May 16, 2005
NORTH KOREA: MEDIA 'INCREASINGLY ALARMED' BY NUKE TEST RUMORS
** Papers blast the DPRK's "dangerous game of bluff and bluster."
** Pyongyang's motives and plans remain "unknown and unpredictable."
** Liberal outlets seek change in the U.S.' "hardline" strategy.
** Regional papers say China has the "defining role to play" in the crisis.
'Time to rein in' the DPRK-- Papers criticized the North's "reported preparations for a nuclear test," accusing the "brutal authoritarian regime" of "outrageous brinkmanship diplomacy" to persuade the U.S. to meet its demands. Japan's liberal Asahi said Pyongyang was "trying to maximize the current nuclear crisis" to force the U.S. into bilateral talks. Stressing the "extremely serious threat" posed by the DPRK's nuclear effort, papers warned the North that a test would be a "complete misjudgment." If a nuclear detonation took place, writers backed "tightening sanctions"; South Korea's independent Dong-A Ilbo specifically called on the UNSC to impose "political and economic sanctions, including a sea blockade."
'Highly ambiguous'-- The "contradictory messages" emanating from an "unpredictable and mysterious" Pyongyang led to differing conclusions. Seoul's moderate Hankook Ilbo saw signs of an "imminent nuclear test," while Australia's liberal Age concluded that nuclear-test preparations may be an "elaborate hoax." Observers united to "urge Pyongyang to return" to the six-party talks, as there is "still room for negotiations." A few analysts feared a "worst-case scenario" in which the U.S. could "launch a surgical strike" against the DPRK, but Belgium's independent De Standaard considered U.S. "military punishment" for a nuclear test "unlikely."
The U.S. must make 'more substantial efforts'-- Leftist analysts claimed the U.S.' "hardline policy towards North Korea has failed." An Arab outlet contended that Washington's "tough talk" has only "bolstered the totalitarian state's resolve," while North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun held the U.S. "entirely responsible for the lack of progress." Seoul's left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun also blamed the U.S.' "antagonistic policy." Less strident editorials urged the U.S. to "change its policy toward North Korea" and "start bilateral talks." Hong Kong's independent South China Morning Post backed a deal whereby Pyongyang's "nuclear program is scrapped in return for economic aid and security guarantees" from the U.S.
'Beijing can exert pressure'-- Regional dailies opined that China "should take the lead." As the North's "closest ally," said India's nationalist Hindustan Times, China "holds the key to any fruitful discussions." Japan's liberal Tokyo Shimbun agreed that Beijing "should exercise its influence." Rightist South Korean papers faulted Seoul's "pro-North Korean attitude." Independent Joong-Ang Ilbo assailed Seoul's "deliberate downplaying" of the crisis. These outlets added that the resumption of bilateral talks between Seoul and Pyongyang could be an attempt by the North to "buy time through dialogue." Conservative Chosun Ilbo argued the DPRK will use the "talks as a shield against international pressure."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 31 reports from 11 political entities over 7 - 16 May, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
AUSTRALIA: "North Korea And The Bomb"
The liberal Melbourne-based Age opined (5/10): "In Pyongyang the power goes off three or four times a day. There are chronic shortages of fuel.... All of this should make the suggestion that North Korea is preparing to test a nuclear device laughable. It should, but it doesn't. This is also a country where the Cold War never ended, where a brutal authoritarian regime clings to political power in the face of imminent collapse of its centrally planned economy. Widespread starvation is avoided only by virtue of international food aid and the continued support of China.... Even so, projects such as nuclear research remain well resourced. The realpolitik of North Korea is rooted in desperation and the wider world ignores this at its peril. Based on the latest intelligence, the IAEA estimates that the country has a significant nuclear weapons potential.... There remains sufficient industrial infrastructure to convert the plutonium into weapons. There is also ample evidence that it has the missile capability to deliver them within its immediate region. More disturbing is recent U.S. satellite intelligence suggesting some sort of test is being prepared.... A bomb and its test controls would most likely be rudimentary. The real intent of Pyongyang is largely unknown and unpredictable. The recent flurry of apparent activity may be no more than an elaborate hoax aimed at extracting concessions from the stalled six-party talks on nuclear disarmament. North Korea is a pariah state in which the perceptions of reality do not always accord with those of rest of the world. That said, it is even more important that it be persuaded back to the negotiating table--and China has a defining role to play here--before the folly of a nuclear detonation occurs."
