Skip to comments.North Korea's war talk a bluff: incoming President Roh Moo-hyun
Posted on 01/18/2003 11:08:58 AM PST by knighthawk
NORTH Korea wants to end its self-imposed isolation, reform its antiquated structures and engage in diplomacy with the international community, South Korea's incoming President Roh Moo-hyun said yesterday.
Mr Roh played down rising fears about North Korea's nuclear intentions, saying Pyongyang knew it did not have the military capacity to take on the international forces marshalled against it.
And he recommitted South Korea to its half-century old military alliance with the United States, despite weeks of angry anti-US street protests in Seoul.
Addressing foreign business leaders in the capital, Mr Roh dismissed threats from Pyongyang about a potential military conflict with the US, saying Kim Jong-il's regime was in fact ready to deal.
"North Korea does not have the military capability to resolve any issue through its armed forces and North Korea knows this fact very well," said Mr Roh, a supporter of current President Kim Dae-jung's Sunshine Policy of reconciliation with the North.
"I think the problem can be resolved through dialogue, because North Korea is sincere about its willingness to open up and reform, because it has no other choice."
This was a reference to the widespread belief North Korea was bluffing over renewed interest in its nuclear program to extract security guarantees and more food, energy and financial assistance from the US and its allies.
"I don't think there is a need to worry about the nuclear issue ... if we persistently talk to the North, North Korea will eventually give up its nuclear program and look for assurance of security and also economic aid," he said.
Mr Roh has staunchly opposed Washington's initial policy of refusing to talk to Pyongyang until it dismantled its nuclear program, recently recommenced after the breakdown of a US-North Korea energy supply agreement.
But this week US President George W. Bush signalled a shift in tack when he said Washington was ready to discuss financial and energy aid with Pyongyang if it was willing to abandon its nuclear ambitions, a move that shored up a more cohesive international approach to the North Korean problem.
But Pyongyang, having spent much of the past month ratcheting up tensions in North Asia by pulling out of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, restarting nuclear facilities and expelling international nuclear inspectors, reacted with more inflammatory rhetoric and called for talks only if the US was prepared to enter into a non-aggression treaty.
A flurry of international diplomatic efforts has taken place over the past five days in a bid to end the stand-off. Australian and United Nations delegations travelled to Pyongyang looking to bring the North Korean regime to the negotiating table.
The head of the Australian delegation, Murray McLean, described talks with North Korean officials as "useful and constructive", the Chinese state media reported yesterday. But Mr McLean, head of the Department of Foreign Affairs' North Asia division, did not elaborate further.
Top US envoy James Kelly visited Seoul and Beijing looking to shore up a combined international front to face down the North Koreans over their nuclear threats.
And today a key Russian diplomat, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov, travels to Pyongyang with a plan that would have North Korea and the US agree to restart their 1994 accord, officially abandoned late last year.
The accord saw Pyongyang freeze its nuclear weapons development program in exchange for the construction of lightwater nuclear power stations and guaranteed supplies of fuel oil.
The next key date is likely to be Tuesday, when North Korean cabinet members travel to Seoul for talks with their South Korean counterparts.
While the meeting is one long-scheduled as part of the continuing program of reconciliation set by Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il two years ago, it has taken on greater significance with the South set to raise the nuclear issue as a key talking point.
Mr Roh, who said during the election campaign he would not kowtow to Washington, yesterday confirmed the importance of a continuing US military presence in his country.
South Korea has seen week upon week of anti-US protests, some violent, after two US servicemen were acquitted of charges over the deaths of two 12-year-old schoolgirls, killed by a US armoured vehicle.
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The only way to be sure someone is bluffing is to call that bluff. If one folds one's cards then one never ever knows and one has just plain lost.
I for one think that every time someone calls for talks with the PRK without first demanding they abandon their nuclear program is weakening the Hand of the President of the USA and putting American tyroops at risk of dying on the battlefield.