U.S. takes softer line in North Korea talks
In 2002, North Korea admitted that it had a secret uranium-enrichment program and that it was withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. North Korea turned off all monitoring equipment at the Yongbyon nuclear facility and sent the IAEA inspectors packing. North Korea maintained variously that its nuclear program was needed to provide energy and that it needed nuclear weapons to protect against a US attack. South Korean President Kim Dae Jung (see photo on next page, on left) instituted what became known as the “Sunshine Policy.” This policy advocates openness and engagement with North Korea and assumes that Kim Jong-il (see photo below right) wanted to modernize the North Korean economy. Recently, North Korean Vice President Kim Gwan informed Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill that North Korea was ready to return to Six Party Talks, which include: China , Russia , Japan , the United States , North Korea, and South Korea . Previously, North Korea had stated that it wanted bilateral talks and then backed away from the table when President Bush called North Korea an “axis of evil.” Why the sudden change, and what does Kim Jong-il think he will achieve? Kim Jong-il?s nuclear game has a number of strategic objectives with the first priority to join the open nuclear weapons club. Recently, a North Korean parliamentarian defected and stated that North Korea has a one-ton nuclear device and is working on others. So, it is quite possible that North Korea, even while starving its people, has been able to join this not so exclusive club. While it is not certain that North Korea has a nuclear weapon, the fact that they are moving quickly in that direction should cause grave concern. The second strategic goal of North Korea’s is to protect itself and Kim Jong-il?s regime. Since the Korean War, the military tension on the Korean peninsula has been high. By joining the nuclear club, North Korea would almost strike proof by South Korea and the United States. Third, it adds a level of prestige over South Korea, which does not have nuclear weapons and has to rely on the US nuclear umbrella. Finally, it raises North Korea?s position in negotiations, for would now it have the largest bargaining chip. At any time, North Korea can engage in negotiation withdrawal to justify continuing building nuclear weapons and thus raise the stakes even further. While nations of the region, and beyond, worry about North Korea?s nuclear program, there has been little mention of their biological and chemical weapons programs. Armed with numerous delivery systems, the North Korean military has Chemical Warfare Battalions in every Regiment. President George Bush correctly described North Korea as “a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.” Bush labeled Iraq , Iran , and North Korea the “axis of evil.” The dangers from North Korea are numerous. It is imperative that the Six Parties put pressure on North Korea to give up this dangerous course of action. In the long-term, the North Korean nuclear weapons threat is a real problem, but in the short-term, we must not lose sight of North Korea?s chemical and biological weapons. For, unlike in Iraq, we can be certain that North Korea has weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the delivery systems to use them. Further with terrorist organizations seeking these types of weapons, there is no telling who Kim Jong-il might sell WMD weapons to and how they might be used.