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“Washington Will See How Much Pressure Roh Puts on Pyongyang”

“Washington Will See How Much Pressure Roh Puts on Pyongyang”

Posted September. 28, 2007 03:17,   


Robert J. Einhorn (picture) is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). He used to be assistant secretary of state under the Clinton Administration and led the missile negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington.

He said, “In the inter-Korean talks, the North Korean nuclear issue might not be all that important. And the two sides have many cooperative projects to discuss. However …”

In an interview with this news paper on September 27, he emphasized the importance of denuclearization of the North in the upcoming summit, saying, “ The nuclear issue itself might not be all that important.”

“Leaders of the two Koreas need not discuss the nuclear issue in detail. That discussion should be dealt with in the Six-Party Talks. President Roh Moo-hyun needs to make it clear to National Defense Commission chairman Kim Jong Il that development of inter-Korea relations, including economic cooperation, hinges on how seriously the North implements the required steps of the denuclearization process,” he said.

Q: Does Washington wholeheartedly welcome the forthcoming summit?

A: “I think the U.S. government is very cautious. Washington understands and supports South Korea’s desire to improve its relations with Pyongyang. However, the U.S. is worried that Seoul might pursue inter-Korean relations without making enough efforts to denuclearize Pyongyang.”

Q: Will progress in inter-Korean relations contribute to a resolution of the nuclear issue in the end?

A: “I do not mean that Seoul should choose between inter-Korean relations and denuclearization. S. Korea does not need to do it and we do not demand it. Reconciliation is a holy mission for Koreans. But the two Koreas should be pursued in unison and should be linked together. Without the resolution of the nuclear issue, true reconciliation between the two will not be possible.”

Q: Some say the nuclear issue should not spoil the Summit. President Roh says the nukes are something that should be talked about in the summit, but he also said too much emphasis on the issue may sour the summit talks.

A: Every one thinks Roh will bring up the nuclear issue, but the name of the game is how seriously he will talk about it. If Roh briefly mentions the nuclear issue and Kim refuses to talk about it, Roh can digress into other agenda. Conversely, Roh can press Kim by saying, “Only progress in the nuclear issue can lead us to the next agenda item.”

The senior advisor said, “America will focus on how seriously Roh talks about the nuclear issue and he is ready to link the nuclear issue with other pending issues between the two sides. Democrats and Republicans alike want to see Roh make a strong link between progress in denuclearization and inter-Korea relations.”

Q: Some even think reconciliation and cooperation between South and North Korea is more important than the nuclear issue.

A: “We do not intent to stop cooperative projects between the two. What we want Seoul to say to Pyongyang is that inter-Korean cooperation is possible only when progress is made on the nuclear issue. A variety of cooperative measures can be discussed and agreed upon but their implementation should wait until the nuclear issue is resolved. And, the appropriate timing would be when the second phase (disablement of nuclear facilities and reporting of nuclear programs) of the February 13 Beijing Accord is completed.”

Q: Kim can refuse to discuss the nuclear issue itself….

A: “If he does not want to, let him do so. We just want Roh to let him know that we are ready to enter into many cooperative projects together and are willing to agree in principle. Still, implementation of any such project will be after the second phase of the February 13 Accord. In other words, we want the Seoul government to make Pyongyang aware that denuclearization is very important to the South.”

Q: As shown in the press availability right after the Sydney Korea-U.S Summit meeting, president Roh seems to think building a peace regime is a core task.

A: Without a doubt, Roh will bring up the issue of building a peace regime, to which the U.S. does not object. Replacing armistice agreement with a peace regime can be discussed at an early stage. In fact, that should be discussed right after the second phase of the Beijing Accord is implemented. But I understand that the U.S. government has an uncompromising principle of denuclearization before a peace regime can be achieved. What I mean is not a mere disablement, but a complete dismantlement of nuclear programs.”

Q: Will a symbolic declaration do?

A: “A peace regime is not something that can be made possible by an agreement between the two Koreas. There are direct parties of the 1953 armistice agreement. Of course, a declaration by the leaders of the two Koreas to make efforts to bring about true peace on the Korean peninsula would be a good starting point. But any declaration should include ‘cooperation with related parties’ and ‘denuclearization as a prerequisite for permanent peace.’ South Korea should make it clear that building a peace regime requires a broader process involving other related parties.”