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North Korea's Nuclear Threat

Comment and analysis from Seoul, Tokyo, Jeddah, Moscow, Sydney, Berlin, Frankfurt, Moscow, Dresden, Hong Kong, Bangkok, New Delhi, and Johannesburg

North and South Korean soldiers eye each other across the DMZ
A North Korean soldier (L) eyes his southern counterpart at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea (Photo: AFP/Getty Images).
Seoul
The Korea Herald (independent), June 23: Although the noose around its neck is tightening, North Korea may believe that [the] time for a “peaceful resolution” has not passed. It must not squander opportunities to make peace again, but [must] first make concessions to accept multilateral dialogue and thereby generate momentum to resolve the crisis. Then the Bush administration must also convince the world that it is indeed committed to a diplomatic solution rather than to the premature use of force. South Korea is encountering a major challenge in maintaining efficient policy coordination with Washington and Tokyo, and must prepare for a “concrete proposal”….It is imperative that Seoul play its role of keeping the North engaged through inter-Korean dialogue and economic cooperation to help induce it to the conference table.

Tokyo Asahi Shimbun (centrist), June 20: [U.S. Secretary of State Colin] Powell has said he intends to begin within a few weeks to address the North Korea issue in the United Nations Security Council, including the prospect of sanctions. The United States may be confident that neither China nor Russia would object to the actual discussion. Despite all the pressure, however, they must not abandon constant effort to establish a dialogue with North Korea. Neither Japan, which wants comprehensive solutions of both the nuclear issue and the abduction issue, nor South Korea want to put so much pressure on North Korea that it would put the country into a bind through economic sanctions. North Korea must be willing to accept multilateral talks that involve Japan and South Korea and open a route for dialogue and rejection of its nuclear ambitions.

Jeddah Arab News (pro-government, English-language), June 10: North Korea is not quite the paranoid, soulless state that is thought, and the tragic truth for most North Koreans is that their service in, and subsequent control by, the armed forces is what keeps their odious government in place. The North Korean threat is plain blackmail....Blackmail was a tactic that worked before, 10 years ago when Pyongyang first threatened to abandon the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. But the economic crisis then was not anything like as bad as it is today....It would be nice to believe that the Bush administration will not duck the issue of a nuclear Korea, but we should not hold our breath. The United States will talk tough, do nothing in the Far East, and stick instead to its Zionist-inspired intervention in the Middle East.

Moscow Vremya Novostei (reformist), June 10: Redistributing the meager resources of the ineffective economy won’t solve North Korea's problems. That country badly needs foreign investments and technologies. [Having] the status of a nuclear power, rather than benefiting [North Korea], will cost it a lot by making it even more isolated internationally. Pyongyang risks losing all humanitarian assistance from South Korea and international organizations. By having openly acknowledged its nuclear ambitions, Pyongyang seeks to bluff Washington into a bargain....North Korea's actions make its neighbors nervous. Seoul and Tokyo favor a peaceful solution to the crisis, but they condemn North Korea's nuclear plans. Beijing and Moscow are not happy about Pyongyang’s striving for nuclear weapons either.
Katerina Labetskaya and Aleksandr Lomanov

Sydney Sydney Morning Herald (centrist), June 13: The present North Korean crisis goes back to the “axis of evil” comments by U.S. President George Bush last year. Those harsh words undermined years of painstaking diplomacy that had reopened communication between the Clinton administration and that of Kim Jong-Il....Bush, impatient with such trade-offs, replaced rewards with abuse, and North Korea responded with threats. Now, the United States proposes to intercept North Korean ships and wants Australia to join it in the enterprise....While Canberra rightly shares Washington’s goal of achieving security in North Asia by dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear program, this does not mean Australia should automatically join such a U.S. operation....Australia must remember that it is a middle-ranking nation with a small—though effective—military. It must not overplay its hand as it spreads its very limited armed forces through the region and beyond. Let Washington play the bad cop with North Korea. Australia can stand back from U.S. rhetoric (axis of evil and all that) as well as staying out of any military activity....Australia’s influence on the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula should be via diplomacy, not force.

