Updated : Feb.21.2005 07:01 KST

[Editorial] Don't Link Fertilizer to NK Nuclear Issue

The international community is busy trying to convince North Korea to come back to the six-party talks now that is has declared it possesses nuclear weapons and does not want to participate in those six-party process. A lot of hope is being put in effort being taken on the part of China, which is known to have a lot of influence with North Korea. That is why the world is watching Wang Jiarui, head of the international liaison department of the country's Communist Party, with his visit to Pyongyang to meet with leaders there to try to ascertain the North's true intentions and have them return to the negotiations. Given how North Korea places so much importance on maintaining face it is doubtful that its hard-line approach will change because of one visit from a high-ranking Chinese official, but it clearly will have been an opportunity to figure out what exactly the North is after.

Because of the interruption in intra-Korean dialogue, the situation we find ourselves in is one in which we have no channel through which to know what the North's real views are, and we are left to on the one hand put hope in China's efforts while on the other hand we have no other effective leverage other than to press the Bush Administration to not take a hard-line response to the North Korean foreign ministry's announcement. The situation is all the more reason why we need to consider timely measures such as the sending of a special envoy to Pyongyang for direct dialogue.

This is why we should not slow the speed of economic cooperation in areas such as the Gaeseong industrial complex project and of course the fertilizer the North says it wants. We must not miss the timing for spring fertilization. Fertilizer aid must not be linked to the North Korean nuclear issue and we should not be overly sensitive to the US on the issue, as doing so would significantly risk running things by losing what is left of the trust between North and South. We should refrain from being too calculating about the fertilizer since doing so could initiate a vicious cycle that would hurt the strategy of encouraging intra-Korean dialogue, but it would also not be right to do so when you think of the humanitarian need to help brethren in the North avoid starvation. That is why it is regrettable that US delegate to the six-party talks Christopher Hill recently made comments that seemed to suggest the US and Korea need to iron out their positions regarding fertilizer aid.

The Hankyoreh, 21 February 2005.

[Translations by Seoul Selection (PMS)]


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