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[Editorial] “North Korean Nuclear Issue at Critical Stage”: The People Must Know the Truth

[Editorial] “North Korean Nuclear Issue at Critical Stage”: The People Must Know the Truth

Posted May. 04, 2005 23:40,   


The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ban Ki-moon, stated during a routine briefing that “the process of seeking a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear issue has reached a critical stage,” noting that “all possibilities are being considered as we look for a countermeasure.” It’s unsettling to wonder just how badly things must be going for the foreign minister to use the phrase “critical stage.”

Has the U.S. finally given up dialogue in the face of North Korea’s repeated refusal of the six-party talks and decided to submit the nuclear issue to the U.N. Security Council? Or is it considering an even more aggressive measure, such as economic sanctions and naval blockades? Whatever the truth might be, the government must make it clear to the Korean people.

For nearly a year since the breakdown of the third six-party talks, the government has hung on to the possibility of their reopening and has refrained from even discussing alternatives under the pretext of “not provoking the North.” Just this year, North Korea has made a series of disquieting moves, including its declaration of nuclear capability, the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, and the test firing of short-range missiles, but the government has yet to release even a statement of regret. How can the people not be alarmed when the government blurts out after all this time that things have come to a “critical stage”?

It is our assessment that Minister Ban’s statement is belated as it is. U.S. Special Envoy on North Korean Affairs Joseph DeTrani announced yesterday, “In order for U.S.-North Korea relations to be normalized, not only the nuclear issue but all of North Korea’s criminal actions, including human rights violations, ballistic missile production, and drug trafficking, must be resolved.” This is a radical departure from the U.S.’s existing policy that “normalization of relations could be achieved if the nuclear issue is resolved.” It sounds almost as if they are saying that they refuse to normalize relations with the current Kim Jong Il regime.

With the situation at such a serious pass, the government must prepare for the worst-case scenario. It must have explanations and responses to various current and potential problems. What will it do if the six-party talks are abandoned and the nuclear issue is submitted to the U.N. Security Council? What about the future of North-South economic cooperation, including the Kaesong Industrial Complex? What is its course of action in case the North persists in conducting nuclear experiments? Does the situation threaten the future of U.S.-South Korea cooperation?

Whether we want it to or not, matters on the Korean Peninsula surrounding the nuclear issue appears to be taking on the urgency of an “actual situation.”