Berlin Die Welt (conservative), June 10: Kim Jong-Il loves the bomb....In his paranoia, Kim feels threatened by the United States, but in reality, the threat emanates from him....Washington is now distancing itself from the dictator and is withdrawing its 37,000 soldiers from the demilitarized zone to protect them from North Korean artillery fire....President Bush leaves no doubt that he wants to counter terrorist regimes with military means. Scenarios of aggression against the “axis of evil” are likely to have been developed in the planning departments of the Pentagon, for Washington cannot allow Kim the production of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, since it would lose its credibility and remain susceptible to blackmail. Sea blockades and economic sanctions, even a preventive strike against the nuclear reactor in Yongbyan: all are possible. This is a scenario the protagonist of the hawks, Richard Perle, openly mentions. The war of words is escalating.
Dietrich Alexander

Frankfurt Frankfurter Rundschau (liberal), June 10: The timing for the North Korean regime to attract attention could hardly have been better. South Korea's president is in Tokyo, Japan only recently adopted a series of defense and emergency bills, and the United States is seriously considering transferring its forces out of the reach of North Korea’s artillery.…The Kim dynasty in Pyongyang is now announcing with a majestic gesture that it will build the bomb. In its bizarre logic, the Kim regime feels justified, since the DPRK [Democatic People's Repubilc of Korea] cancelled the agreements with the IAEA [Internation Atomic Energy Agency] and the NPT [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty]....This is why Pyongyang has the same status as the United States and all other nuclear powers with respect to nuclear détente. Pyongyang has not yet announced that it has the bomb, but only the intention to build it. This is a qualitative step. It is difficult to believe the version that Kim Jong-Il only wants to force talks by making threats. The way in which evidence is presented points to different—namely aggressive—intentions. Those who refer to the law of the jungle will also use it. Like—and in this respect Kim is right—the United States.
Karl Grobe

Moscow Kommersant (business-oriented), June 11: Clearly, Washington does not want Moscow to get involved with attempts to solve the North Korea problem soon….The Russian leadership must be upset, especially because it has sought to use the North Korea case to score more diplomatic points and demonstrate its new role in international politics. No one can blame Russia for inaction. Last January Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov, Russia’s chief expert in Asian affairs, went to North Korea with a package of proposals for a settlement. It was a mistake right from the outset. Moscow hastened to declare that after Pyongyang, Losyukov would go on to Washington to explain the terms of reconciliation, on a mission that was supposed to consolidate his position as a mediator. Washington’s reaction was frosty: The Americans pretended not to see the fine implications of the diplomatic game. The mediator quietly returned to Moscow to find out that the Americans did not need his good services. After the failed mission to Pyongyang, Moscow lost all sway in Korean affairs....Getting Seoul and Tokyo to join the talks is understandable. They are the United States’ closest allies in Asia, so ignoring their wishes would be inappropriate.
Vasiliy Golovnin

Seoul Hankyoreh Shinmun (pro-government), June 17: In a situation where the Bush Administration shows no sign of dropping its hardline policy and engaging the North in dialogue, the only way for Washington and Pyongyang to return to the U.S.-DPRK joint statement penned during President Clinton’s tenure is for Pyongyang to change itself. If it is true, as many experts say, that the North wants nuclear weapons to revive its shattered economy, it is really important for Pyongyang to accurately assess the current U.S. mood. Further delays in nuclear talks resulting from Pyongyang’s taking issue with the dialogue format will severely increase the North’s burden and suffering.
Yoon Kuk-han

Seoul Dong-A Ilbo (independent), June 16: The ROK [Republic of Korea]'s participation in U.S. and Japanese efforts to pressure Pyongyang represents a significant departure from its previous insistence on a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue. It can be said that the focus of North Korea policy sought by the three countries has changed from dialogue to pressure. Pyongyang should take note of these changes of heart by the United States, the ROK, and Japan...and adopt a forward-looking attitude by accepting multilateral nuclear talks including the ROK and Japan. It is time for Pyongyang to drop any expectation that it can use the ROK's conciliatory attitude toward it to avoid hard-line responses from the United States and Japan.

Dresden De Morgen (independent), June 10: The North Korean Stalinist regime believes that it has two reasons to produce nuclear weapons. First, it feels compelled to build a nuclear arsenal because the country is threatened by the United States. It is a fact that the United States has been present with an impressive military power in South Korea and George W. Bush is speaking increasingly threatening language to North Korea which, in his eyes, is a “rogue state.” With seldom-seen cynicism a second reason for the production of nuclear weapons was given. Allegedly, they are cheaper than traditional arsenals and the Korean people would profit from the money thus saved. All of a sudden the gerontocrats in Pyongyang are thinking about their own people. Miracles exist. That Stalinist club of old men—who have a tradition of organizing famines for their people—now want to make the world believe that they need nuclear weapons to give the people more food. [This is] a textbook example of political perversity.
Frank Schloemer

