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U.S. Ignores North Korea, Saying No Reward for Bad Behavior

U.S. Ignores North Korea, Saying No Reward for Bad Behavior

Posted June. 24, 2005 05:54,   


“North Korea sent a letter handwritten by Kim Jong Il to the White House after former U.S. ambassador to Korea Donald Gregg emphasized the importance of establishing a dialogue channel between North Korea and the U.S.”

Johns Hopkins University Professor Don Oberdorfer, who visited Pyongyang with former ambassador Gregg (Asia Society President) in November 2002, in a phone interview yesterday, explained the details of how he delivered North Korea’s Defense Committee Chairman Kim Jong Il’s letter to the White House after receiving it from then North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju.

On June 22, Gregg and Oberdorfer revealed the delivery of a letter in their joint article titled “A Moment to Seize with North Korea” in the Washington Post.

-How Oberdorfer handled the letter?

Oberdorfer said, “I was visiting Pyongyang at the invitation of the then Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Kwan, and received Kim’s letter on November 3. It was two to three weeks later after the second North Korean nuclear crisis broke out by the visit of James Kelly, assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (October). Returning to Washington, I delivered the letter to the White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, with another version of the letter that my acquaintance translated in English. It was First Vice Foreign Minister Kang who delivered Kim’s letter to me. Kang had said that the letter was for President George W. Bush from North Korean leader Kim.”

-It’s strange that the letter, which was highly important, had no signature.

“Diplomatically, it is a type of verbal message. It seems that North Korea avoided using an official document format in order to be able to deny its contents afterward.”

-How the Bush administration responded?

“Deputy Adviser Hadley said, “The U.S. doesn’t compensate for bad movement.” Later on, the Bush administration suspended supplying the North with crude oil on the grounds of a Geneva Agreement breach by North Korea.”

-Why news of the letter was revealed now, after 31 months?

“North Korea requested that the letter be kept secret, but the U.S. consistently offered no response to this. However, I decided to uncover the delivery of the letter in order to not ruin the good news from the Kim Jong Il-Chung Dong-young meeting.”

-The phrase, “The nuclear problem that occurred this time…” in the letter doesn’t appear to indicate the Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) program, which was the cause of the second North Korean nuclear crisis.

“Vice Foreign Minister Kang neither admitted nor denied the existence of the HEU at the time,” said Oberdorfer.

Seung-Ryun Kim srkim@donga.com