CHINA (HONG KONG AND MACAU SARS): "North Korean Nuclear Issue Should Be Resolved Peacefully Through Negotiations"
Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked (5/14): "To gain the upper hand in the six-party talks, North Korea announced that it would restart its nuclear program with nuclear tests and the construction of more nuclear weapons. Such a threat can create 'pressure' but, at the same time, North Korea could harm its own interests by not managing them properly. The U.S. may adopt a tougher stance toward North Korea and may align with Japan and South Korea to impose economic sanctions on North Korea. This could aggravate the country's economic crisis and could even cause political instability in North Korea. China, of course, does not want to allow more refugees to flood in from North Korea, nor does it want to face the prospect of more U.S. troops in Northeast Asia.... The six-party talks are still the best framework to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue. Only under this framework can there be smooth bilateral and multilateral contacts.... All parties should make an effort to create a good atmosphere so that the six-party talks can be resumed soon."
"Strike A Deal"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post remarked (5/13): "North Korea's best interests will be served by striking a deal in which the nuclear programme is scrapped in return for economic aid and security guarantees.... It is hoped Pyongyang is just stepping up the rhetoric ahead of a return to the talks. China, as a key ally of North Korea, has a big responsibility to persuade it to come back to the negotiating table."
JAPAN: "Pyongyang Must Halt Nuclear Brinkmanship"
Liberal Asahi editorialized (5/13): "North Korea's reported removal of 8,000 spent fuel rods from a nuclear plant in Yongbyon suggests that the North is intending to become a nuclear power. The global community cannot help but express indignation with the North's move to create one nuclear crisis after another--a move that also defies renewed global efforts to curb nuclear proliferation at NPT review talks in New York. The North is undoubtedly trying to maximize the current nuclear crisis in a bid to bring the US to bilateral talks. If Washington does not comply with Pyongyang's request for such talks, the North will likely mass-produce nuclear materials and strengthen its position as a nuclear power.... Now is the time to sever this vicious nuclear cycle.... Despite its fiery anti-U.S. rhetoric, Pyongyang is sounding out Washington's reaction.... The U.S. should start bilateral talks with the North in a serious manner to break this growing nuclear impasse."
"Don't Allow DPRK To Possess Nuclear Arms!"
An editorial in top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri read (5/13): "The DPRK's latest provocative action--the reported removal of 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods from the Yongbyon plant--cannot be overlooked in that it poses an extremely serious threat to Japan's national security. This latest development has already raised concern that the North may further advance its nuclear weapons development program. Japan must step up its preparations to combat the threat, including advancing its missile defense program. To ensure the nation's peace and security, the GOJ needs to review the national security system in its entirety and improve its defense capabilities. The U.S. and Japanese governments intend to use the six-nation talks as a means of resolving the current crisis. If the situation deteriorates, Washington and Tokyo will want to refer the North Korean issue to the UNSC. If Pyongyang refuses to abandon its nuclear ambitions, the council will be forced to take strong action, including sanctions, against the North."
"North Korean Nuclear Issue: China Must Persuade The North Forcefully"
Liberal Mainichi advised (5/13): "Despite the DPRK's latest announcement, the retrieval of fuel rods will not mean a sudden increase in the North's nuclear arsenal. This is its usual trick of stirring up a crisis to put itself in a more favorable position.... However, the DPRK's action is ultimately counterproductive and will only aggravate its international isolation.... Its making the announcement while the NPT conference is in session may, on the contrary, spur NPT member states to unite, since North Korea's case illustrates the fact that nuclear proliferation cannot be left unchallenged. And if the DPRK goes ahead with nuclear experiments, its case will move from the six-party talks to the UNSC, and harsh economic sanctions would become increasingly likely. As a consequence, North Korea will not be able to receive aid from Japan and the ROK, and even bilateral talks with the U.S. will be impossible. Therefore, North Korea is called upon to return to the six-way talks promptly.... China, as a permanent UNSC member, has a grave responsibility for peace and nuclear nonproliferation. Being practically the only country that has any leverage on North Korea, it should take the lead in the talks and exercise strong leadership to persuade the DPRK, although the other participants should also overcome bilateral interests and unite."
"Retrieval Of Fuel Rods: Possession Of Nuclear Arms Is Not an Option"
Conservative Sankei opined (5/13): "While the DPRK's latest move may be part of its usual brinksmanship diplomacy, a crisis that may change the security situation in Japan and East Asia instantaneously has emerged.... Unity among the countries in the region is key to apply pressure on North Korea in order to overcome the crisis. The international community is faulted for not doing anything to rein in North Korea despite its continuous challenges to the NPT regime in the past.... The UN did not act while the six-party talks have been suspended for nearly a year.... However, it is technically not easy to develop nuclear bombs. If North Korea's nuclear experiments fail, which is highly possible, it runs the risk of losing its nuclear card for good. Nevertheless, the DPRK cannot be counted on to exercise restraint. The international community, particularly Japan, the United States, China, the ROK, and Russia, must let the DPRK know clearly and precisely that possession of nuclear weapons is not an option.... Specifically, a deadline should be set for resuming the six-way talks.... If the DPRK refuses, the other participants should agree on initiating procedures in the UNSC. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi must use every means at his disposal to stop North Korea's senseless act, since nuclear experiments in the DPRK have the danger of pouring ashes of death on Japan."
