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South Korea Divided over Security Issues

Posted October. 24, 2006 07:02,   


Disputes are unceasingly erupting in South Korea over diplomatic and security issues in regard to ways to respond to Pyongyang’s nuclear test.

Critics say Cheong Wa Dae, the Ministry of Unification (MOU), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) are offering dissenting voices over the analysis of North Korea’s recent moves, Seoul’s participation of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), and discontinuing the inter-Korean projects.

”North Korea’s remark that it does not have a plan to carry out an additional nuclear test indicates considerable progress, and the conditions (that North Korea demands) in returning to six-party talks will be eased,” an official of the Unification Ministry said on Friday after the news that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il agreed to postpone a further nuclear test if his demands are met. The Ministry of Unification has also reportedly held a meeting which discussed issues such as future measures. Kim Jong Il reportedly mentioned to Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan, who recently visited North Korea as China’s special envoy, that Pyongyang has no intention for an additional test and is willing to return to the negotiation table of the six-party talks first if Washington is determined to lift financial sanctions against North Korea.

“Although the U.S. is skeptical about Kim’s remark and there are people interpreting his remark in their own ways, it is certain that the remark is not totally groundless,” an official of Cheong Wa Dae said on Monday.

In contrast, the MOFAT is being cautious in drawing up a conclusion. “China has delivered mostly optimistic messages, saying North Korea is ruling out the possibility of an additional nuclear test, However, we are reserving judgment since many intelligence sources have indicated that North Korea can act exactly the opposite (of what it has said).”

The MOU and other security related ministries also have very different views over the degree of sanctioning North Korea.

The MOU plans to maintain inter-Korean projects with some minor changes such as halting government supplements for the Mount Geumgang project and delaying additional land sale in the Gaesong Industrial Complex, sources said. However, ministries such as the MOFAT argue that it is inevitable to reduce or stop the two inter-Korean projects as countries including the U.S. are demanding South Korea to add pressure on North Korea.

Meanwhile, issues, which the government once reviewed such as expanding its role in the PSI, have not been yet publicly discussed due to protest from Cheong Wa Dae, some ministries and opposition parties.