Magazine article Newsweek International

'They Want to Up the Ante'

Magazine article Newsweek International

'They Want to Up the Ante'

Article excerpt

South Korea's new President Roh Moo Hyun owes his election victory in large measure to young voters who are more adamantly anti-American than their parents' generation. But, to soothe tensions with Washington and to make up for the relative inexperience of his inner circle, Roh recently tapped former foreign minister Han Seung Joo as his ambassador to the United States. A veteran of the negotiations that resolved the 1994 nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, Han spoke last week with NEWSWEEK's George Wehrfritz about the upcoming talks between America, China, and the North. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: How serious is North Korea's latest announcement that it is in the final stage of reprocessing spent fuel rods?

HAN: North Korea is trying to show that they are not being cowed by the United States. The statement is ambiguous enough to require more analysis. I think this should not be a reason to cancel the forthcoming talks.

Why do you think North Korea made that announcement at this critical time?

They obviously wanted to present their own version of the Beijing talks, which they would like to construe as two-party, rather than multilateral, talks. They want to up the ante even before the conference.

In recent speeches you've portrayed the current nuclear crisis as more dangerous than the one that occurred in 1993-94. Do you still think that's true?

It's much more complex and dangerous. There is greater incentive on the part of North Korea to go ahead with their nuclear program, and greater urgency and compulsion on the part of the United States to stop it. …

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