"North Korean Nuclear Arms: Avert The 'June Crisis'"
Liberal Tokyo Shimbun contended (5/13): "The DRPK's recent moves appear to be an attempt to precipitate a June crisis.... Faced with such outrageous brinksmanship diplomacy, the other participants in the six-way talks should make more forceful efforts to make Pyongyang return to the talks, while also conveying a strong message that nuclear experiments are absolutely unacceptable, including the sanctions this will entail.... What North Korea is doing is evidently aimed at drawing concessions from the U.S., judging that the U.S. remains bogged down with Iraq and is unlikely to attack it. In addition, the DPRK is seeking recognition as a nuclear power.... However, North Korea is unlikely to succeed. For one, its latest announcement failed to cause its neighbors to panic and make concessions. On the contrary, there is now stronger support for referring the issue to the UNSC if the six-party talks do not resume by the end of June.... North Korea should know the limits of brinksmanship diplomacy.... The most important thing is to stop the DPRK from conducting nuclear experiments, which will not only mean the completion of nuclear bomb development, but also pour ashes of death on East Asia. If that happens, China will be the greatest victim. In that sense, and as the main aid donor to North Korea, China should exercise its influence and strengthen diplomatic pressure through all possible channels."
"DPRK Trying To Take Initiative In Future Course Of Six-Way Talks"
A commentary in liberal Asahi read (5/12): "Experts describe North Korea's reported removal of 8,000 spent nuclear rods from a reactor in Yongbyon as a provocative but well calculated move to demonstrate its already nuclear-capable status to the US and to take the initiative in the future course of stalled six-way disarmament talks. Some experts and ROK government officials are skeptical about the authenticity of North Korea's announcement about the further removal of nuclear fuel rods. But they all agree that suspected North Korean nuclear weapons development has reached a more serious and dangerous stage."
"U.S. To Activate Talks With China"
A report in liberal Asahi stated (5/12): "Following North Korea's announcement about the removal of 8,000 spent nuclear rods from the Yongbyon reactor, the USG is likely to activate diplomatic efforts aimed at resuming six-way talks. But at the same time, as Secretary of State Rice suggested, the US will most likely pursue a new option of pressing China further to persuade North Korea to suspend its nuclear development. The Bush administration is also presumed to be considering referring the North's nuclear adventure to the UNSC or holding five-party talks with Japan, South Korea, China and Russia--minus North Korea."
"Don't Allow DPRK To Conduct Nuclear Test!"
Business-oriented Nihon Keizai editorialized (5/11): "The global community is increasingly alarmed by the DPRK's reported preparations for a nuclear test. While some experts interpret the North Korean move as its usual nuclear brinkmanship for seeking direct talks with the US, others speculate that if the US does not comply with the North's request, it will go ahead with nuclear testing and seek international status as a nuclear power. The U.S. and North Korea will likely activate diplomatic bargaining as June approaches--the deadline the U.S. sets as resuming six-way talks. But the North must be prohibited from conducting a nuclear test. The five participants in the talks--the U.S., Japan, South Korea, China and Russia--should work closely toward tightening sanctions, if the North proceeds with nuclear testing. The US needs to start bilateral talks with the North, while maintaining the present framework of six-way talks, in order to bring the North to the multilateral negotiating table."
NORTH KOREA: "We Will Not Deal With A Bunch Of Bad Hooligans"
Yi Hyo'n-to wrote in official state-run Rodong Sinmun (5/10): "The Bush cohort have lately been turning up the heat in their suffocation offensive against the DPRK.... The U.S. is raising a fuss with talk of giving notice to the IAEA and Japan and other relevant countries on its opinion that our Republic could conduct an underground nuclear test in June.... As such, the Bush gang is explicitly revealing its intention to suffocate our Republic as a target of collective sanctions on the UN stage by making our Republic a 'nuclear criminal' at all costs. This shows that the Bush gang is a bunch of hardened thugs losing their grip on the ability to think normally and not the kind of people we should deal with.... The U.S. is drumming up public opinion to blame the delay in resolving the problem on lack of action on our part.... From beginning to end, our Republic has tried to resolve the nuclear issue through talks until now.... Our Republic exhausted all possible efforts to resolve the problem in the previous rounds of six-party talks by exercising maximum flexibility and generosity. The U.S. is entirely responsible for the lack of progress in the six-party talks process.... Let alone change its hostile policy against the DPRK, the U.S. insulted our country, its partner of talks, as part of 'an axis of evil' and then badmouthed our country as 'an outpost of tyranny'.... This shows that no amount of dialogue with the brutish Bush bellicose group will ever resolve anything.... Our Republic is justified thousands of times in possessing nuclear weapons as a self-defensive measure to protect the country's rights to independence and survival.... Even if the U.S. takes the nuclear issue to the UN, our army and people will not even flinch and will remain undaunted.... Reality corroborates the fact that the only way to resolve the problem is for us to follow the path we have chosen steadfastly and unwaveringly. The U.S. must squarely face up to it and stop running wild."
