December 1, 2003｜Korean Peninsula
Director, Economic Research Bureau The Korean Federation of Commerce and Industry in Japan
On 27th – 29th August this year, six-party talks between the DPRK, the US, the ROK, China, Russia and Japan were held in Beijing and the participating countries “were united in their awareness of the necessity of taking into account security concerns on the DPRK side, as well as insisting on the denuclearization of the peninsula.” (Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Yi) Discussions are currently ongoing with a view to coordinating the arrangements for the second meeting.
The US is demanding the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of nuclear programs on the part of the DPRK, while the DPRK is demanding a legally binding guarantee of non-aggression on the part of the US. As the participating nations have established a consensus on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the focus is on the issue of what form a guarantee from the US might take.
At one time, the DPRK was demanding that the US conclude either a peace treaty or a non-aggression pact, but this was settled in the process of resolving the 1993 nuclear crisis, in the form of intergovernmental documents. In signing the Geneva Agreed Framework in 1994, a presidential letter was used as a means of compensating for inadequacies in the guarantees provided in the intergovernmental documents.
It is common knowledge that the Bush administration has deliberately torn up the DPRK-US agreements concluded by the previous administration. In essence, what the DPRK is demanding is an “irreversible” guarantee that will remain in effect even after the term of office of the current president has ended.
Another significance of the irreversible non-aggression guarantee is that the DPRK wants to use it as an opportunity for focusing on economic reconstruction. At present, because of the acute military tension, troops work on developing infrastructure and supporting agriculture while still wearing their military uniforms. It should be understood that, of the participants in the six-party talks, the country hoping most fervently for a reduction in its vast military expenditure is the DPRK itself. Last year’s revisions to the system of compulsory military service could be described as a stepping-stone towards this.
During the course of the improvement in the DPRK-US relationship in the Clinton era, the atmosphere surrounding the Korean Peninsula was in the process of being transformed, with such developments taking place as the North-South summit and the June 15th Declaration, the rebuilding of the relationship between the DPRK and Russia and the normalization of the relationship between the DPRK and the EU. I believe that Prime Minister Koizumi’s visit to the DPRK last year was an attempt to avoid missing the boat with regard to the realization of the Northeast Asian Economic Subregion, which is directly linked to Europe and symbolized by the Trans-Eurasian Railway. The dialogue between the DPRK and the US at the time of the previous nuclear crisis was the gateway to a new Northeast Asian order, while the recent settlement of the relationship between the two countries can be described as the exit from this.
We should apply the lessons learned from the pursuit and subsequent failure at the APEC summit of a resolution criticizing the DPRK. We should refrain from exacerbating the situation through rash conduct.
Finally, what I would like to affirm is that the DPRK did not have a uranium enrichment program in the first place and that it did not recognize the US presidential envoy who visited the country in October last year. The original cause of this most recent nuclear crisis was the cessation of the provision of heavy fuel oil by the US (and KEDO, which also includes the ROK, Japan and the EU). The provision of heavy fuel oil is not economic support but compensation for the abandoning of the graphite reactor nuclear power system, which was just about to start operating. It was after the Iraq war that the DPRK, which had been focusing on negotiating a settlement, began to incline towards a focus on deterrence, and the reason why it resorted to putting its plutonium to an alternative use is that the US came empty-handed to the six-party talks. It is my heartfelt wish that the US proposal meets the expectations of international society.
[Translated by ERINA]