Meanwhile, in Pyongyang and Tehran

Kim Jong-Il
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il salutes his troops (Photo: AFP).

Sydney The Australian Financial Review (centrist), Mar. 18: With the Asia-Pacific region now nervously contemplating North Korea’s rogue nuclear program, and the United States ruefully considering how little it can do to contain Pyongyang, it’s inconceivable that Washington would allow Tehran to develop into a nuclear threat of the same order. And if the U.S. neo-conservatives’ prescription of pre-emption “works” in Iraq, Washington may be tempted to apply it in Iran. But this may prove difficult. Iran is not Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and still less is it Kim Jong-Il’s North Korea. First, although under the authoritarian sway of conservative clerics, Iran has a recognized domestic political opposition with a reform agenda, for whom U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has expressed his support. Second, Iran can muster broader international support than Iraq or North Korea. Moscow is a key partner and the European Union as a bloc favors engagement, not confrontation, with Tehran. Third, even if Iran poses “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to the United States (in George Bush’s words), it has also in the past shown itself to be a more reasonable participant in dialogue than Iraq or North Korea.
—Nick Hordern

Tehran Iran Daily (English-language), March 11: The U.S. mass media has again launched a new propaganda tirade against Iran’s nuclear programs. The Cable News Network recently reported on Iranian nuclear facilities in Natanz and Arak as if it had discovered something new. The International Atomic Energy Agency announced that it was already informed of those sites by the Iranian authorities. International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei and his delegation later visited Iran and inspected the nuclear facilities and gave Tehran a clean bill of health. In its latest edition, Time magazine claimed that Iran’s nuclear program is quite advanced and breaches the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)…. Iran has often voiced its readiness to receive IAEA inspectors at any time and place they decide. This is more than enough to indicate that we abide by clear objectives and there is nothing to conceal. The American media is creating an unnecessary tumult over the issue.
—Mohammad Taqi Roghanihal

Moscow Kommersant (business-oriented), Feb. 12: Following Pyongyang’s lead, Tehran evidently intends to use its nuclear program as a deterrent factor, developing its own nuclear program but stopping just short of making nuclear weapons. Then, with this trump card up its sleeve, it will seek to negotiate with the United States and try to win more acceptable terms from Washington….The highly publicized advance in Iran’s nuclear program is also very important from the standpoint of the country’s domestic affairs….The political situation in the country is extremely unstable as a result of the sharp conflict between its religious and secular authorities—i.e., between the conservative clerics and the liberal reformers….Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has begun to lose popularity, largely because of his lukewarm stance on Iraq and his government’s behind-the-scenes negotiations with the United States, which many clerics see as evidence of a subversive plot against the Islamic Republic. It follows, then, that Khatami may also have needed to mount a pointed challenge to the United States in order to regain lost ground at home and deflect charges that he is pro-American.
—Mikhail Zygar

Tehran Kayhan (government-owned), March 10: It is reported that Time magazine…has quoted diplomatic sources as saying Iran’s nuclear program development is so advanced that it puts the country in violation of the NPT, to which Iran is a signatory…. As a matter of fact, Time is not the first magazine that has written on the subject. The New Yorker devoted lengthy coverage to the topic a couple of years ago. Nevertheless, nobody in the world pays heed to such propaganda…. Many in the world are not happy that the Western media remains mum over the nuclear stockpile at the disposal of the Zionist state [Israel].
—H. Jaferzadeh

Hong Kong Ta Kung Pao (government-controlled), March 6: The North Korean nuclear crisis has been heating up in recent days….After a U.S. reconnaissance plane was intercepted by North Korean fighter jets on March 2 in the airspace over international waters in the East Sea/Sea of Japan, the United States immediately deployed 24 strategic bombers to the island of Guam. The United States has also started conducting massive joint military exercises with South Korea. People are very much concerned about North Korea’s recent aggressive words and actions, as well as rumors in the news about the United States’ making secret plans to use force against North Korea.
—Shih Chun-Yu

Seoul Choson Ilbo (conservative), March 6: The Bush administration is now playing an extremely difficult game with North Korea. Implicitly flexing its military muscle, the United States has consistently refused any form of U.S.-North Korean bilateral dialogue, while at the same time stressing that it would prefer a diplomatic solution to the crisis….The goal the United States seeks to achieve at this juncture is to lay the blame on North Korea for the aggravated tension on the Korean peninsula. If the United States and North Korea are likened to two locomotives on a collision course, the United States intends to arouse world public opinion painting North Korea as the one that keeps increasing the speed of the train.
—Chu Yong-chung

Taipei Taipei Times (liberal, pro-independence), March 9: Of all the Asian countries, Taiwan is probably the one with which North Korea has the most friendly relationship….South Korea was, of course, at war with North Korea. As for Japan, it colonized the Korean Peninsula for 36 years. China is the “big brother” North Korea distrusts….And just like Taiwan, North Korea also has a collective feeling that it has been abandoned by old friends….At a time when China’s influence over North Korea is declining, the international community should not expect China to be able to play its old role with North Korea. In turn, China should abandon its old way of thinking and lead North Korea to the path of “normal” countries that interact with the international community pursuant to the common values and protocols they have established.