SOUTH KOREA: "Don’t Get Bogged Down In Fertilizer"
Conservative Chosun Ilbo editorialized (5/16): “North Korea must have agreed to resume inter-Korean talks only because of its urgent need for fertilizer, given that Seoul had made clear that talks between the two sides should take precedence over fertilizer aid since the North requested 500,000 tons of fertilizer in January.... Furthermore, North Korea must have judged that it would be advantageous for it to resume inter-Korean talks with regard to the nuclear issue.... Pyongyang must feel that it would be in its best interests to maintain a semblance of regular talks in order to keep the ROKG and the public from mounting further pressure against it. In other words, North Korea aims to secure an advantage while using the talks as a shield against international pressure. With that being the North’s position, during the talks, the ROKG needs to be much firmer on its principles than ever before. It would be a shame if all they succeeded in doing was securing Pyongyang some fertilizer but failing to gain any results in the nuclear standoff. The talks should indeed become an occasion where, as the President put it, we ‘turn red in the face with anger’ when we have to with North Korea.”
"Talks Must Be Full-Fledged"
Independent Joong-Ang Ilbo held (5/16): “Dialogue between the two Koreas is resuming after a ten-month hiatus. The fact that officials from both sides are meeting to discuss bilateral issues amid growing tensions in the North Korean nuclear crisis is truly encouraging.... Through this meeting, we hope that both Koreas will try to normalize bilateral ties and discuss outstanding issues in depth.... What is certain is that the nuclear issue and bilateral ties between the two Koreas cannot be dealt with separately. This runs against public sentiment. If North Korea continues to maintain this sort of attitude, it only shows that the North is not interested in a sincere coexistence or in a peaceful unification of the two Koreas. It is a selfish approach by the North that it wants to overcome internal crises by receiving help from the ROK in the form of rice and fertilizer aid while addressing security issues with the U.S. This can only be seen as an attempt to buy time through dialogue with the ROK while trying to build nuclear arms. Thus, the ROKG officials who are taking part in the talks with the North should not give in to the North’s demands so as to prevent the meeting from becoming just another event to buy more time. They have to make sure that the talks will become a place where the nuclear and security issues are both being addressed.”
"Inter-Korean Talks Must Lead To North Korea’s Return To The Six-Party Talks"
Independent Dong-a Ilbo declared (5/16): “Under no circumstances must these talks end only with providing fertilizer aid to North Korea. It is true that North Korea, as it enters the farming season, desperately needs fertilizer and that the ROK agreed to assist the North from a humanitarian perspective on request by the reclusive communist state. However, the North Korean nuclear issue is more urgent than fertilizer aid. Only when the nuclear issue is resolved can inter-Korean economic support and other parts of bilateral ties be put back on track. During the talks, the ROK should strongly urge the North to return to the Six-Party Talks...and the North, for its part, should not ignore such a request. If the current situation persists, the North must realize that it will inevitably face economic sanctions, including a sea blockade under PSI, as well as a referral of its nuclear issue to the UNSC. It would be wise for the North to use this opportunity to find a justification to return to the multilateral talks.”
"North Korean Nuclear Issue Resolution Hinges On U.S."