Hong Kong South China Morning Post (centrist), June 15: On Friday, the United States, South Korea and Japan agreed after two days of talks in Hawaii to work together to stop North Korea’s weapons proliferation and bring stability to the Korean peninsula through peaceful means. Their joint statement expressed concern about “illegal activities by North Korean entities, including drug running and counterfeiting.” Individually, the efforts of the three had done nothing to prevent Kim Jong-Il's Stalinist regime from taking its own course to solve its economic and humanitarian problems. Security in northeast Asia worsened as a result of their efforts. But Friday’s agreement offers a new hope. Working together, and bringing North Korea's closest allies China and Russia to the table, will provide a powerful reason for Pyongyang to take heed. Such a multilateral approach will convince North Korea that its erratic, dangerous policies cannot be tolerated.

Tokyo Yomiuri Shimbun (conservative), June 8: Saturday’s talks between Prime Minister Koizumi and visiting South Korean President Roh raised uncertainties over whether Japan and South Korea would really be able to cooperate closely on North Korean policy. Koizumi and Roh agreed not to tolerate the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea. But while Koizumi reiterated Japan’s “dialogue and pressure” policy toward the North, Roh stressed that he would place greater emphasis on dialogue with Pyongyang....The joint statement, issued by Koizumi and Roh, used less specific wording on ways to deal with the North’s nuclear issue than those used in the U.S.-South Korean summit talks, or in the U.S.-Japan summit talks recently....Trilateral talks between the U.S., North Korea, and China have been initiated. South Korea needs to narrow the gap with the United States and Japan to allow the trilateral talks to become multilateral, with Japan and South Korea being admitted to the table.

Bangkok Matichon Daily (independent, center-left), June 15: South Korea and Japan are most likely to be in the line of fire. The new president of South Korea in particular will have to find a way to stop his nation from being a nuclear arms base. Falling too much into the role of a superpower’s puppeteer may intensify South Korea’s confrontation with DPRK. At the same time, if the new president is to use the same compromising methods as did the former president with the United States, Washington won’t take it, either....For the time being, we’ll have to keep an eye on the Chinese stance after Hu Jin Tao’s discussion with President Bush at the G-8 summit.
Pichien Kurathong

New Delhi Hindustan Times (centrist), June 13: It's a hopeful sign that North Korea's stated desire to have nuclear weapons hasn't set off panic in the West. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said that the development does not mean “we are on our way to war”....President Bush also believes that there is an opportunity for a diplomatic solution, but one that lies through a multilateral forum. This attitude appears to have become something of a sticking point. Pyongyang has for long suggested that it wishes to engage the Americans in direct talks, probably wishing for direct economic assistance. The United States, however, prefers a regional dialogue.... The U.S. refusal to engage Pyongyang one-to-one is played up by the Kim Jong-II regime as hostile American intent, which it cites as a motivation to acquire a nuclear deterrent. This is downright irresponsible behavior....Recent U.S. unilateral behavior, especially on the Iraq issue, may have prompted the thought among some that only possessing a nuclear deterrent can save them in the final analysis. To prevent miscalculations, Washington would need to show greater diplomatic initiative and agility.

Johannesburg The Sowetan (liberal), June 5: The hunt for WMD continues amid global concern that the United States may have set a dangerous precedent in Iraq....Could North Korea be next on the agenda? North Korea has for decades presented successive U.S. administrations with what could best be described as an intangible challenge to American foreign policy....It is no surprise that North Korea has on several occasions tried to gain the world's attention by using its trump card: its nuclear weapons program....More significant was the open declaration in April 2003 that it did possess nuclear weapons. The timing of these revelations proves significant for two reasons. Firstly the international community preoccupied itself with the war in Iraq and America's largely defiant actions.... North Korea's revelation...constituted a clear violation of the various treaties and multilateral processes acceded to by that government. Again this raised questions about the efficacy of the multilateral process. Secondly, the revelation...emerged at a time when many observers began to fear that America had set a precedent in Iraq....On June 1, Bush, together with...Putin, issued strong statements condemning Iran and North Korea for their nuclear weapons program....For two powers that collectively harbor the world's largest stockpile of conventional and nuclear forces, calling on countries such as Iran and North Korea to curb their possession of such weapons does not gain credibility in the eyes of the international community.
Natashia Chiba

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