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Rice: “Until We Have a Date, We Don’t Have a Date”

Posted June. 20, 2005 03:01,   


“We will judge simply based on the results of their actions. We can neither welcome nor dismiss it.”

The Bush administration held back any immediate assessment of the results from the recent meeting between North Korea’s National Defense Committee Chairman Kim Jong Il and his South Korean counterpart, Unification Minister Chung Dong-young. The atmosphere in the United States was quite different from that in Seoul.

The U.S. Department of State invited Washington correspondents from the South Korean media to its explanation session held at its headquarters on June 17. The State Department, however, simply reiterated Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s June 16 statements, without making further remarks. The point was, as they put it, that “until we have a date, we don’t have a date.” The Associated Press quoted an anonymous U.S. government official, who dismissed the North’s announcement as “nothing but mere rhetoric.”

The New York Times, Washington Post, and other leading U.S. media also made only straight reports on Chung’s announcement, refraining from making any judgments. The Los Angeles Times wrote that the Bush administration is “being careful.”

In a similar vein, a diplomatic source in Washington said on June 18 that the Bush administration “does not trust the real intentions of the North.” The source also added that the hard-line group which leads U.S. diplomatic policies responded cynically that “the North is publicizing its return to the negotiating table as if this was a big compromise.”

“Many in Washington consider it not a normal deal when an owner of a house demands an additional 10 million won right before the close of the transaction on the condition that he visits the real estate agency [comes back to the negotiating table] to conclude the agreement,” hinted the source.

Hardliners inside the Bush administration are reportedly paying more attention to the fact that Chairman Kim’s “requests” are less than what they used to be. Pyongyang has so far called for the withdrawal of the U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK), state-to-state arms reduction negotiations between North Korea and the United States, and abandonment by the U.S. of its hostile policies toward the North.

Given that Kim openly asked the U.S. to “respect North Korea as a partner,” however, they suggest the North is currently feeling a “sense of pressure.”

The hardliners’ reasoning seems to be that this can be interpreted as Kim tucking his tail between his legs to some extent, and that this proves the Bush administration’s drive against the North was right both in morality and reality.

That is allegedly why U.S. authorities are making no response even when Chairman Kim himself suggested North Korea’s “return to the talks in July.”

In fact, the United States is highly likely not to make any new announcement or suggestion regarding the North’s request for “respect.” A State Department official asserted at a June 17 press conference that the United States can express respect [for North Korea] only after the North does something that deserves respect.”

Nevertheless, some Washington officials suggest the possibility that the North might return to the talks sometime in July.

In North Korea, where the remarks of Chairman Kim are considered laws and strategies, the idea of Kim’s remarks resulting in nothing is virtually unimaginable.

“Unless the United States provokes it any further, North Korea might eventually come back to the talks, saying that the Bush administration’s ‘sovereign state’ remarks were ‘enough of an apology’ [to the North],” said some North Korea experts in Washington.

Seung-Ryun Kim srkim@donga.com