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North Korea Needs to Grasp Seriousness of Summit
[Analysis] As term in office nears end for Roh, he may take tougher stance
Lee Byong-chul (merrycow)     Print Article 
Published 2007-09-11 15:37 (KST)   
In early 2002, the Bush administration planned to make a bold approach toward North Korea by testing the Communist country's strategic choice of whether to denuclearize and join the global community. Yet the approach did not come true because of a short firefight that took place between the two Koreas in the West Sea and the U.S. CIA's clear-cut assessment that the North's nuclear-related material and equipment had come from Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan -- both in June that same year.

U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday reconfirmed his bold approach at the summit meeting with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Sydney, Australia, which will certainly be the last talks between the two leaders. It took more than five years for Bush to recognize that his neoconservative staff had screwed up the strategies toward North Korea over the long run.

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There is no doubt that Bush staunchly believes that the ball is now in the court of North Korea; meeting with Roh, he used the phrase "I can't make it any more clear." Bush reportedly said, "We look forward to the day when we can end the Korean War. That will happen when Kim Jong-il verifiably gets rid of his weapons programs and his weapons." This time, he did not use the word "Mr." for North Korean President Kim Jong-il.

While it is unclear what Roh will say when he meets with his counterpart Kim from Oct. 2-4, however, many Korea experts in South Korea remain optimistic about the second inter-Korean summit meeting over time. A former government official said, "President Roh will likely play an assertive role as a messenger of Mr. Bush who clearly addressed that the North could get lots of benefits economically and diplomatically only if it scraps its nuclear weapons program completely." The Korea expert added, "The United States need not worry about the two Koreas ganging up against itself."

Roh may find he is holding some cards. His aides have signaled the argument the savvy president will be making at the scheduled inter-Korean talks: that the large-scale economic assistance former President Kim Dae-jung had made backfired among the people. "President Roh will try to make tougher talks this time than the talks in 2000 so as to differentiate himself from his predecessor," said a government official who refused to be named. "The South and North Koreas will continue to find tactical advantage in working together on specific economic policy issues." A so-called inter-Korean economic and cooperative formula is a tool designed for that purpose. The conservative opposition Grand National Party and its presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak have already addressed some similar policies toward North Korea as well.

On top of this, Roh will likely touch upon the peace accord of symbolically ending the 1953 armistice in one way or another, since Seoul, like Pyongyang, finds no reasons for developing nuclear weapons once peace and the regime's survival are secured.

For now, however, whether the economy-centered summit is enough to keep the devastated North Korean economy on board may determine whether Kim gets the seriousness of the summit with Roh, whose term ends in February 2008.
©2007 OhmyNews

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