Nuclear North Korea

Kim Jong-Il
Korean leader Kim Jong-Il on a wall of TV screens in Seoul (Photo: AFP).

Pyongyang Korean Central News Agency (government-owned), Jan. 4: There is no reason why the United States should not accept the proposal [for a non-aggression treaty]; it is the best path toward finding a peaceful solution to the nuclear issue in the Korean Peninsula. The United States should have responded more appropriately to North Korea’s patient efforts. Instead, the United States intensified international pressure against North Korea, insisting that it “scrap the nuclear program before any dialogue could take place.”

This serious situation compelled North Korea to start removing seals and monitoring cameras from the nuclear facilities where work had been frozen to begin using them for the normal, and necessary, production of electricity. This initiative is part of North Korea’s mode of revolutionary and independent response to the U.S. imperialists’ hard-line policies. North Korea will respond with the toughest countermeasures. The present situation is very serious and unpredictable. Pyongyang cannot but take strong countermeasures in defense of its sovereignty and right to exist. If the U.S. imperialists misjudge North Korea’s might and will and launch a preemptive attack, North Korea will deal a mortal blow to those who started the war with a powerful counterstrike.
—Rodong Sinmun

Seoul The Korea Times (independent), Jan. 2: As we have repeatedly stressed with regard to the mounting crisis over North Korea’s dangerous gamble with its nuclear ambitions, war must be prevented on the Korean peninsula at any cost. No other agenda can be seen as more urgent and important than the survival of the 70 million people in North and South Korea. In this regard, it was encouraging to hear U.S. President George W. Bush draw a sharp distinction between the nuclear standoff with North Korea and his confrontation with Iraq on Tuesday [Dec. 31, 2002], when he said he was certain the weapons projects in the North could be stopped peacefully through diplomacy.... Bush’s view definitely conforms with our unswerving policy that the nuclear crisis should be resolved peacefully through dialogue and diplomatic efforts by all parties concerned…. A similar crisis in 1994 was resolved peacefully when the North and the United States signed the Agreed Framework under which the United States and South Korea promised to build two light-water nuclear reactors in the North. All the parties involved have to learn a lesson from the 1994 crisis at the very onset of the new year for the peace of the world as well as on the Korean peninsula.... Our government has the crucial task of helping both sides of the conflict.

Seoul Taehan Maeil (government-owned), Jan. 3: We believe that President Bush’s remarks [urging a diplomatic solution], which came at a time when the North Korean nuclear question was becoming tenser, are proper and timely. Since President Bush made it clear he was ruling out military punishment as a means of handling the North Korean nuclear crisis, it may well be said that North Korea and the United States have a new opportunity for negotiations. President Bush’s remarks mean that the United States has chosen a moderate strategy over a hard-line one in the question of how to deal with the nuclear crisis in North Korea.... We believe that, if it is difficult to conclude a non-aggression treaty under the present circumstances, at least the countries surrounding North Korea could assure North Korea of their peaceful intentions and urge North Korea to give up its nuclear program at the same time.

Seoul Dong-A Ilbo (conservative), Jan. 6: More than anything else, North Korea must do away with its sophistry that the nuclear issue is a problem between itself and the United States and acknowledge that the issue has now become an international problem. When the four surrounding major powers, the United States, Japan, China, and Russia, unanimously call for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and step in to find a solution to the problem, and when even the International Atomic Energy Agency… expresses concern over this international issue, if North Korea continues to insist the problem is between itself and the United States, this will only lead to less and less maneuvering room for North Korea.

Tokyo Yomiuri Shimbun (conservative), Jan. 8: We urge Pyongyang to reseal its nuclear facilities and allow expelled international inspectors to return to the graphite-moderated nuclear facilities in Yongbyong. Pyongyang should reverse its decision to resume operations at its nuclear facilities and freeze the operations.

North Korea should explain the whole picture of its new nuclear development program, which reportedly makes use of enriched uranium, and immediately abandon all its nuclear weapons development programs. Needless to say, Pyongyang also should open its nuclear plants for inspections.