Kim Young-hie opined in independent Joong-Ang Ilbo (5/13): “Recent signs of preparations for a nuclear test in North Korea could be just a diplomatic show by Pyongyang or its official declaration of attaining nuclear statehood. Either way, the other five countries in the Six-Party Talks should put forth all possible resources into resolving the North Korean nuclear problem. If we compare the costs to deter the North’s nuclear armament and the costs to respond to a nuclear-armed North Korea, it becomes even clearer what we should do now. However, it will get us nowhere if we put forth our best efforts in an ambiguous manner. The key lies in the hands of the U.S., especially those of Mr. Bush. Washington must change its policy toward North Korea. The U.S. should convince Pyongyang that if it gives up its nuclear weapons program, the U.S. would guarantee its security by normalizing bilateral ties and signing a peace treaty.... Given Pyongyang’s strong suspicion that the Bush Administration’s North Korea policy is aimed at regime change in the North, it is important for the U.S. to provide security assurances to the North and concretely present it with economic benefits in return for abandoning its nuclear programs.... It is still too early to give up on the situation.... With hopes on Chinese President Hu Jintao’s upcoming visit to Pyongyang to persuade the North Koreans, the ROK should strongly and substantially ask the U.S. to provide a blueprint to provide North Korea with security assurances and economic benefits without attaching new conditions, such as the North’s human rights abuses, if the country gives up its nuclear ambitions. The ROK-U.S. summit, which is slated to be held either in late-June or early-July, would be the last chance for such efforts. It is important to start by acknowledging that the Bush Administration’s hard-line policy toward North Korea has failed.”
"Stop Downplaying The Crisis"
Independent Joong-Ang Ilbo concluded (5/13): "Considering that the North Korean nuclear crisis is at a different level now...the situation is indeed very serious. Two years ago, senior North Korean officials were claiming only that Pyongyang had processed plutonium to make it useful in the possible creation of a nuclear deterrent.... But with Pyongyang's announcement in February that it had nuclear weapons, the basic framework of the crisis changed. North Korea has made clear its intention to be recognized as a nuclear weapons state. Its argument that the six-party talks should become mutual disarmament talks, since it is already a nuclear power, is in line with this intention. So is its assertion that it will continue to bolster its nuclear arsenal.... Negotiations behind closed doors are underway among Seoul, Washington and China to resolve the nuclear crisis. We hope it is resolved peacefully. But the problem is the government's deliberate downplaying of the seriousness of a situation that is worse than it was two years ago. Why else would the leaders of the U.S. and China have an urgent telephone conversation?.... It was only recently that the South Korean foreign minister said that the North Korean nuclear crisis was in a 'critical stage.' If the government is going to downplay the situation before the foreign minister's words have even faded, then who can the people trust? The government needs to keep in mind that only if it acknowledges the truth, and makes its plans based on that acknowledgment, will the people will feel secure."
"It Is Time For North Korean Leader Kim Jong-il To End Nuclear Gambling"
Independent Dong-a Ilbo editorialized (5/12): “North Korea announced yesterday that it had finished removing 8,000 spent fuel rods from its 5-megawatt reactor in Yongbyon...a move that shows that it is intending to extract more weapons-grade plutonium for nuclear weapons. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is miscalculating the situation.... We would like to ask the North’s leader what it is that he wants to win by adhering to brinkmanship tactics. For one thing, North Korea’s Feb. 10 nuclear weapons declaration has only deepened international concerns and distrust for the reclusive country without bringing it any benefits. Instead, the declaration only aggravated American sentiment, further dimming the prospects for Pyongyang to obtain its much desired assurances of security. Furthermore, it has undermined the position of its major support, China, to help the North. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il should promptly end his ‘nuclear gambling.’ If ongoing diplomatic efforts by the participants to the Six-Party Talks were to become exhausted, the only option left would be to refer the North Korean nuclear issue to the UNSC for political and economic sanctions, including a sea blockade. In a worst-case scenario, the U.S. might launch a surgical strike against the North. If North Korea wants to avoid such a tragic outcome, it should return immediately to the Six-Party Talks. It is high time for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to make a decision.”
"Expectations On Call For North Korea To Return To Six-Party Talks"
Moderate Hankook Ilbo editorialized (5/10): “In a situation where there is much talk of an imminent nuclear test by North Korea and of a possible U.S. strike against North Korean nuclear facilities, it was very appropriate for the presidents of the ROK and China to strongly urge Pyongyang to return to the Six-Party Talks on its nuclear program. In particular, it is very significant that Beijing, which had shown a lackadaisical attitude toward pressuring Pyongyang, raised a strong voice against the North.... If North Korea proceeds to conduct a nuclear test in this situation, it would inevitably become further isolated from the international community, including China and Russia that have long been sympathetic toward it.... Furthermore, if global opinions worsen in the wake of a nuclear test, it would be hard for China and Russia to oppose the U.S. from taking the North Korean nuclear issue to the UNSC for possible sanctions.... Even though the situation surrounding the North Korean nuclear standoff is growing increasingly acute, we believe that there is still room for negotiations.... A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman recently argued that the North had never called for bilateral talks with the U.S. outside of the Six-Party Talks framework while showing an interest in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s statement that North Korea is a sovereign state, a possible indication that the North might be looking for an excuse to return to the Six-Party Talks. In this regard, Washington needs to exert more substantial efforts to draw the North to the negotiating table by cooperating closely with concerned parties, rather than discussing possibilities for a UN referral of the North Korean nuclear issue or considering a military strike against the communist state.”