Seoul Yonhap (semi-official news agency), March 7: The “multilateral pressure” that U.S. President George W. Bush hopes will resolve North Korea’s nuclear issue is an attempt to urge neighboring countries to take action. It is the first card to be played by President Bush. It is interpreted as President Bush’s intention to apply political and economic pressure on North Korea through North Korea’s neighbors, such as South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia….The United States has maintained that the international community should resolve North Korea’s nuclear issue.
—Kim Tae-Yong

Seoul Taehan Maeil (government-owned), March 7: We urge the U.S. government to pay attention to voices from the U.S. press, as well as Democratic Senate and House members, who have advised face-to-face dialogue with North Korea. The news that the United States and North Korea have had diplomatic contacts in Berlin is encouraging. North Korea is reportedly also making contacts with Japan after South Korea. It is hoped that the U.S. administration will make preparations for face-to-face dialogue with North Korea.

Tokyo Sankei Shimbun (right-wing), March 11: Following a similar launch on Feb. 24, North Korea has fired an improved version of the “Silkworm” anti-ship missile into the Sea of Japan. Compared to ballistic missiles like the No Dong (with a range of 1,300 kilometers) and Taepo Dong (with a range of more than 1,500 kilometers), the military threat posed by a 150-kilometer anti-ship missile is small, but this was still a provocative show of force against the international community…. North Korea will gain nothing from such behavior. The United States upholds the principles of “refusal to be threatened” and “no compensation for malfeasance” in dealing with North Korea….North Korea probably believes that Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea will not be able to take strong concerted action against its gambits and the international community will not be able to impose economic sanctions. That is why it keeps escalating its policy of brinkmanship. The world must take a firm stand and say it will never give in to countries that trample on international rules, not only in dealing with Iraq, but also in dealing with North Korea.

Paris Le Monde (liberal), March 5: [The focus on] Iraq is obscuring a second emerging crisis which is no less dangerous and perhaps even more so—North Korea…. Dialogue is the only solution, taking into account the risk, in the event of a U.S. military operation in North Korea, of a counterattack by Pyongyang on greater Seoul (with its 21 million inhabitants), which lies about 60 kilometers from the batteries deployed along the border between the two countries. The military option is virtually nonexistent. But the longer the Americans take to resume the dialogue with Pyongyang, the more the process of restarting the Yongbyon nuclear power plant…becomes unavoidable. And the prospect of a North Korea equipped with nuclear weapons is an eventuality unacceptable both for the United States and for the other countries of the region.

Seoul Dong-A Ilbo (independent), March 6: Tension on the Korean Peninsula escalates daily but…Koreans, meanwhile, are yawning. North Korea is obsessed with talking to the United States directly and bilaterally while Washington prefers a multilateral resolution….We agree with Seoul’s view that any dialogue is better than armed conflict. We worry that the North’s unreasonable demands and the U.S. military-backed hard-line policy will raise the possibility of the destruction of both Koreas. The situation is growing serious and we are the ones who will be the first victims. Yet the government seems to have no plan and Koreans do not feel the gravity of the situation because they lack a sense of concern for national security.

Karachi The News (left-wing), March 5: The United States needs to direct its efforts more toward finding a peaceful resolution with North Korea and less toward Iraq. Washington’s occasional warnings to Pyongyang have only led Pyongyang to threaten to resume work on its nuclear program and call upon the people to prepare for resistance. This must make it clear that while Iraq can be treated like a whipping boy, North Korea is not to be trifled with. It is not only capable of defending itself but enjoys a morally strong position with its track record of consistent opposition to neo-colonialism and support for freedom movements. Iraq’s history of military adventures against neighbors and its harsh treatment of its citizens has rendered the support it is receiving largely cosmetic.

Pyongyang Korean Central Broadcasting Station (government-owned), March 6: The belligerent Bush junta continues to spread incorrect public opinion all over the world regarding the Korean peninsula’s nuclear issue. They are saying that our withdrawal from the NPT is an issue for the world and the international community to deal with, not just the United States….Great leader Comrade Kim Il-song [Kim Jong-Il’s father and predecessor] taught as follows: A nuclear power, which constitutes an actual threat to humanity’s existence, takes the lead in putting unfair pressure on us, a nuclear-free state. It can be said that this is an expression of the arrogance of those who have become used to ignoring the principles of justice and equality in international relations, while forcing their unilateral opinions on others….The purpose of our building the nuclear facilities with our own strength and technology lies in further strengthening the country’s power grid and guaranteeing demands for needed electricity….This demonstrates our stance is predicated on peace-loving principles.
—U.S. State Department Transcription

Seoul The Korea Herald (independent), March 7: It is of significant note that the Bush administration is now faced with increasingly vocal demands from Congress for a more active policy [on North Korea]. Leading Democratic senators are urging Bush to begin direct talks with North Korea, instead of “continuing to sit back and watch.” There are also increasingly loud voices in the U.S. media calling for an immediate dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang. They are a welcome counsel in view of the mounting military tension as the Pentagon begins to deploy more heavy bombers within striking distance of North Korea.