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Was Peace Treaty Comment Sincere?

Posted November. 21, 2006 06:36,   


Korea and the U.S. came away from the ROK-U.S. summit talks held in Hanoi, Vietnam on November 18 with different opinions of what happened.

“Korea and the U.S. had a meeting of minds,” said a Korean government official.

“The peace treaty comment was just referring to a long-term issue,” said one Washington source, however.

The Korean government wanted to highlight the achievements of the talks. U.S. Press Secretary Tony Snow said shortly after the talks, “If the North Koreans dismantle their nuclear program, we are willing to declare an end to the Korean War,” emphasizing the point that the U.S. government showed an “active will to take action” instead of a just rhetoric.

On November 20, a high-ranking government official said to reporters, “During the ROK-U.S. summit talks, President George W. Bush made a remark about converting the armistice into a peace treaty. President Bush expressed satisfaction after the talks, saying that it was a good meeting.”

Government officials believe that President Bush’ remarks on a peace treaty show that America is emphasizing the potential benefits of nuclear dismantlement for North Korea at the soon-to-be-held six-party talks.

However, some U.S. administration officials say that the Korean government’s response to Press Secretary Tony Snow’s remarks on a peace treaty seems to be “overboard.”

One Washington source said, “The U.S. media didn’t pay much attention to the remark of Press Secretary Tony Snow because the measure the North will take first matters.” It implies that the issue of peace is a just long-term task, and as the North did the nuclear experiment first, it needs to show an active will to dismantle nuclear weapons.”

One expert on the Korean Peninsula who requested anonymity said in a telephone interview, “It wasn’t the main point,” adding, “The main issue was the ‘three concrete steps’ the U.S. will present simultaneously with the resumption of the six-party talks.”

The concrete steps are to stop the operation of the 5-megawatt reactor in Yongbyon, North Pyongan Province, to stop plutonium reprocessing, and to allow IAEA inspection team that were expelled in early 2003 to return.

Another Washington source said, “For the past month or so, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph have visited Korea, Japan, China and Russia to mainly sell these three concrete steps.” It was to listen to commitment of the five countries in the six-party talks except for North Korea in advance.

jyw11@donga.com srkim@donga.com