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2009年5月27日 (水)


--The Asahi Shimbun, May 26(IHT/Asahi: May 27,2009)
EDITORIAL: Pyongyang's nuke test

North Korea conducted a "successful" underground nuclear test Monday, according to the reclusive dictatorship's official Korean Central News Agency. The blast generated seismic tremors that were detected in various countries.

There are still many unknowns, including the scale of the blast. But one thing is certain: North Korea has again acted in defiance of a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the country's October 2006 nuclear test.

North Korea's action is quite undesirable not only for Japan's security, but also for global peace and security.

At the request of Japan and other nations, the Security Council held an emergency meeting on Monday afternoon (local time) to discuss countermeasures. The United Nations and other international organs for nuclear nonproliferation are now being tested for their true worth.

Repeated outrage

"Again?" is our exasperated reaction.

Let us go over what North Korea has been up to since its previous nuclear test of two and a half years ago. The dictatorship has created crises by test-launching ballistic missiles, not to mention the two nuclear tests to date.

Nothing has changed at all in Pyongyang's classic pattern of blackmailing the international community to squeeze out concessions. Its priority has always been to protect and maintain its political system in defiance of common decency in the international community.

In reaction to the 2006 nuclear test, the U.S. administration of George W. Bush made a significant switch in North Korea policy to engage the latter in dialogue. The Bush administration practically bent over backward in negotiations, hoping the concessions it offered would encourage Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programs.

Monday's nuclear test was proof of how Pyongyang took advantage of Washington's policy switch after October 2006.

In the days ahead, we may witness a deepening of skepticism about the usefulness of six-party talks that were once hopefully thought to be an important apparatus for getting North Korea to denuclearize itself.

But no matter how grave a threat North Korea has become to the world, it is the solid consensus among the United States, China, Japan and all other nations concerned that it is not realistic to try to resolve the problem by military force. Since this is the case, the international community needs to act with collective wisdom and patience.
This means keeping up every effort, through diplomacy, to induce a fundamental policy change on North Korea's part.

But what exactly was Pyongyang's purpose in going ahead with its second nuclear test on this occasion?

One purpose, we presume, was to beef up its nuclear technology and show off the results to the world in hopes of enhancing the nation's status as a fully fledged nuclear-armed power.

And to finally end the Korean War and start normalizing relations with the United States, it has been North Korea's strategy for years to bring the United States to the negotiating table for nuclear talks.

Grave challenge to NPT regime

Four months have passed since the inauguration of the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama in January. But in Pyongyang's perception, none of the administration's key officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, has shown any special zeal for bilateral negotiations.
Concerning nuclear issues, the Obama administration has been devoted to negotiations with Russia and the problems with Iran, while regional conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan are taking up much of Washington's foreign policy efforts. We believe this situation must be frustrating and galling for the North Korean leadership.

Before Monday's nuclear test, Pyongyang outraged the United States, Japan and other members of the international community by test-firing what was believed to be a long-range ballistic missile. The fact that Pyongyang resorted to its habitual brinkmanship twice in less than two months would suggest that something must be going on within the regime.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is obviously not in the best of health, and no optimism is warranted about the future of the "Kim dynasty." Some pundits say that, in order to prepare for a smooth transition of power to his successor, Kim is pursuing hard-line policies to shore up his regime and is at the same time trying to speed up negotiations with Washington.

North Korea's repeated nuclear tests not only threaten the region's security today, but also put the future of the human race at risk. Pyongyang's conduct may well serve to further erode the already shaky framework of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

On the day of Pyongyang's missile launch in April, Obama called for a nuclear-free world in his historic address in Prague. At that time, it appeared that nuclear nonproliferation was gaining momentum in anticipation of the 2010 NPT review conference.

But Pyongyang has thrown cold water on this global endeavor with its second nuclear test. We cannot condemn this act vehemently enough.

North Korea obviously thinks it can do anything it wants. In mid-April, Pyongyang ordered U.S. nuclear experts and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, who were participating in the dismantling of the Yongbyon nuclear facility, out of the country.

China and Russia were among the nations that supported the U.N. Security Council's resolution of 2006, which imposed sanctions on North Korea, and demanded that Pyongyang never conduct a nuclear test again. China chairs the six-nation talks on North Korean issues. We are deeply disappointed with China for failing to stop North Korea's reckless deed this time.

Japan must not sit idle

China has its own foreign policy agenda vis-a-vis North Korea. In Beijing's thinking, taking too tough a stand against Pyongyang will drive the country further into isolation, which will not be in the interest of China or the international community from the standpoint of global security.

While we can appreciate this reasoning, we would still like China to play a leading role in negotiations at the U.N. Security Council. China should lead the council to issue a strong message to North Korea by urging the international community to completely implement sanctions under the 2006 resolution and adopting additional measures.

For the Obama administration, Monday's nuclear test was an unwelcome "pre-emptive strike" from Pyongyang before substantive dialogue could begin. In the days ahead, Obama's North Korea policy may come under harsher criticism at home.

But in view of the larger goal of saving the world from the terror of nuclear proliferation and getting a reclusive dictatorship to open up to the rest of the world, North Korea is one of the biggest challenges Obama must tackle successfully. Ultimately, no other country is better positioned than the United States to urge North Korea to change.

China's role is also clear. China must work together with the United States and determine what sort of long-range security setup is best suited for East Asia. With the current unraveling of the global economy, strategic cooperation between the United States and China has grown more important than ever. And what better use could there be for such cooperation than in bringing stability to the Korean Peninsula?

As a victim of nuclear attacks in 1945, Japan is committed to making the world nuclear-free. Japan can only recognize every North Korean nuclear test as a grave threat.

The yet-unsolved abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents are also a lingering problem. Realistically, there is unfortunately little that Tokyo can achieve by negotiating directly with Pyongyang.

But the least Japan can do is to keep encouraging the United States and China to cooperate with each other. At the same time, Japan should work together with South Korea to actively support efforts that will help to secure peace in the region.


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