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‘N. Korea Yelling to Seek Equal Footing in Talks’

Posted March. 23, 2009 03:20,   


An American expert on North Korea says the North is “yelling” to seek engagement with the world as equal negotiating partner, adding all of Pyongyang’s recent moves can be understood in this context.

Peter Hayes, executive director of the Nautilus Institute in San Francisco, told The Dong-A Ilbo in an interview Saturday, “The North is doing preparatory work to get what it wants, referring to the North’s preparation for a missile launch, rejection of U.S. food aid, and the detention of two American journalists.

Nautilus has participated in projects on provision of energy aid to the North since 1992. Hayes visited South Korea to prepare for the establishment of a Nautilus branch in Seoul and give a lecture at the Graduate School of North Korean Studies.

“Considering past precedents, it might take at least one to two weeks or several months for the two American journalists detained by Pyongyang to be released,” he said. “The incident is too small to have a major impact on North Korea-U.S. relations at this point.”

On the North’s rejection of American food aid and forcing out of international relief workers, Hayes said, “The North intends to send a clear signal to the Obama administration that Pyongyang is not a regime that implores the international community for food aid, and that food is a separate issue from the North Korean nuclear program.”

“The North’s move entails too much cost from the humanitarian perspective. It is really sad for Pyongyang to make such a decision.”

On the North’s announcement of a purported rocket launch, he said, “If a tough regime like Pyongyang makes such preparations in the military aspect, it is really difficult to block them in the interim.”

Authorities can easily confirm if the projectile the North plans to fire is a missile or a communications satellite through analysis of the angle and direction of the rocket and technology applied, he said.

“The technological gap used in a missile and a communication satellite is as huge as the difference between a high-speed train and a bicycle,” Hayes said. “Whether Pyongyang’s claim is true or not will be revealed instantly.”

On the Obama administration’s North Korea policy, he said, “Since the U.S. has so many urgent diplomatic agenda items, Washington cannot continue to show patience for long.”

“In times of change to come, North Korea might see an opportunity and must not miss the chance as it did during the Clinton administration.”

Hayes said the North should note growing pessimism in Washington about a reconciliatory North Korea policy.

He said, however, “Considering the Obama administration’s realism, things can be resolved promptly if conditions are met. If the North gives up its nuclear weapons and keeps its promises with the international community, a North Korea-U.S. summit could take place within four years.”

On if the North can give up nuclear weapons then, Hayes said, “It will be very difficult but not totally impossible.”

The North has been using nuclear weapons as a bargaining chip, but they have been gradually changed by the Kim Jong Il government into a means to sustain the communist regime’s legitimacy and justification amid its dispute with the Bush administration, he said. The cost incurred for the North to abandon nuclear weapons has also increased as well.

If Washington and other major governments treat Pyongyang as a sincere negotiating partner, however, the North will no longer need to seek recognition through nuclear weapons, Hayes said.

“Considering Pyongyang’s psyche, if it shuts off all dialogue channels, it really intends to go to war, but despite a flurry of recent announcements, it is keeping diplomatic dialogue channels open,” he said. “After all, Pyongyang is ready to be engaged by the international community.”

“Since opportunities still remain, the future direction of North Korean issues is up to Pyongyang.”