Posted March. 25, 2005 23:24,
The Korean government was reportedly informed by the U.S. of intelligence reports that North Korea had sold uranium hexafluoride (UF6) to Libya and was even paid for the nuclear material. The information, which the Dong-A Ilbo identified from Korean government officials, though unofficial, is indeed very significant and could have a huge impact on future developments of the North Korean nuclear standoff. At the same time, it is a complete refutation of the Washington Posts March 20 report that states, in an attempt to put more pressure on the North, the U.S. government misled Seoul that North Korea, not Pakistan, had exported the UF6 material to Libya.
Against that backdrop, it does not make sense that the Korean government is holding back any official confirmation on the report, citing that it is premature to draw any conclusion. North Koreas exporting of nuclear material is a clear violation of the implicit red line drew by the U.S., which could seriously dampen the whole process of peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear crisis. That also means that the North has abandoned all nuclear-related responsibilities it had promised to bear to the international community.
Seouls reasoning seems to be that any confirmation of the report could hamper its long-standing diplomatic efforts based on engagement policies toward the North. Now that President Roh Moo-hyun already asserted the statement, North Koreas argument [that its nuclear program is for self-defense] has some validity, why is it so hard for the Korean government to acknowledge Pyongyangs exportation of nuclear material?
Even more problematic might be the possibility that Korea had never been informed of such intelligence from the U.S. If true, this would be a clear indication that Korea-U.S. communication is in trouble while the Korean government has always claimed it really works, leading to a credibility crisis in virtually all government remarks and policies. It has to be made clear who is responsible for these problems.
The government should explain what has been going on regarding this issue. Hiding the truth, possibly out of fear that news of North Koreas selling of nuclear material might provide more ground for hardliners toward the North in the U.S., would only aggravate the situation. It should clarify the truth, and tell the North what it has to say. This would be the best option to resolve the issue as well as to revitalize the Korea-U.S. alliance.