The Bush administration continues to foster belligerency and the threat of war against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (north Korea). Yet, the people and governments of both north and south Korea are more determined than ever to achieve peace, reconciliation, and reunification by implementing the North-South Joint Declaration of June 15, 2000, which was concluded by President Kim Jong Il of the DPRK and President Kim Dae Jung of the Republic of Korea (ROK).

This mood of the Korean people is reflected in the success of the inter-Korean ministerial talks held April 27 to 29. The press release issued at the conclusion of the talks reaffirmed the basic spirit of the joint declaration and the agreement to implement it in its entirety, irrespective of changes in the situation either at home or abroad.

They reported the decision to proceed with the various projects of cooperation, which are already underway or planned, including an event to mark the reconnection of rail and road links and a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the Kaesong Industrial Zone. In May, they will also hold the fifth meeting on promoting economic cooperation. Other endeavors will include the furthering of tourism, sports, and steps toward the settlement of the issue of separated families and relatives.

To mark the third anniversary of the joint declaration, on June 15, they gave their support to holding a Grand Festival for National Reunification and plan to hold that event on a regular basis.

Following an extensive discussion in the inter-Korean talks, there was agreement to cooperate in efforts to settle the nuclear issue peacefully through dialogue. The DPRK has maintained that this issue can only be resolved between north Korea and the United States.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has threatened to seek UN sanctions against the DPRK. It said it would again propose that the UN Security Council adopt a statement denouncing north Korea over the nuclear issue. Washington is also seeking Japan’s cooperation for a maritime blockade against north Korea.

The Bush administration claims it is justified in these moves because the DPRK did not agree to dismantle its nuclear program before the talks between the two countries, which were hosted by the Chinese Government in Beijing in mid-April.

During the high-level talks, the U.S. delegation led by James A. Kelly, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, had asserted that north Korea claimed to have at least one nuclear weapon and that it had reprocessed 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods – a key step in producing nuclear weapons that could yield several more bombs within months.

However, Seoul officials said north Korean delegates have not confirmed that such a statement was ever actually made and, in fact, north Korea has declined to say whether it has such any nuclear device. It therefore remains a matter of hearsay by the U.S. delegates.

When Kelly announced this “revelation,” the talks collapsed.

North Korea says that all of this was intended to prevent any progress in the talks. It emphasized that the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula “is a product of the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK” and that “putting an end to the bilateral hostile relations is, therefore, a precondition for the success of the talks.”

It has been reported that the DPRK has also urged the adoption of a non-aggression pact. The Bush administration has rejected the proposal but indicated that some form of written security guarantee might be possible.

The DPRK points to the fact that the U.S. possesses the biggest number of nuclear weapons in the world and uses them to pose a constant threat to other sovereign countries.

Even though the talks have not borne fruit, the DPRK says it nevertheless continues to seek a peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, through negotiations.

“The DPRK will be left with no option but to do everything to defend itself unless the U.S. legally guarantees no use of arms including nukes against the DPRK,” according to a statement published by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

They assert that if the U.S. brings up the nuclear issue for discussion at the UN and seeks a resolution for sanctions against the DPRK, they will regard this as the green light to war and will take self-defensive measures, saying they are “ready for both dialogue and confrontation,” according to KCNA.

It is clear that nothing is more important than to prevent a pre-emptive war against north Korea, to resolve the confrontation peacefully and to achieve nuclear disarmament. It is critical for all of Korea, which lost four million people in the U.S-led Korean War. It is vital for peace in the region and in the world.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org

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