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Thursday, 26 October, 2000, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
Is the West moving too fast to embrace North Korea?
The UK Government has announced it is planning to normalise relations with North Korea.
This weekend the US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, makes the highest-level visit from a US official to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
Yet, North Korea remains a repressive regime with nuclear aspirations. It is classed by the US as a sponsor of terrorism.
Should the West be moving so fast to embrace North Korea? Should there be more strings attached? Or is it worth paying any price to bring the secretive country in from the cold?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
It is weird to see that suddenly the whole world is so impatient to get attention from North Korea. As far as I remember, the North was an undoubtedly serious military threat to the world a few months ago. Then, only in a month, it became a friendly nation represented by a polite and good mannered leader Kim Jong-il. It seems to me that people have forgotten the enormous pain and damage it has caused for the last half a century.
After seeing the terrible pictures of starving children in North Korea, while food aid is diverted to the army and the black market, it is awful to see the USA legitimising such a tyrant.
Madeleine Albright should not allow herself to be used by the North Korean propagandists in this way.
The time is right!
Closer union between North and South Korea is the key towards ending the regime in the North. There is a strong will among all Koreans for some form of reunification precisely because it will lead to the Westernisation of their economy.
StClair, Brit in USA
New ideas are born. A new world is being created.
If a terrorist learns that he can get money
so easily by threatening the world and its neighbours once
and then start acting friendly for a while, he will keep playing
this game forever.
Patrick Clancy, Republic of Ireland
The West will always do what will benefit itself. If normalising relations with North Korea will prove fruitful to the West then that is exactly what will be done.
It is a highly dangerous tactic to normalise the tie with North Korea so quickly. They are not showing any signs of changing their regime at all. What we are doing is just helping that government to survive a bit longer. We should not sacrifice the stability of the Far East.
Steve B, US
I have no doubt that Korea has witnessed a historical breakthrough over the last months. The task of reconciliation in Korea is immense now and the absence of conflict is not always enough. We have to go further and try to help bring N. Korea into the international community. However, N. Korea also has to play its part. I think the worlds most secretive state has finally come to realize that without diplomatic recongnition it will be hard to maintain its system and survive.
Hopefully the Communist government in North Korea will collapse and its people will be free. When that day comes we must still be very cautious. Re-unification of North and South should not happen overnight like it did with East and West Germany! The people of North Korea have been isolated from the rest of the world, and brainwashed all their lives.
Always love thy neighbour and forgive his sins, your love will show him the light.
David John, England
The sooner the West has dialogue with NK, the sooner the regime (which is a monster to its people) will fall.
I love living in South Korea because - due to my limited Korean - I can't read the ads. I could never argue that living in NK would be preferable, but there are remarkable similarities between some forms of "communist" brainwashing and our own. Why do we have such a miserable choice?
I do think we have to bring them in from the cold divide - but it must lead us to question our own ideas about what a good society is.
I was very surprised by this announcement. However, I think
we should trust and support the efforts of the South Korean
President Kim Dae-Jung. He as asked for other countries to
help bring the N Korean regime in from the cold, if we can
be part of this process, we should. He has taken many risks
for the sake of better relations, and if his 'sunshine policy' probably
represents the best chance for progress at this point.
I think it is too early to consider North Korea as a normal country since there are so many problems to be solved. Especially between Japan and North Korea, we have problem concerning kidnapping of Japanese citizens. North Korea has to tackle and solve problems before getting approval from the world.
The North Korean leadership is
paranoid, convinced that the rest
of the world is out to destroy them.
Unfortunately, as is illustrated by
your comments, the rest of the world
is out to destroy them! Dialogue and
normalisation of relations is the only
How can you trust Communists? Lies and deceit are a major part of their arsenal against freedom.
N. Korea along with all the other communist paradises (China, Cuba, Vietnam etc) should be treated in the same way as South Africa was as the pariahs they are.
Albert M, Germany
I haven't met a single South Korean who doesn't long for the unification of their people. Of course everybody should be wary of Kim Jong-il but I for one believe he must know there would be nothing to gain from treachery and deceit but the end of himself and his regime. We should do everything in our collective power to bring an end to the tragedy that is the current situation.
