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North Korea Has No Intention of Giving Up Nukes

In the days right after North Korea signed an agreement that would supposedly require its nuclear disarmament, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, made clear that he has no intention of giving up those weapons.

The consequences of that stance are likely to be far reaching. Politically, Presidents George W. Bush of the US and Roh Moo Hyun of South Korea, both having labeled the agreement a step toward getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear arms, will most likely be shown to have been naïve or, worse, deceptive.

Then, no political leaders anywhere appear to have begun figuring out what they will do when forced to accept North Korea into that small circle of nations with nuclear arms, which will change the dynamics in the balance of power in Asia.

Nor has anyone confronted the crack that a nuclear North Korea will cause in the nuclear non-proliferation regime that has stood for four decades, even though weakened in recent years when India and Pakistan went nuclear. In particular, the example of North Korea will undoubtedly complicate negotiations with Iran on a similar nuclear issue.

The agreement that North Korea signed in Beijing in what is known as the Six Party talks with China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the US on Feb. 13 says Pyongyang "will shut down and seal for the purpose of eventual abandonment" its nuclear facilities and will provide the other five with "a list of all its nuclear programs."

On that same day, however, the North Koreans, through their official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), said Pyongyang had agreed only to a "temporary suspension of the operation of its nuclear facilities." Further, North Korea ignored most of the other provisions of the agreement, such as denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

That began a steady drum roll of belligerent statements asserting Pyongyang's right and need for nuclear arms. An official newspaper, Rodong Shinmun, charged that the US sought to dominate Asia "through preemptive nuclear attack."

KCNA said North Korea's "status of a full-fledged nuclear weapons state successfully realized the long-cherished desire of the Korean nation to have matchless national power." In another dispatch, KCNA said that "Kim Jong Il punctured the arrogance of the US imperialists with a powerful nuclear deterrent."

On Kim Jong Il's birthday, a national holiday on Feb. 16, a Communist Party committee lauded him: "You have turned the homeland of Juche (Self-reliance) into a power having nuclear deterrent for self-defense and made the Korean nation emerge a nuclear weapons nation which no force can ever provoke."

At a banquet that evening, which was aired by the Korean Central Broadcasting Station, the president of the Supreme People's Assembly, Kim Yong Nam, toasted Kim Jong Il for, among other things, for turning North Korea into "a military power that even possesses a self-defensive nuclear deterrent."

Still more: The North Koreans fell back on the time warn argument -- the Americans made us do it. Using North Korea's proper name, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, KCNA asserted: "US policy compelled the DPRK to have access to nuclear deterrence for self-defense."

Some observers question the value of statements from Communist officials. Experience has shown, however, that Communist leaders, when addressing their home audiences as in this case, tell the public what they really want their people to believe.

A former foreign minister of South Korea, Han Sung Joo, has published an assessment of the reasons the North Koreans want nuclear arms. Writing in Time magazine, Han said:

* "Nuclear status is a political trophy for Kim Jong Il."

* "The nuclear program is intended to deter a possible external attack."

* "North Korea's nuclear capability gives it an upper hand in relation to the South."

* "The nuclear program is seen as a key to survival-a way to block and prevent any outside attempts at regime change."

* "Nuclear weapons represent a powerful bargaining tool."

Han was politically correct in contending that this agreement was "better than no deal at all," which kept him reasonably in line with his government's position. He went on, however, to demolish any thought that Kim Jong Il will move toward abandoning his nuclear arms.

Instead, he points to "what North Korea sees as compelling motives to possess nuclear weapons." He doubts that Kim Jong Il's regime will "agree to completely rid itself of nuclear equipment and material," including the 8 to 12 nuclear warheads it is thought to have already produced.