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[Editorial] Strategy for the North Korean Nuclear Issue: Balance Does Matter

[Editorial] Strategy for the North Korean Nuclear Issue: Balance Does Matter

Posted February. 18, 2005 22:52,   


Diplomatic efforts to bring North Korea back to the six-party talks are urgently going on. South Korea and U.S. top negotiators to the talks discussed with their Chinese counterparts how to resume the talks, and the head of the Chinese Communist Party’s international liaison department will soon visit Pyongyang. The U.S. secretary of state and the Japanese foreign minister will also meet with each other in Washington today to consult on measures to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.

The achievements so far boil down to “urging the North to return to the talks.” Christopher Hill, the top negotiator of the U.S. said yesterday, “The U.S. reached a complete agreement (with China) that Pyongyang should return to the negotiating table.” Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, the top negotiator of Korea, also asked China to persuade the North. This means that South Korea, the U.S. and China have decided to opt for a “diplomatic resolution” of the problem, despite the North’s bombshell announcement that it possesses nuclear weapons and is boycotting the talks.

The challenge is now how the three countries can realize their agreement. Above all, the countries should try to produce common ground as soon as possible in a multilateral framework, which could end up with six different opinions from the six parties of the talks. As Ambassador Hill said, the six countries should not show discrepancies in opinion, which could be taken advantage of by the North. Also, the six countries should maintain a balanced attitude with one another.

The government in particular, should not be confined to the passive attitude of just watching China’s efforts. It is true that the government is in a position just to expect China’s influence due to international dynamics. However, the nuclear issue is basically the headache of the Korean peninsula, not of China. The key role in this issue is to maintain cooperation with China and the U.S. while encouraging Pyongyang to come back to the talks.

Inter-Korean economic cooperation cannot be separated from cooperation among the five countries. The government should seriously consider the reason why Ambassador Hill said regarding the inter-Korean economic cooperation: “The government should take concerted action.” If the government maintains an appeasement policy towards the North as if there is nothing wrong, while asking for cooperation from China and the U.S., that is no different from breaking the spirit of teamwork. It should show a “balanced response,” which maintains cooperation with the partners in the six-party talks while clearly showing the North that it will find itself at a disadvantage if it worsens the situation.