April 1, 2004｜Korean Peninsula
Director, Economic Research Bureau The Korean Federation of Commerce and Industry in Japan
The second round of six-party talks regarding the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue took place in Beijing on 25th – 28th February. In the seven-point chairman’s statement, the six parties expressed agreement regarding three things: that “mutually adjusted measures will be taken once the nuclear issue and other related concerns have been taken up”, that dialogue would continue and that a working group would be established. It seems that we have now reached the stage at which substantive discussions have at last begun.
Since then, the US has held a wartime coalition reinforcement exercise and the Foal Eagle joint military exercise on the Korean Peninsula, as well as announcing the deployment of an Aegis destroyer on the East Sea (Japan Sea) and the redeployment of the US Second Division south of the Han River. In addition to adopting a proactive approach to the construction of a missile defense system with the US, Japan has continued with moves aimed at imposing sanctions on the DPRK, including revisions to its foreign exchange law and a ban on the entry into Japanese ports of specified ships.
The DPRK regards the US’s response as steady preparations aimed at a “Second Korean War” and, in particular, is revealing its wariness that Japan is converging (climbing onto the bandwagon) with these moves. The country’s willingness to strengthen its deterrents with regard to “the war-related machinations of the US and Japan” and has proclaimed that it will “take decisive measures in self-defense when necessary” (according to a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
The fact that an agreement regarding an immediate freeze on nuclear development was unable to be reached as a result of the US’s hard-line stance means that the potential for the worst-case scenario to occur is increasing.
With a view to achieving a breakthrough regarding the exchange involving the irreversible relinquishment of nuclear capabilities and irreversible guarantees of sovereignty, the focus is on the existence of a plan for enriched uranium nuclear weapons. This was thought likely to become a bone of contention at the second round of talks, but the testimony of Pakistan’s Dr. AQ Khan emerged just beforehand. The US, which had been in trouble and had had its manipulation of intelligence at the beginning of the war in Iraq exposed, is now experiencing a tailwind, but the precise details of Dr. Khanfs key testimony regarding the DPRK have not been revealed to the public. The US has not as yet presented any evidence concerning the existence of a plan for enriching uranium. With the “charges concerning an underground nuclear facility”, it has already been proved that the intelligence capability of the US is not versatile, particularly when it comes to the Korean Peninsula.
At the six-party talks, the US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, head of the US delegation, merely read from a prepared script and did not make any statements to the press corps for the duration of the talks, even going so far as to restrict admission to the press conference that followed the end of the round of talks. As a result of a lack of adjustment within the US government, only its existing hard-line strategy has survived.
Both the revisions to Japan’s foreign exchange law and the ban on the entry into its ports of specified ships have been implemented under the banner of solving the “kidnapping problem”, but is this not perhaps no more than part of the homework that was set by the US as far back as ten years ago? It is symbolic that, in early February, the key players who set this homework previously met with the government and executives of the Liberal Democratic Party, who had been devoting themselves to passing the bills, in order to reward them for their services.
One cannot imagine that problems will be solved through pressure or the manipulation of intelligence. We should learn from the relationship between the DPRK and Japan, in which a breakthrough had been seen, but which has stalled since the Pyongyang Declaration. It is not the case that there has been no progress because there has not been enough pressure; rather, there has been no progress precisely because a policy of applying pressure has been adopted.
The DPRK’s Supreme People’s Assembly met on 25th March, when it became clear that the production of electricity in 2003, when the country should have been hit by the cessation of heavy oil by KEDO, increased by 20% on the previous year, while the total value of industrial production was up 10% on the same period (cabinet report). While providing articles about the Korean Peninsula for the Opinion section of ERINA’s website, I have been unable to refer to the economic revitalization of the DPRK, north-south economic exchange, or issues relating to economic cooperation in Northeast Asia, and, although it is the biggest pending issue, it is a pity that I have only been able to write about the political situation.
Incidentally, with regard to a personal matter, I would like to mention that my daughter has started junior high school. At the same time as being delighted that she has gone to my old school, the Junior High School Section of the Tokyo Korean School, I have experienced mixed emotions. We bought her two types of school uniform. Did you know that, as it is dangerous for her to go to school wearing the uniform of traditional Korean dress (chimachogori), there is a “second school uniform”, which is worn only when traveling to and from school?
[Translated by ERINA]