First Nonproliferation, Then Denuclearization

Jeong Jae Sung  |  2009-02-19 17:01
From the beginning of the Obama administration, and with Hillary Clintons arrival in the region, the North Korean denuclearization issue has at last been cast into the spotlight. Various proposals have been made as to what should be done next, such as acknowledging the North as a nuclear state, the U.S. simply losing interest in the nuclear issue, and focusing on nonproliferation rather than nuclear abandonment.

At an academic conference sponsored by the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU) titled The Direction for Resolving the North Korea Nuclear Issue and the Forecast for Change in the North Korean Regime, which was held at Seoul Plaza Hotel on the 18th, the indications of change in the U.S. North Korea policy were discussed.

Cho Min, Chief of the Unification Policy Research Center in KINU, predicts that, Achieving complete North Korean nuclear abandonment and reaching an agreement to normalize U.S.-North Korea relations will be difficult. So the U.S. will probably first focus on nonproliferation, and then will approach North Koreas nuclear issue with denuclearization as the long-term goal.

He stated, North Korea will capture the U.S. attention by promising we will not produce further nuclear weapons in the future, because North Korea knows the U.S. utmost concern is nonproliferation. It will also most likely take the stance of wanting acknowledgment for nuclear materials and weapons which have been produced already.

He then forecasted, The Obama administration will ultimately pursue a policy of first nonproliferation, then denuclearization.' North Korea will also take the position of being verified after nuclear disarmament through a mixture of long-term and step-by-step tactics.

He added, It is highly possible that the U.S. will approach the North Korean nuclear issue in order, starting from the nonproliferation issue, through nuclear reduction (with the U.S. and Russia,) and then to nuclear abandonment in the long run. The U.S. and North Korea will accordingly reach an agreement on nonproliferation, try to reduce nuclear weapon numbers and seek a realistic compromise of heading towards eventual denuclearization.

He also maintained that the North, whose goal, he believes, is to earn recognition as a nuclear power by waiting and sitting on the fence of the dynamic relations surrounding the Korean peninsula, and the U.S., which wants a nuclear-free world, has no other choice but to try to seek a happy medium.

According to Jeon Bong Geun, a Professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs & National Security, North Korea should be considered an illicit nuclear-power country. While the Bush administration mostly took an interest in North Koreas nuclear abandonment, the Obama administration has been approaching the issue by listening to what the Norths demands are.

Professor Jeon elaborated, Starting from the reality of the Norths nuclear capability, the emphasis should be put on working towards improving U.S.-North Korea relations and establishing a peace regime.

Meanwhile, Hideaki Mizukoshi, Minister for Japan in South Korea, insists, Only by linking the nuclear issue to the missiles and the human rights issues in general can the Northeast Asia region head towards genuine peace. The U.S.-Japan-South Korea alliance should be strengthened so that the nuclear issue can be resolved.

In particular, Minister Mizukoshi added, North Korea is trying to divide the U.S., Japan, and South Korea. The latter three nations should adjust their policies on North Korea and hold a consistent position in the case of the North continuing to demand compromise in defiance of agreements.

Regarding whether or not to acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear country, Cho said, The reality of possessing nuclear weapons and acknowledging them are different things. International society, including the U.S., does not recognize the Norths nuclear status. Were they to do so, the Norths bargaining power would only be raised and would aid their negotiating potential.
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