"Not Much Time Left For North Korea"
Nationalist, left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun warned (5/10): “Now that North Korea declared that it has nuclear weapons, it is not entirely unlikely that it will want to be recognized as a nuclear power by conducting a nuclear test, the clearest evidence supporting the North’s nuclear claim. However, such a move would strategically be a big mistake because every nation would inevitably see it as a threat, and there is almost no possibility that possessing nuclear arms will contribute to the North’s security or help alleviate its economic difficulties. For now, the theories about North Korea conducting a nuclear test looks very exaggerated. Suspicions abound that hardliners who seek to push the situation in a way that pressures the North might be behind such theories. Much about North Korea taking issue with the United States’ antagonistic policy and its demand for the right mood and conditions for participating in the Six-Party Talks are understandable. There does exist a need for the U.S. to be more flexible and ease the North’s concerns. Not that that makes a nuclear-armed North Korea acceptable. Worsening the situation further would only make it more difficult to resolve the current nuclear standoff. It is high time for North Korea to make a decision.”
"Plainly Tell North Korea That Nuclear Test Will Result In Calamity"
Conservative Chosun Ilbo declared (5/9): “It appears evident that North Korea intends to use a nuclear test as a direct or indirect negotiation card with the U.S. However, Pyongyang should realize that such a move is a complete misjudgment. A North Korean nuclear test will provide material evidence that the North has clearly crossed a ‘red line’ the U.S. and the international community have set up with regard to the North Korean nuclear standoff. Once North Korea has crossed this red line, the U.S. and the international community wouldn’t be able to engage the North in give-and-take negotiations, even if they wanted to, because, if it becomes customary to provide ‘carrots’ to a country that has manufactured a nuclear device and is moving to conduct a nuclear test in order to cajole it from doing so, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would merely become a scrap of paper. In particular, Washington, which regards transferring nuclear materials to terrorists as a direct threat to U.S. security, will not be lying idle in such a situation. If this is the case, then the negotiation table, instead of being expanded as the North wishes, would be overturned.”
"Time To Show Some Concern"
Independent Joong-Ang Ilbo stated (5/9): “As Foreign Minister Ban has recently said, the North Korean nuclear crisis is reaching a serious point.... In this regard, the ROKG needs to review whether its reaction so far has been appropriate. It had predicted that North Korea would return to the Six-Party Talks, but currently it does not even have a reliable channel of communication with Pyongyang. Albeit belatedly, the ROKG should come up with a blueprint to deal with the North Korean nuclear issue and explain it to the public. If it continues to act unconcerned and equivocal, we could indeed face grave danger ahead.”
"What ROK Should Do To Prevent A ‘June Crisis’"
Kim Kyung-won argued in independent Joong-Ang Ilbo (5/9): “It seems that North Korea thinks highly of the ROK’s consistent pro-North Korean policy, while feeling displeasure with China’s recent statements against Pyongyang. China’s recent statements raise suspicions that Beijing might have reached a certain level of agreement with the U.S. Accordingly, if the ROK, which is a major player in the Six-Party Talks and has been the most sympathetic toward North Korea, makes it clear that it would no longer help the North unless it makes a move to address its nuclear problem, then it would be more persuasive than any other country in negotiations. Ironically, South Korea can be the country with the most leverage over North Korea because it has maintained the strongest pro-North Korean attitude thus far.”
"Disappointing ROK-China Summit"
Independent Dong-a Ilbo remarked (5/9): “The standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program is growing increasingly serious to the extent that U.S.-based NBC TV reported that Washington had drawn up plans for a preemptive strike against North Korean nuclear facilities. Faced with such a situation, President Roh and Chinese President Hu Jintao should have issued a more practical warning against North Korea or expressed stronger positions on the North Korean nuclear issue during their latest summit. In particular, China should have at least dropped a slight hint that it would not exercise its veto power if the North Korean nuclear issue were referred to the UNSC. During the first nuclear crisis in 1994, China’s last-minute indication that it would withhold its veto right eventually led North Korea to return to the negotiating table. It seems that the time has come for the ROK and the U.S. to reflect on whether they have overestimated China’s clout over North Korea. A Foreign Ministry official in charge of dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue recently said that they are even mulling over a worst-case scenario where North Korea possesses nuclear weapons while at the same time trying to obtain benefits in exchange for giving up its nuclear weapons. This means that, aside from being acknowledged as a nuclear power, the North might be trying to gain even more through the ‘disarmament talks’ it has called for. If that were the case, we should review our approach to the North Korean nuclear issue. While strengthening our efforts with China to diplomatically resolve the nuclear issue, the ROKG should put all remaining options on the table and cooperate closely with the U.S.”
