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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Seeking peace?

With the ongoing war in Iraq, the Bush Administration is preoccupied with winning the war and organizing peace. This will leave precious little time to deal with other foreign policy issues, particularly those involving North Korea. American allies in the Far East, primarily Japan and South Korea, need to take the lead in the crisis if they wish to avoid a later armed confrontation between North Korea and the United States.
South Korea and Japan now have an opportunity to conduct talks with North Korea without much U.S. pressure because America’s attention is diverted. This is the chance, for South Korea especially, to see what they might be able to accomplish with talks. South Korea’s new President Roh Moo-hyun is in a position to serve as mediator between the United States and North Korea, as Roh’s relationship with North Korea is stronger than in the past. Both nations’ diplomats must realize military arrogance won’t go unchallenged now with the “Bush Doctrine” of preemptive strike. Just ask Iraq.
South Korea and Japan need to use this time to talk to North Korea and discuss what they should do in the coming months. If Roh or Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi were to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, the leaders could share ideas on how to reach a peaceful agreement with the United States. President George W. Bush would benefit from knowing these countries’ expectations if he decides to have discussions with North Korea.
If North Korea is simply bargaining for respect and food to feed its starving, for example, Washington might be more inclined to actually negotiate, assuming North Korea would give up some of its weapons programs. That is a point South Korea and the Japanese need to press through talks — that if North Korea is looking for help, Washington might be pressured into helping, assuming North Korea offers to do something the United States considers positive first. But if North Korea continues seeking through weapons of mass destruction to dominate the Korean peninsula, all nations involved must realize the depth of the crisis.
If the South Koreans and Japanese choose to pursue a dialogue, they need to express to North Korea the threat it poses to the United States, South Korea and the rest of the world. According to an article from BBC.COM, the Japanese have begun diplomatic maneuvers to make this point clear, as relations are already strained between North Korea and Japan. In 1999, North Korea agreed to a Japanese request for a moratorium on long range missile tests after one was fired directly over Japan, which, according to the article, led to an agreement where the Japanese would aid North Korea if it stopped its aggression. But after two short-range missile tests by North Korea in the past month and rumors that a long-range missile test would occur soon, the Japanese are threatening to abandon the pact. In considering abandoning the agreement, called the Pyongyang Declaration, government spokesman Yasuo Fukada stated, “Once we abrogate it, we lose a forum for dialogue,” which is not what the Japanese, or the rest of the world, want to have happen.
The Japanese would likely be the most threatened country after the United States if North Korea achieved operational nuclear ballistic missiles. Though Japan has clearly been telling North Korea its nuclear and missile programs are a threat to the world, South Korea needs to stress this harder as well. If both countries increase diplomatic pressure on North Korea, perhaps they can push the country into some kind of agreement to limit weapons programs for increased monetary aid. If nothing else, Japan and South Korea serve as a counterbalance to a harder American line while the United States is focusing most of its attention on the crisis in Iraq.
If South Korea and Japan take the lead now in engaging North Korea, they could possibly come up with an agreement and present it to the United States, allowing Washington to keep its focus on the Middle East and allowing them to first address their own concerns. These conditions might encourage North Korea to accept an agreement where they give up something without losing much face. In any case, if the South Koreans and the Japanese wish to pursue a dialogue with North Korea to achieve a peaceful settlement, now is the time.

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