Chris, Ex-pat in South Korea
I was a border guard for North Korea in the 80's before I managed to escape into China. North Korea will never open up and anyone who pretends otherwise is mad. It is forbidden to gamble there and there are no poker machines. Even playing cards is forbidden. It could be the gambling capital of North Asia but it is run by a despot. Introduction of a state lottery would be a step in the right direction.
I think the west should embrace N. Korea as soon as possible. If North and South Korea unite there will be a new major player in the region. I think it will be in the west's best interest to ensure the friendship of this new player as early as they can.
Regarding the US's classification of North Korea as a sponsor of terrorism, it's worth noting how many ramifications there are to the chilly relations between these two countries. It is also worth noting that it is not just the Koreans or the Americans who have been paying the price of these strained relations.
We should always embrace a country's attempts to rejoin the world stage. However, it shouldn't be at any cost. We must consider Human Rights issues, not to mention the thousands who were tortured and brainwashed as 'political prisoners' at the hands of the North in the war.
Surely it is right to ease the tensions in the area? The alternative is the status quo. That is the North is isolated, with mass starvation, and two huge armies face each other over the most heavily fortified ground on earth. If we want to improve conditions for the average North Korean, surely we should do so in the most practical way? Turning our backs on North Korea will not achieve this.
Andrew Torrance, Wales, UK
Yes, we are moving too fast. Let's wait for some progress from their side - there's plenty of things that the DPRK leadership could do, such as allowing family reunions, stopping IRBM tests, agreeing to stop nuclear material and technology sales abroad, cutting drug and CITES-breaking smuggling by their diplomats, reducing their immense military presence on the border... need I go on?
Any efforts to aid in the democratising of a once cold-war
enemy of the West should be fully implemented. North Korea (NK)
has seen its share of famine, floods, etc., and are well aware
that its survival as a culture greatly depends on the assistance
of foreign governments.
Support from the UK and the US is nothing
more than a stamp of approval. And in a country just beginning to
learn that co-operation is key to acceptance, this stamp comes at a
very high cost: NK's national pride.
James Denning, UK
I think the west should be more inclusive than exclusive. Okay, some countries are under communism and some hard dictatorships, but by isolating them they will never change. So I think that opening links with countries, in this case North Korea, will cause changes happen. Of course, it'll take a generation for effects to really show.
If the West seriously believes in a moral evolutionary to globalised foreign policy, countries like North Korea must be more than artificially embraced - they must be given their proper place at the international political high table
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
I don't think we should have anything to do with them until they repair their international relations with other countries. I think we should pressure other countries to follow suit.
Ralph Simmons, United States
The short answer is 'no.' None of the changes being discussed or already announced are irreversible.
As long as North Korea is seen as a "rogue" by the US, it has every right to fear
an attack on itself so it will continue making weapons. The only solution that makes sense is dialogue.
I think the west has to move faster in dismantling the tension in this region as they are 90% responsible for the separation which leads to this suspicious looking between the North and South.
I think that will help democracy to shine. I am hoping that the UK Government will do the same thing for the people of Iraq because the embargoes did not work.
Ian Edwards, UK
I would be very cautious in normalising relations with N Korea. The place is like something out of George Orwell's 1984. However increasing contacts is the only way to eventually subvert the regime. As the people get to meet foreigners, get access to Western media etc the society will eventually implode like Eastern Europe.
Unfortunately, this type of sanctions and non-engagement plays into the hands of dictators and oppressive governments by enabling them to place the origin of the burdens that they impose on their peoples on the policies of foreign powers. This has been the case in Cuba, in Iraq and was the case in countries like Romania and the Eastern Bloc.
Britain, America, the EU and South Korea could do far more to bring democracy, freedom, and human rights to North Korea by dropping all restrictions on technology exports to North Korea, all investments into and all imports from North Korea.
The more business folks travelling there with laptops, mobile phones, attitudes of "can-do" and faces unravaged by starvation, the shorter the life-span of North Korea's authoritarian government.
Barry Macleod-Cullinane, Britain
If we go by the old saying - you can not teach an old dog new tricks, I would say we have to be careful about the repressive govt of NK. It will be hard for such hard-liners to change overnight, but when we consider the risk from the misuse of nuclear weapons, it will be irresponsible not to start a sort of dialogue with them.
Alan A, UK
Yes, it is.
This is a country that has mistrusted the west for decades. Now that relations may be normalising let's just extend the hand of friendship instead of chattering about it.
19 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
UK and North Korea forge ties
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