INDIA: "Bluff And Bluster"
An editorial in the nationalist Hindustan Times read (5/11): "The confusing signals coming out of the Korean Peninsula may be only apparently so. Indications are that North Korea may be preparing to go overly nuclear, adding to the crisis in the region. This has been underlined by IAEA chief Mohamed El Baradei.... Satellite imagery seems to suggest that Pyongyang is about to test an underground atomic device, which would alarmingly change the complexion of the whole issue. On the other hand, North Korea’s foreign ministry has reportedly offered to begin bilateral discussions with the U.S., within the framework of six-party talks, stalled since last June. Pyongyang has always ratcheted up the tension and then used it to leverage with the international community.... Indeed, North Korea’s ‘indefinite’ withdrawal from the negotiations, while not abandoning them, may have been a bid to win economic incentives from neighbors South Korea and China. Being North Korea’s closest ally, China holds the key to any fruitful discussions. But the military and the civil administration in that country don’t agree on how much pressure to put on Pyongyang. This apparently suits the Kim Jong II regime that wants to dilute U.S. demands, which include complete dismantling of its nuclear programs. The North Koreans are involved in a dangerous game of bluff and bluster. It requires coordinated action by the U.S., China, Japan and South Korea to ensure that Pyongyang does not walk over the brink."
BRITAIN: "An Important Test For International Resolve As Well As Nuclear Weapons"
Bronwen Maddox commented in the conservative Times (5/11): "Look on the bright side: if North Korea goes ahead and tests a nuclear weapon, it will have one fewer in its stockpile, which by any reckoning, is tiny. It would also force neighbouring states, particularly China, to face the problem in their backyards.... And a test would do nothing to make reality worse, given that the republic is probably already a nuclear power.... Granted, it would be ridiculous to call a test a contribution to the stability of the region. But some of the extreme alarm about the idea in the past few weeks seems overblown.... Officials have hinted that they fear a test as early as next month. These fears may be well founded--but again, they may not be. The intelligence is not clearcut.... Meanwhile, North Korea's behaviour has been highly ambiguous, and in those contradictory messages lies some hope.... The current spike of alarm does serve one useful function. It tells North Korea that world reaction might be harsh. Cutting food aid (from the U.S.) or oil (from China) are the obvious sanctions (although the Chinese are not keen on this). It serves as a test, if you like, of whether the republic is open to persuasion. In that cause, hyperbole is justified. But it seems melodramatic to say, as many do, that if North Korea carries out a test, the world will have changed significantly for the worse. We know, almost for certain, that it has the technology. We know that it is almost impervious to outside pressure. Its nuclear ambitions remain a problem that its neighbours will have to sort out. The pity is that it may take a test to convince them to try harder."
BELGIUM: "North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Worry The World"
Mia Doornaert observed in independent Christian-Democrat De Standaard (5/7): "For the U.S. the struggle against nuclear proliferation is a priority. A military punishment for a North Korean nuclear test is unlikely. The U.S. is bogged down in Iraq and, on top of that, it would have to take into account the possible use of North Korean nuclear weapons. However, it is equally certain that George W. Bush will not leave a (North Korean) nuclear test unanswered.... Washington refuses to be forced by nuclear blackmail to accept a dialogue with a regime that it despises. If Pyongyang wants to talk, it will have to do so in the six-country dialogue. Therefore, eyes are focused on China that should force North Korea to return to the negotiating table. It is certain that Beijing can exert pressure on Kim Jong-il’s regime. Reportedly, however, the regime in Beijing is divided. Some want to protect the Communist ally against the U.S. However, experts think that a more pragmatic segment believes that China can win more diplomatic praise by keeping Pyongyang away from adventures that frighten all the countries in the area.”