Madrid El País (liberal), Jan. 6: Although it does not control oil, Kim Jong-Il's regime in North Korea is more dangerous for some of its neighbors and the rest of the world than Saddam Hussein's in Iraq. The North Korean regime, if left free, could have nuclear weapons within a period of six months to two years. According to the CIA, Pyongyang already has two atomic bombs, could build another six by the summer [2003] and, according to other estimates, after having reactivated its uranium enriching programs, could have around 30 warheads by 2008, not to mention biological weapons. Despite this, Bush is considering, or threatening, a war against Iraq but not against North Korea.

London The Independent (liberal), Jan. 4: I think I'm getting the picture. North Korea breaks all its nuclear agreements with the United States, throws out U.N. inspectors and sets off to make a bomb a year, and President Bush says it's "a diplomatic issue." Iraq hands over a 12,000-page account of its weapons production and allows U.N. inspectors to roam all over the country, and—after they've found not a jam-jar of dangerous chemicals in 230 raids—President Bush announces that Iraq is a threat to America, has not disarmed and may have to be invaded. So that's it, then.
—Robert Fisk

London The Economist (conservative), Jan. 7: It is entirely possible that North Korea acted deliberately to spark a new international confrontation. That might be because it is closer to economic collapse than many people realize and Kim’s regime is desperate to find a way of staying in power. The prospect of millions of refugees flooding into China and South Korea as the North disintegrates has long worried officials in these countries. Whatever the real reason behind the game being played by Kim, it is a dangerous gamble.

Chennai The Hindu (centrist), Jan. 4: Washington has opted for a more cautious approach than the aggressive policy adopted with respect to Iraq. Bush stated his belief that “bold diplomacy” could solve the problem confronting him on the North Korean front. This diplomatic drive is directed at an objective termed “tailored containment.” In essence, this process involves the imposition of economic sanctions on North Korea by the United States and its allies and the persuading of China and Russia to exert their influence. However, these efforts appear to be floundering before they have been properly launched. Seoul has declared that it would not participate in a sanctions-enforcement policy and, cleverly alluding to the stand-off between the United States and Cuba, pointed out that pressure and isolation do not work with communist countries. That being the case, the current U.S. administration might be forced to take a lesson from its predecessor’s experience and launch a fresh phase of engagement with North Korea.

Islamabad The News (left-wing), Jan. 5: President Bush [is right] in saying that North Korea and Iraq are different: Putting aside the obvious fact that North Korea has the capability and willingness to produce weapons of mass destruction and Iraq has none of this, the United States can attack the later with impunity while it cannot undertake similar venture against the former because of the politics of that region. South Koreans, the closest U.S. allies, are not willing to accept the death and destruction of their brethren in the North. This is absolutely different from South Asia where the rivals [India and Pakistan], despite shared ethnicity and a common history of thousands of years, are not only willing to obliterate each other, but also provide cheering squads for external destructive forces. The South Asian rivalry is a proverbial case of “divide and rule.” Maybe it is time for the people of the Indian subcontinent to learn something from Koreans.
—Manzur Ejaz

London Al-Quds al-Arabi (Palestinian nationalist), Jan. 3: The sudden disclosure of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction and its government's expulsion of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors unveiled the arrogance of the United States and gave further evidence that the United States’ unjustified hostility targets only Arabs and Muslims.

There are many reasons why the United States is reluctant to use force against North Korea. The most important is that North Korea's neighbors, such as China, Japan, and Russia, do not want to cooperate with an aggression, in contrast with Iraq's Arab neighbors who compete to open bases, airspace, and ports for U.S. planes and flotillas preparing to attack Iraq. The U.S. administration would have hesitated 1,000 times before it sent one single aircraft carrier to the region had the Arab countries adopted a unified position in the face of American arrogance, declared their opposition to the aggression, and associated this opposition with a willingness to stand by Iraq.

Beijing China Daily (government-owned), Jan. 3: The rigid U.S. policy toward North Korea will only exacerbate tensions between the two sides. The United States should first give up its superpower mentality and sanctions policy, and then treat the North Korea as an equal sovereign state.... A military solution to the North Korean nuclear issue would not be accepted by Washington’s allies in Northeast Asia, namely, South Korea and Japan, not to mention China and Russia.

