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☞ Issue 96
글씨크기 크게 글씨크기 작게 기사 메일전송 기사 출력
President-elect Lee to keep Gaeseung and Mt. Geumgang projects going

Denuclearization to be accomplished via closer ties with Washington and Tokyo

관리자 (2008/02/05 00:58)  

President-elect Lee Myung-bak clearly stated his political priories when he unveiled his policies on North Korea and foreign affairs and security on February 1.

Lee said, “My goal is to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” During an interview with reporters from Korea, the United States and Japan on January 1, Lee drew attention by using toned-down expressions such as “progress in North Korean nuclear programs” and “nuclear issue,” rather than “scrapping the North’s nuclear programs,” indicating that he is figuring out how to achieve the strategic goal of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs.

With respect to foreign affairs and inter-Korean relations, Lee said, “If relations with the United States and Japan improve, South-North relations will improve as well. This is a fundamental change in my way of thinking. I am going to tell North Korea about this.” He is apparently aiming to accomplish the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs by first restoring relations between Seoul and Washington and improving ties between Seoul and Tokyo, and then concentrating on strengthening relations among all three.

Lee also made it clear that he will raise the issue of North Korea’s nuclear programs when he meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. He remarked that if meetings with Kim facilitate the dismantlement process and the opening of the reclusive nation, he will meet Kim several times. “We should persuade Kim that abandoning North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs will be helpful for maintaining the regime and recovering the economy.”

In connection with the implementation of the agreement reached by the two Koreas during the October 2-4 inter-Korean summit with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Lee suggested a set of principles for future inter-Korean economic cooperation. Among them are: progress in the North’s nuclear weapons programs, economic feasibility, South Korea’s ability to take on the financial burden of unifying with North Korea and national consensus on how best to proceed with the next stage of the denuclearization process. He plans to review the North Korea policy by taking these four aspects into consideration. He said that he was not denying the validity of the existing agreement, but emphasized that he will make a choice about what to do first.

Lee said that tours to Mount Geumgang, which have been in operation for about 10 years, will be maintained, and the development of Gaeseong (Kaesong) Industrial Complex will continue. However he said that it was not the time to talk about other inter-Korean economic cooperation projects concretely. This apparently means he will be flexible about related matters according to changes in the political climate. However Lee’s attitude could stir controversy, because North Korea has repeatedly emphasized the thorough implementation of the joint declaration made at the October summit.

In the meantime, Lee wants to consider renegotiating the timeline for transfer of wartime operational control from Washington to Seoul, if there are no changes in inter-Korean relations, the North Korean nuclear issue and the idea of putting a peace agreement in place by 2012. The agreement between South Korea and the United States sets the deadline for the transfer wartime operational control by 2012, a date which the United States has indicated is not open for renegotiation.
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