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[Editorial] A Harder Line on N. Korea

Posted November. 13, 2006 07:00,   


The government has completed its draft report to the U.N. Security Council’s Sanctions Committee against North Korea. However, sources indicate that the report, which does not include any new punitive action, will impose virtually no substantial sanctions on North Korea. This is the result of the government’s obsession with the “engagement policy” and an irrational pro-North Korean attitude that runs contrary to public opinion and the international consensus.

“The government will respect and diligently execute the decision of the U.N. Security Council,” the government said when the U.N. resolution passed. However, if the government submits a report that does not include any new punitive measures, saying it has already taken all the measures stipulated in the Security Council’s resolution against North Korea, the international community, which has been paying close attention to its response, will certainly be disappointed.

Cheong Wa Dae, the government and the ruling party have decided not to formally participate in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) on Saturday. The government argues that it not only has already restricted the sales and transfer of weapons of mass destruction and related materials, but also has been conducting inspections on North Korean cargo vessels in accordance with the inter-Korean Maritime Agreement. Meanwhile, it has been recently disclosed that North Korean ships passing through the Jeju Strait did not respond to South Korean maritime police radio inspection requests 22 times and the maritime police stopped none of the suspected ships.

The government’s report clearly illustrates that it has no willingness to impose further sanctions against North Korea. Does the government really think halting food and fertilizer aid will be enough to get the communist regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions? If South Korea, the biggest victim of the North’s nuclear weapons test, chooses to walk on an independent path and makes an idle promise for international cooperation, who would believe its willingness? Shouldn’t South Korea, a country that has produced the next U.N. Security General, be more active in fulfilling its responsibilities and duties than other countries?

The government has not even decided how to respond to a U.N. Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) resolution condemning violations of human rights in North Korea. South Korea is, however, likely not to participate in the vote or abstain from voting, as it has done in the past. The South has been hesitant in addressing human rights problems in the North, claiming it may trigger an armed conflict on the Korean peninsula. However, such a lukewarm attitude has eventually allowed the North to carry out a nuclear weapons test. “It’s time for Koreans to act while having their hearts in Korea, but eyes wide open toward the world,” Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general designate, said in his farewell speech on his last day as foreign minister. It’s now time for the government to address the human rights violations in North Korea by casting a vote in the U.N. and contribute to the human rights plight of North Korean residents.