Posted : 2013-02-12 16:31
Updated : 2013-02-12 16:31

Inter-Korean ties nosedive

President-elect Park Geun-hye attends a briefing by top security advisor Kim Jang-soo, on her right, during a meeting at her office in downtown Seoul, Tuesday, following North Korea's nuclear test earlier in the day. / Yonhap

By Kang Hyun-kyung

North Korea's third nuclear test, following those in 2006 and 2009, will deep freeze inter-Korean relations and force the incoming Park Geun-hye administration to take a hardline stance against the Stalinist state, said an analyst Tuesday.

Park condemned the test and vowed to take stern action against the North.

Observers said the latest test ruled out any possibility of talks between the two Koreas, providing greater leverage for hawkish forces calling for tougher sanctions.

Hong Sun-kyung, president of the Seoul-based non-profit group Committee for Democratization of North Korea, said there seems to be no other option but regime change, in order to stop the North playing a game of poker with inordinately high-stakes.

The former North Korean diplomat, who defected to the South in 2000 while serving as an official at the North Korean Embassy in Thailand, said countries will no longer consider negotiations as an option when dealing with Pyongyang.

Hong told The Korea Times that Kim Jong-un appears to link the North's nuclear program to national prestige and seems to believe that the test will have raised the status of the impoverished state on the international stage.

"I think that Kim was driven to go ahead with the test because if he had not, the inexperienced leader would have faced a backlash from hardliners. Internal division would have shaken his leadership base," he said.

On Tuesday, a magnitude 4.9 seismic event occurred in Gilju-gun in North Hamgyong Province, near Punggye-ri where the nuclear test site is located.

Seoul officials took the event to mean that the North conducted a third nuclear test because it came a day after Pyongyang reportedly notified the United States and China of its test plan.

Details of the test, such as whether it was a plutonium or enriched uranium-based one, were unknown.

The third test came as South Korea and its allies were moving toward consensus for further sanctions against the provocative North.

The United States imposed sanctions against North Korea after it sank the South Korean warship Cheonan near the maritime border in the West Sea in March, 2010.

Assets of North Korean firms and individuals responsible for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction were frozen and a travel ban was imposed on them.

South Korea severed inter-Korean trade to punish the North, but this was later eased. The European Union also joined the bilateral and multilateral sanctions against the North.

The impoverished nation has survived a series of sanctions, prompting some analysts to be skeptical about the effectiveness of them.

Hong said the diplomatic implications of the third test will backfire. It will harden the stance of South Korea and its allies toward the North because they will realize that there are no other options available to stop the nation from pursuing further provocative action, he said.

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