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 Tuesday, 7 January, 2003, 17:40 GMT
Analysis: South Korean pressure on US
A North Korean soldier at a border watchtower
North Korea's isolation makes diplomacy difficult

South Korea is putting pressure on the United States to negotiate with North Korea over its nuclear programme.

South Korea would like the United States to be more flexible. The South sees gains from negotiations and none from confrontations.

It is only too aware of the North Korean guns, possibly armed with chemical weapons, which are in range of its own capital Seoul.

The issue is being raised in Washington on Tuesday in a meeting of the United States, South Korea and Japan in the Trilateral Co-ordination and Oversight group, which seeks a common approach to North Korea.

South Korean proposal

The South's proposal is reportedly that the North would give up its nuclear weapons ambitions in exchange for a promise by the United States to resume shipments of fuel oil which is supposed to tide North Korea over until its energy problems are solved.

There might also be a pledge from the United States not to attack North Korea.

So far, Washington is sticking to its position that the North has to move first

This would fall short of the non-aggression pact which North Korea is demanding, but it might meet the need of the North Koreans for a re-assurance on their future.

This might be a step too far for the United States in its present mood.

And some reports say that Washington has already rejected it, sticking to its position that the North has to move first.

President Bush said: "We expect people to keep their word", a reference to the agreement in 1994 under which the North agreed to stop developing a nuclear bomb in exchange for the construction of two civilian nuclear reactors by foreign contractors.

The hawks in the Bush administration are very different animals from those who negotiated the '94 agreements

Dr Keith Howard
According to Dr Keith Howard, lecturer in Korean Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, the North Koreans misjudged the new American administration.

"The hawks in the Bush administration are very different animals from those (in the Clinton administration) who negotiated the '94 agreements ", Dr Howard said "They don't feel they need to compromise".

At the same time, Washington clearly does not want this to become a major crisis, let alone a war, at a time when war is possible, probably even, against Iraq.

Mr Bush has emphasised that he has no intention of attacking North Korea. "I believe it will be resolved peacefully", he said.

The United States is content to .... have this issue go into the Security Council which will multilaterise the confrontation and turn it into the world against North Korea

Marcus Noland

According to Marcus Noland of the International Institute for Economics in Washington, Mr Bush was aiming to reassure the South Koreans with this remark.

The world versus North Korea

Marcus Noland also thinks that Washington is willing to let the problem be dealt with internationally for the moment: "The United States is content to temporise... and ultimately have this issue go into the Security Council which will multilaterise the confrontation and turn it into the world against North Korea".

The expectation is that the United States will shift a little but not a lot.

The expectation is that the United States will shift a little but not a lot. One official is quoted as saying that there will be "subtleties in the evolution of our position."

Meanwhile, the experts on Korea are not that surprised by the latest propaganda blast from North Korea, warning that sanctions would mean war.

"This is what North Korea does", said Dr Howard, "It ratchets up the tension through its media."

Sanctions are a possibility because the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose monitors have been ordered out of North Korea, has given the North a final chance to comply with the 1994 agreement.

If it does not, the issue might be passed to the Security Council.


Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

03 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
02 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
01 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
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