Accord Has Meaning Only When Implemented Faithfully
The 11th-hour agreement in Beijing Sunday on the second stage of North Korea's nuclear dismantlement was welcome in many ways. The details of the tentative accord will be made public today after consultation with the six governments, but initial signs appear promising. Most noteworthy were comments made by the chief U.S. envoy, Christopher A. Hill, who stuck to his description of the announcement as a ``joint statement" instead of officially-termed ``common document." All participants richly deserve compliments for their hard, sincere endeavors.
Reports say North Korea was especially willing to declare its nuclear activities using not only plutonium but also highly-enriched uranium. This is a stance conforming to February's agreement that calls for complete reporting of all atomic weapons programs. The officials also reached a detailed accord on disabling all existing nuclear facilities, including the 5-megawatt reactor in Yongbyon. Based on such positivity, Pyongyang pressed Washington to come up with corresponding pledges for rewards, breaking away from the previous negotiating pattern.
It was rather the U.S. side that almost broke off the bargaining this time. Although America agreed to remove the North from the list of terrorism-sponsoring countries in Geneva last month, Washington was reluctant to specify it in documents. Of course, the U.S. administration needs the Congress' consent and cooperation for this, particularly at a time when neo-cons are raising new suspicions about Pyongyang. Still, the U.S. passivity is regrettable not least because Washington should lead to accelerate the overall process.
The accord was especially significant as it overcame renewed U.S. criticism of the North, including the alleged North Korea-Syria nuclear nexus and President Bush's labeling of Pyongyang as a ``brutal regime." This is also why the isolated, impoverished North should do its best to faithfully implement the agreement and dismantle nuclear facilities by this year-end. Time is definitely not on Pyongyang's side. What is at stake there is a national survival, while that in the U.S. is a leader's legacy.
The latest agreement also brightened the prospects for tomorrow's summit between President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Without it, they will have been stuck in nuclear quagmire too deeply to touch such future-oriented issues as reunification and co-prosperity. This is not to say President Roh could completely sidestep the matter of global concerns, as he once expressed. Roh needs to comment on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in whatever way.
It would be far better, however, for Kim to say so in unequivocal terms. Former President Kim Dae-jung, upon his return from the first summit in 2000, said, ``Now, there will be no war on the Korean Peninsula." We would like to hear Kim say, ``From now on, there will be no atomic bombs on the Korean Peninsula." This is because the North should learn to live without nuclear weapons if it is to live at all.