Toronto The Toronto Sun (conservative), Jan. 5: Lately, we confess a measure of amusement, even sneaking professional admiration, for North Korea’s “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong-Il, for playing a really mean game of Pyongyang bluff poker. Although he resembles a hostile alien in a Japanese science-fiction film, and rules over a bankrupt nation suffering mass starvation, Kim has thrown the mighty United States on the defensive, terrified his neighbors, churned up anti-American sentiment in South Korea, and exposed the illogic, hypocrisy, and contradictions of President George Bush’s rationale for war against Iraq.... By revealing his nuclear arsenal and kicking out U.N. inspectors, Kim Jong-il was in effect telling Bush, “You want a war? Try one against a real opponent, not almost defenseless Iraq. We’ve got nukes, germs, poison gas, missiles galore, and a million tough troops. Remember your ‘axis of evil’ tirade? Here we are, the Asian third of the axis. Come and get us.”... Clearly flustered, President Bush responded to Kim’s dare by first hinting at war, then backing down and calling for negotiations—the same president who categorically refuses to negotiate anything with Iraq. Bush’s embarrassing double standard over Iraq and Korea has provoked derision around the world.... The macho Bush administration, suddenly faced by a real and dangerous opponent in North Korea, clearly does not know what to do—except bomb Iraq.
—Eric Margolis

Tehran Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran Radio (government-owned), Dec. 29: Despite the threats the Americans are making against North Korea, they well understand that they do not have many tools at their disposal to put North Korea under pressure. An increase in the economic sanctions and the limited containment of North Korea will, without doubt, increase economic pressure against Pyongyang, and it will bring more poverty to this country which is already facing extensive economic problems. But the final outcome of these actions, even if it leads to an economic collapse of this country, will be only evident in the long term.
U.S. Department of State Transcription

Brisbane The Courier-Mail (conservative), Jan. 4: There is an underlying logic to Washington’s position that Iraq must be tackled first. First, North Korea is a prime example of how formidable a nuclear-armed delinquent state can be. While it would be no match for the United States in a long conflict, it could wreak destruction on South Korea. There is no doubt Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, if left to his own devices, would seek to build a similar arsenal. The difference now is that Saddam is weak and ripe for the picking. The international consensus is he should be disarmed while the opportunity is there.... Second, Washington realizes Pyongyang’s nuclear bluster is primarily defensive and all about survival. Kim’s regime is impoverished and isolated and can no longer rely on Russia and China for support. The game plan is to play up North Korea’s offensive capabilities to win concessions from the United States and its regional allies. Kim urgently wants the resumption of the fuel oil shipments cut off by Washington last month. After that, he is seeking a non-aggression pact and formal peace treaty with the United States.... Logically, this has to be a joint diplomatic effort, the United States, South Korea and Japan working with Russia and China to persuade Kim to shelve his ambitions. What role should Australia play in this process? Although it is not a major player, it has an interest in regional peace given the importance of our trade ties with China, South Korea and Japan. The Howard government should use its position as an American ally and its close ties with the regional players to help find common ground in this crisis. It also has better links to Pyongyang than most, being among only a handful of Western nations that hosts a North Korean embassy.

Melbourne The Age (centrist) Jan. 8: If Pyongyang has plainly departed from the Agreed Framework, it did so after the agreement had already been substantially voided by the United States—in the reactor commitment, the failure to proceed with the promised normalization, and the nuclear guarantee…. North Korea is easiest to represent as bizarre, incomprehensible, or "evil," yet like all states it is the product of its history, constructed first around the guerrilla bands that fought Japan in the 1930s, and their foundation myths, and then surviving a half century under threat of extinction at the hands of the global superpower. Today, drastic economic reforms, the moves to open road and rail links with South Korea, the growing web of economic cooperation being negotiated with South Korea, and the apology to Japan over past misdeeds, all point to a will for change in Pyongyang. The indications are that it is no longer monolithic, that powerful elements want to set aside the guerrilla model of secrecy, mobilization, and absolute loyalty to the commander and priority to the military, and pursue perestroika (for which in 2001 the Korean word kaegon was coined). They want to come in from the cold.
—Gavan McCormack