US President George W. Bush has sent a personal letter to Chairman Kim Jong Il asking the North to keep its promise to come clean on its entire list of nuclear programs. The world has yet to see how the letter affects the North’s declaration of its nuclear programs and its disablement process.
According to the Chosun Central News Agency (the North’s official news agency), US envoy Christopher Hill delivered the letter to North Korea’s foreign minister Park Ui Chun before concluding his three-day trip to Pyongyang, which took place from December 3rd to the 5th.
On that same day, US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe expounded at a briefing that “President Bush sent a letter to all leaders involved in the Six Party Talks on Saturday, December 1st.”
Several experts have analyzed that the letter attempts not only to urge the North to honestly fulfill its commitment to the disablement process and to declaring its nuclear programs, but also serves to reaffirm the U.S.’ desire to normalize its relations with the North. Many anticipate that Kim Jong Il will use the letter for propaganda purposes, proclaiming “President Bush finally gave in.”
The Bush letter underscores the U.S.’s intention to promptly remove the North’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism and to lift the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act(TWEA) with respect to the country as soon as the North provides a complete declaration of all its nuclear programs, including clarification regarding the UEP and plutonium issues and an explanation regarding any nuclear cooperation that may have taken place between the North and Syria.
Experts Speak Out
[imText1]Ko Yoo Hwan, a professor at Dongguk University said that President Bush has acknowledged Kim Jong Il as a partner for dialogue, affirming that “Through the letter, the US expresses its will to remove the North off its list of Terrorism Sponsoring Countries and normalize its relations with the North as long as the North faithfully delivers on its promises.”
“The letter reveals a degree of trust being built between the US and the North. At the same time, it shows that the US will actively lead the process towards the denuclearization of the North,” said Ko.
Cho Sung Ryul, a professor at the University of North Korean studies, said, “The North is uncertain whether the US would really keep its promises should the North satisfy its declaration and disablement obligations, the promises being to remove the North from Washington’s list of Terrorism Sponsoring Countries, terminating the application of the TWEA and building diplomatic relations with the North.”
Professor Cho also acknowledged that “The Bush letter reaffirms the US’s will to keep its promises, and tries to persuade the North to carry out the country’s obligations. However, it is unclear whether the North will believe the US,” and that “the North Korean regime will use the Bush letter to persuade critics within the country,” added the professor Cho.
[imText2]Yoo Ho Yul, a professor at Korea University, is also of the opinion that “the letter pushes the North to fully disclose all nuclear programs by year’s end. In addition, the letter serves as a guarantee to the North that the US will act faithfully in line with the principle of ‘action for action.’”
Yoo maintained, “As long as the North meets the US’ requirements regarding nuclear disablement, the US will fulfill its promises with the North in all sincerity and expire the North’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.”
On the other hand, Professor Yoo pointed out the limited impact the Bush letter may have on the complete denuclearization of the North, analyzing that, “By sending the letter, the US has paid its respects to Kim Jong Il and has provided him justification for carrying out the country’s nuclear obligations. It is a strategy of both pushing and appeasing the North.”
He further cautioned, “The letter will exert a positive impact on the North’s implementation efforts for the disablement and declaration of nuclear programs. However, it does not guarantee the country’s complete denuclearization.”
[imText3] Kim Tae Hyo, a professor at Sungkyunkwan University, offered that “Since the success of the denuclearization process depends on the country’s declaration of all nuclear programs, President Bush has reaffirmed the US’s position in the letter sent to the North,” adding that “the letter urged the North to faithfully implement its obligations in times when it is enjoying good relations with the South and the US.”
In regards to the possibility that the North may take advantage of the Bush letter, using it as propaganda, Professor Yoo said, “The North has received the response it wanted from the US, and of course will fully use this opportunity at home and abroad for its own interests.”
Professor Yoo agreed that even though the letter provides Kim Jong Il with justification for the country’s disablement efforts, the letter will likely be used against the U.S. while the government proclaims to North Korean critics that ‘President Bush has paid respect to Kim Jong Il,’ or ‘This proves that we (North Korea) have been right.’
On a final note, an expert who asked not to be identified criticized that “The Bush Administration hasn’t yielded diplomatic fruits in years and is therefore impatient to produce some positive results with regards to the North’s nuclear problem.” He also expressed agreement that “the North will use the letter for propaganda, saying things like, ‘The US has finally surrendered to our dear General.’”