Talks could end N. Korean crisis peacefully, part II

History has proven that one atomic bomb could nearly eliminate the total population of Rockford. On Aug. 6, 1945, 140,000 people were killed when the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, 70,000 people perished when the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan.

Fears of the world’s’ third-ever nuclear attack arose shortly after the U.S. State Department announced on Oct. 17, 2002, that North Korea had admitted to pursuing secret nuclear arms development. That development violated the 1994 Agreed Framework treaty between the U.S. and North Korea.

On Aug. 27-29, six countries—North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia—met in Beijing, China to try to find a peaceful resolution to the growing nuclear crisis brought about by North Korea’s violation. The six-country summit ended with each country committed to more talks.

China, Russia, Japan and South Korea were dedicated to adjusting the demand from North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, for a nonaggression pact from the U.S., and for humanitarian assistance versus the United States’ request for an immediate suspension of North Korea’s nuclear program.

North Korea proposed abandoning its nuclear programs, admitting inspectors, dismantling nuclear arsenals and halting missile test-firing along with suspending missile exports in exchange for a legally binding nonaggression treaty from the U.S. and economic aid. The U.S. rebuffed the request and said diplomatic ties would be considered only if North Korea gave up its nuclear program first.

According to experts, North Korea felt isolated during the talks when the other five countries pressured North Korea to abandon its nuclear development. Therefore, during the meeting, North Korea warned it could test a nuclear weapon, and later dismissed the dialogue as “useless and harmful,” because the U.S. didn’t make concessions by furnishing more viable negotiations.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi, chief delegate to the talks, said Sept. 1 that the U.S. policy on North Korea was the biggest obstacle in settling the prolonged nuclear tension. Russia also accentuated a compromise from the United States.

The New York Times on Sept. 5 reported President George W. Bush was willing to take a range of steps from a gradual easing of sanctions to an eventual peace treaty. The paper said Bush was making a crucial shift in strategy.

The Times also said Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, stressed that any major benefits to North Korea would come only after North Korea could no longer pose a nuclear threat or rebuild its nuclear capacity.

The South Korean newspaper Hankyure analyzed this situation on Sept. 8 and said that the United States might modify its existing rigid stance on North Korea, but the U.S. will still stick to the principle that it will not resolve the problem by offering everything North Korea demands.

A second round of nuclear talks is likely in November, according to a Beijing source. Japan and South Korea are urging North Korea not to take provocative actions with China and Russia compelling the U.S. to entice North Korea.

The second part of this series on the North Korean nuclear crisis focuses on North Korea’s aspiration for nuclear weapons and the United States’ deployment of nuclear weapons in South Korea.

Nuclear weapons as a bargaining tool

The United States placed tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea in 1957 because North Korea violated section 13 D of the cease-fire treaty in 1953, which prevented North and South Korea from bringing in new arms. North Korea imported conventional weapons such as armored cars and helicopters from the Soviet Union before and after the Korean War.

Chang-Gul Heo, 54, a North Korean refugee, mentioned: “North Korea feared of the United States’ nuclear weapons and constructed underground fortress against nuclear attacks for decades all over the country.”

According to Foreign Relations, published by the U.S. State Department, the United States troops had practiced nuclear war exercises since 1958 by deploying the “Honest John” missile unit and the nuclear artillery Pentomic division in South Korea.

North Korea began to seek nuclear weapons to confront the United States’ nuclear threat. North Korea executed semi-wartime mobilized exercises when the “Team Spirit” exercise, including tactical nuclear attacks, was conducted by the United States and South Korea. The team spirit exercise started in 1976 after two American officers were killed by North Korean troops in a Joint Security Area.

The United States deterred North Korea excessively, according to Salig S. Harrison, author of Korea End Game.

Seo-won Kim, an investigator of South Korean Civil Rights Institute, said, “The United States has deployed nearly 1,720 tactical nuclear weapons until they are removed from South Korea in 1991,” in the 23rd Change of Situation.

On Dec. 31, 1991, both North and South Korea declared the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and the former Bush administration withdrew tactical nuclear arms from South Korea. After this withdrawal, North Korea started to be seen as the principal offender in the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula, according to Jae-Joong Kim, a journalist at monthly magazine MAL (

However, in an exclusive report in its September 1992 issue, MAL magazine revealed a large-scale concentration of U.S. tactical nuclear arms on Somo island in southeastern South Korea.

Chalmers A. Johnson, a former UCLA professor, said in the documentary The Korean peninsula and nuclear issue on MBC television network in South Korea: “North Korea needed nuclear arms to guarantee their own security from any kind of attack and to use as a bargaining tool in negotiation.”

The nuclear arms also brought the regime a sense of self-confidence and stability.

Yongbyon nuclear complex

In a northern province of North Korea, the Yongbyon nuclear complex was constructed in 1962. The Soviet Union provided the IRT-2000 nuclear reactor for study, and North Korean students were educated as nuclear specialists beginning in the mid-1960s.

Yongbyon facilities underwent significant expansion in the 1980s with the construction of a 5-megawatt nuclear reactor, a nuclear fuel production plant, and a reprocessing plant where plutonium could be extracted from spent fuel rods for use in nuclear weapons.

“Nuclear weapons plans began to overcome the inferiority to South Korea’s, concerning the difference of national power,” said Yoon-Hawn Ko, professor of North Korea studies at Dong Kook University in South Korea. Ko mentioned remarkable differentials of national power between the South and North had been shown from the 1970s. South Korean conventional weapons became superior to North Korea’s starting in the late 1980s.

In the 1980s, Kim Jung-Il as the hereditary successor accelerated the nuclear arms program as a substitute for his father’s charisma, according to the MBC documentary Jung Il Kim and nuclear development. As a military dictator, Kim Il-Sung used his charisma to stabilize the regime and to control citizens. In the documentary, Dae-Ho Kim, a North Korean refugee, said: “The Nuclear unit was established under Jung Il Kim’s directions in 1984. He wanted to impress military control.”

North Korea joined the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1974 and the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1985. However, the 5-megawatt nuclear reactor was operating at Yongbyon nuclear complex in 1986.

The crisis was underway.

The third part of this series will examine the Bush administration’s stance on North Korea and the Clinton administration’s handling of the situation.

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