Seoul Vows Tough Stance on North

Daily News Article   —   Posted on March 27, 2008

(by Nicholas Kralev, March 27, 2008, WashingtonTimes.com) – South Korea’s new conservative government made good on its campaign promise to get tough with North Korea yesterday, telling Pyongyang that time is running out on an overdue declaration of its nuclear programs.

Seoul also said it will vote for a U.N. resolution condemning human rights abuses in the North.

The country, however, continued to resist joining Washington’s Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which aims at preventing dangerous materials that can be used to make illicit weapons from reaching rogue states and terrorist groups.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, in Washington to prepare for President Lee Myung-bak’s visit next month, used stronger language than did Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when the two were asked about the delay of the North’s declaration.

“Time and patience is running out,” Mr. Yu told reporters at the State Department. “We hope North Korea will submit a declaration as soon as possible, so as not to lose good timing.”

Miss Rice agreed with her guest, although she refrained from setting a new deadline.

“It was supposed to be completed on Dec. 31. I’m not one to say that exact deadlines are that important — to get it right is more important. But I completely agree with the minister — we have been at this for quite a long time,” she said.

“We expect that the declaration and any associated documents will show the full range of the North Korean programs and activities,” Miss Rice said.

The second document is part of a tactic to break the impasse, which has delayed the implementation of an agreement to end the North’s nuclear programs reached in six-nation negotiations last year.

[After promising to do so in exchange for concessions from the U.S. and others- to be complied with by Dec. 31, 2007] Pyongyang has resisted addressing two issues of concern to the Americans: a secret uranium-enrichment program that Washington contends the North developed in the 1990s and nuclear-related transfers to Syria.

In hope of some movement on the matter, the United States has suggested that those two issues be dealt with in a separate document, and that the main declaration include only the North’s plutonium program. The main facility of that program has been all but disabled.

The Bush administration wants to complete implementation of the six-party deal before it leaves office in January, which is why Mr. Yu said that time is running out. If the North complies, it faces the prospect of establishing diplomatic relations with the United States, as well as other political and economic benefits.

President Bush discussed the issue with Chinese President Hu Jintao, whose country chairs the six-party talks, in a phone call yesterday, the White House said.

Mr. Lee campaigned on a tougher stance toward the North before his election last month. Yesterday, he ended his predecessor’s policy of staying away from U.N. resolutions criticizing the North’s human rights record.

South Korea “will vote for [this year’s] resolution” at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, most likely next week, the Associated Press quoted a senior Foreign Ministry official as saying.

Mr. Yu said the new government will preserve Seoul’s policy on the PSI, whose targets include North Korea.

“South Korea supports the purpose of the PSI, but because of the unique circumstances of where we are located, we are limiting our participation as of now,” he said.

Copyright 2008 News World Communications, Inc.  Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times.  This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization.  Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com.

Questions

1. a) Who is South Korea’s new conservative president?
b) Who is South Korea’s foreign minister?

2. a) What stand has South Korea’s new government taken on North Korea’s nuclear program?
b) What is South Korea’s new government intending to do about North Korea’s human rights abuses?

3. a) What has the South Korean government declined to do regarding North Korea?
b) For what reason has it done so?

4. How does Mr. Yu’s stance on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program differ from that of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice?

5. Aside from mostly complying with its promise to disable its nuclear reactor at Yong Byon, which parts of the agreement that it made within the Six Party Talks has North Korea not carried out?

6. What new agreement has the U.S. proposed in order to move forward?

7. CHALLENGE: Read the Background on “NORTH KOREA’S NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM and THE SIX-PARTY TALKS” below. Then read the commentary on how the U.S. should deal with North Korea by John Bolton, former Ambassador to the United Nations here.
What do you think of Mr. Bolton’s recommendations on dealing with North Korea?


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Background

NORTH KOREA’S NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM and THE SIX-PARTY TALKS:

  • The six-party talks are a series of meetings with six participating states – the U.S., Japan, China, South Korea, North Korea and Russia.
  • These talks were a result of North Korea withdrawing from the U.N.’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003. North Korea is led by dictator Kim Jong-Il, who has starved and imprisoned millions of his own people.
  • The aim of the talks is to find a peaceful resolution to the security concerns raised by the North Korean nuclear weapons program. 
  • After five rounds of talks from 2003 to 2007, little progress had been made. 
  • September 2005, as a result of illegal acts committed by the North Korean government, including the counterfeiting of U.S. money, the U.S. froze North Korea’s overseas bank accounts.  The North Korean government then refused to participate in further six-party talks. 
  • April 2006, North Korea said they would resume talks only with the U.S. (not six-party), if the U.S. released recently frozen North Korean financial assets held in a bank in Macau.  The U.S. did not comply with the request.
  • October 2006 North Korea conducted a test of a nuclear weapon.
  • December 2006 six-party talks resumed.
  • In February 2007, North Korea agreed to shut down its nuclear facilities in exchange for fuel aid and steps towards the normalization of relations with the United States and Japan.  Negotiations then stalled through July.
  • In October 2007 an agreement was made among the six countries negotiating the end of the North’s nuclear program. Under the agreement, North Korea would start getting energy and other economic assistance from the U.S. and others, as well as begin normalizing relations with the United States and Japan. In exchange for this, by Dec. 31, 2007 North Korea was supposed to provide a written declaration disclosing all of its nuclear materials and capabilities as well as disable its main reactor at Yongbyon. North Korea has not yet fulfilled their part of the agreement.
  • For further information the six-party talks, go to wikipedia.org

Resources

For background information on South Korea, go to the CIA World FactBook website here.