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[Editorial] N. Korea Should Respond to Int`l Offers

Posted October. 02, 2009 15:33,   


North Korea yesterday rejected South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s “grand bargain” proposal on getting Pyongyang to get rid of its nuclear program. The North’s state-run Korea Central News Agency said that Seoul is “seriously mistaken” if it calculated that Pyongyang will accept the “ridiculous proposal” for the normalization of relations and economic aid. In a speech Monday to the U.N. General Assembly, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil Yon said the North will “act responsibly” in the management and use of its nuclear weapons and on non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. Yet Pyongyang’s latest comment suggests the North is behaving like a nuclear state.

Sunday will mark the fourth anniversary of the inter-Korean summit declaration between the late South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. The inter-Korean declaration reached at the event put a huge burden on Seoul through inter-Korean economic cooperation projects. The cost of the Oct. 4 declaration is an estimated 14.3 trillion won (12.2 billion U.S. dollars) for Seoul. Considering the size of the North’s economy, which is one-36th of the South’s, the agreement is nothing short of scattering money over the North. Signed just four months before the end of the Roh administration, the declaration put an enormous burden on the succeeding Lee government. The incumbent administration cannot afford to honor the declaration, which failed to mention the North’s nuclear program but put a unilateral financial burden on the South.

Going through the process of coordination with other parties to the six-party nuclear talks, the declaration seeks the North’s denuclearization in return for “whatever it wants,” including large-scale economic aid, normalization of ties with the U.S. relations and a guarantee of the communist system under Kim. In his visit to Seoul this week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg spoke of “tremendous opportunity” for Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table. If North Korea rejects this offer, it will face harsh international sanctions so Pyongyang should make a wise judgment.

In his three-day visit to Pyongyang to start Sunday, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao reportedly plans to sign agreements with the North in economy, trade and tourism. China in October 2005 provided two billion U.S. dollars in aid to the North when President Hu Jintao visited Pyongyang. According to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency in Seoul, trade with China accounted for 73 percent of the North’s external trade last year excluding that with the South.

Without China’s cooperation, international efforts for North Korea’s nuclear abandonment will likely fail. Beijing’s aid to Pyongyang should be done in a way that maintains international cooperation and prompts North Korea to make substantial progress in nuclear abandonment.