UAE: "Rods To Confrontation"
The English-language expatriate-oriented Gulf Today held (5/13): "There is a method in the pace with which North Korea plays its nuclear brinkmanship which is at the same time unpredictable and mysterious.... There are times when the Stalinist regime steps up the levels of a potential crisis to the point of an all-out confrontation with its detractors. There are also occasions when it shows surprising willingness to climb down and listen to others. The current phase seems to be that of raising the alarm bells to critical levels. North Korea's statement that it had unloaded 8,000 spent fuel rods from its nuclear reactor has again caught its worried neighbours scurrying for cover. The readying of the rods means the country is one more step closer to making a nuclear bomb.... The question is whether North Korea really intends to do that, fully knowing what the repercussions would be and how vulnerable the country is in facing it.... It may sound odd that a country, where millions of people are facing starvation and the economy is heading towards total collapse...is stepping into an area of open confrontation with the rest of the world. The last frontier of Cold War is still shrouded in mystery. The picture of an impending domestic economic doom is what makes many feel that North Korea is only stretching its brinkmanship in an attempt to persuade the U.S. to meet its demands. Pyongyang knows that it is playing on the nerves of its neighbours and testing the patience of the mediators. What it apparently overlooks is the refusal of the US to bite the bait. Washington stands firm on its demand that Pyongyang must return to talks.... The pressure is now on China and Russia, North Korea's closest allies, to stop its angry comrade from any more nuclear blackmailing. If all Pyongyang wants Washington to take another step towards a reconciliation, it has to re-join the six-nation talks. That is only way by which North Korea can demand some sort of reciprocity from the U.S."
"SOS From Pyongyang"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times opined (5/10): "The spectre of North Korea's nukes refuses to go away.... Pyongyang's programme is not in embryonic stage.... The Stalinist regime already has six nuclear weapons and is seeking more. The UN...says that Pyongyang is preparing for a major nuclear weapon test. The IAEA has been urging the US and North Korea's neighbour, China, to prevent Pyongyang from going ahead with such a test as it will only add to the existing tensions in the region. Frankly speaking, warnings and repeated warnings by the US have so far failed to achieve desired results. In fact, Washington's tough talk appears to have only bolstered the totalitarian state's resolve to go ahead with building of WMD. In this regard, ElBaradei's analysis makes perfect sense.... ElBaradei believes the North's nuclear brinkmanship is its own way of seeking dialogue and engagement with the U.S. Whatever the explanation, it's time the world called North Korea's bluff. This farce is touching dangerous limits. It's time to rein in the irresponsible regime in Pyongyang that is not only a threat to its immediate neighbours but a clear and present danger to the whole world.... For the world community to deal effectively with the rogue regime, the support of regional players is essential.... The unfortunate people of North Korea, suffering for decades under an incredibly ruthless regime, are urgently in need of the world's help. Decades of economic and political mismanagement, and corruption have driven their country to the brink endangering tens of thousands of lives. Basic necessities like food, water and shelter are scarce.... People in their hundreds have been falling victim to famine and hunger every year while the Dictator and his cronies preside over a failed state. The world must engage North Korea to help its people. Nuclear brinkmanship is Pyongyang's SOS to the world. Let's ignore the rhetoric and read the message. The people in North, held hostage by the Stalinist regime, have the potential to excel like their separated cousins in the South."
CANADA: "Stop North Korea"
The centrist Winnipeg Free Press opined (5/16): “North Korea has announced it has extracted 8,000 spent fuel rods from a nuclear reactor. It can now begin processing those rods to produce plutonium to add weapons to its nuclear arsenal. President Kim Jong-Il says it has every intention of doing so.... It is difficult to know what all of this truly means, whether North Korea is bluffing or deadly serious about its nuclear weapons program. Mr. Kim refuses to allow international inspection of his nuclear facilities. The six-nation group formed to negotiate the issue has been stalled for a year now by North Korea's refusal to meet with it. It is possible North Korea is bluffing. Japan, which, after South Korea, would be the most likely target of a nuclear attack, fervently hopes so.... It would be reckless to believe he will not build them--Mr. Kim's character is such that he is very likely to prefer nuclear weapons to international respectability. He won't negotiate, so other ways must be found to persuade him to change course. The fact he may have a nuclear arsenal already makes a pre-emptive, military intervention too late and too dangerous. Mr. Kim has shown himself indifferent to the effects of sanctions, as indifferent as he is to the suffering of his starving people. Sanctions, however, have always been leaky, with great holes through China and Russia. Those two nations may now share the wider international concern and be persuaded to finally allow the full weight of the UN to come down on Mr. Kim.”
BARBADOS: "Nuclear Progams Could Have a Profound Effect"
The leading independent Nation opined (5/12): "The nuclear threat posed to the world by Iran and North Korea is real...their development of nuclear programs could have a profound effect on the Asian region.... The two countries pose no immediate threat since the major powers are ensuring that the threat does not escalate.... Given North Korea’s dire food and fuel shortages and reliance on international food aid it would be easy for some to believe to that it was impossible for North Korea to build a bomb. However, it warned that to ignore North Korea would be to the world’s peril.... The U.S. seems unable or unwilling to develop a policy to deal with North Korea but warned that it must be persuaded to return to the discussion table before it develops a warhead."
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