared on February 10 its possession of nuclear weapons and the indefinite suspension of its participation in the six-party talks, the South Korea-U.S. opinion gap is widening on how to respond to the Norths announcement.
At a meeting with Washington correspondents on February 12, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon told the reporters, We will intensify the multilateral diplomatic efforts to get North Korea back into the six-party talks and carry on with humanitarian assistance, including the provision of rice and fertilizer, as well as our economic cooperation characterized by the Gaeseong industrial complex.
However, the New York Times on the same day reported that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney urged Minister Ban to not meet North Koreas demand for fertilizer, pointing out, If you want to press North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to choose between his nuclear arsenal and a harsher form of isolation, those countries with the intention of disarming North Korea should act in cooperation.
While hurriedly denying the New York Times report, Minister Ban said, Vice President Cheney said that any reciprocal deal on economic cooperation with the North is not acceptable.
On February 11, a high-level official in the Foreign Ministry, prior to the Ministers remarks, explained, For North Korea to return to the six-party talks, the U.S. needs to adopt a more flexible attitude. The government will try to create exactly that kind of mood.
In fact, Minister of Unification Chung Dong-young addressed the Davos forum on January 30 in Switzerland, stressing, The U.S. needs to make a different choice to make North Korea give up its nuclear weapons. The ministers call for a comprehensive approach, which includes adequate compensation for North Koreas nuclear disarmament, is in line with the Foreign Ministry officials remarks.
Nevertheless, a high-ranking official in the U.S. State Department deeply involved in the six-party talks said recently in Seoul, The U.S. position that it cannot compensate for bad behavior is firm. The point where we could offer carrots to the North has already passed.
Meanwhile, on February 13, an important member concerning the diplomatic and security policy flatly rejected North Koreas assertion of its nuclear development and possession, adding, Though the North claims that it has completed processing 8,000 used fuel rods, both South Korea and America see that processing over 2,500 is beyond their capability.
It is the first time the government has confirmed the number of the used fuel rods North Korea processed. Until recently, the governments official position went like: It is assumed that North Korea possesses fissile materials enough to produce one or two nuclear weapons.