More than 50 world leaders, including President Obama, are set to
arrive in Seoul to discuss prevention of nuclear terrorism, but
Pyongyang's plans for a new missile test have shifted the
North Korea's plan to launch a long-range rocket next month revs
up the confrontation on the Korean peninsula just as South Korea is
about to welcome more than 50 global leaders here to come up with an
agenda for combating nuclear terrorism.
In the first substantive response to the North Korean plan, South
Korea's President Lee Myung-bak has indicated he will impress upon
President Obama the South's desire to update a 32-year-old agreement
with the US that limits South Korean missiles to a range of 300
"We need an appropriate range," Mr. Lee has been telling
journalists here. "Realities and circumstances have changed."
Lee is expected to make his plea for revision of the missile deal
when he sees Mr. Obama on Sunday after the US president gets back
from a quick visit to the demilitarized zone that has divided the
Korean peninsula since the end of the Korean War.
The shock of North Korea's announcement of a missile test gives
fresh significance to a "national security summit" in which the
leaders on Monday and Tuesday will discuss a wide range of measures
to keep nuclear devices from falling into the hands of terrorists.
South Korea's foreign minister, Kim Sung-hwan, today branded the
North Korean plan to launch a rocket "a grave provocation" intended
to test "a vehicle with nuclear weapons." Mr. Kim bristled, however,
when asked about a threat by the North to view any mention of North
Korea at the summit as "a declaration of war."
"Individual issues will not be discussed at the nuclear summit,"
he said. "I do not know why they keep saying that." Rather, he said,
"This is a peace summit," dedicated to coming out with rules to keep
terrorists from acquiring and using nuclear weapons.
Containment, not denuclearization
North Korea's plan comes as a bitter disappointment, considering
that US nuclear envoy Glyn Davies and North Korea's envoy Kim Kye-
gwan came up with a deal on Feb. 29 that was widely described as "a
breakthrough." Mr. Kim said North Korea would observe a moratorium
on nuclear and missile tests while Mr. Davies said the US would
provide 240,000 tons of food aid.
"So what is Pyongyang up to?" asks Ralph Cossa, who runs the
Pacific forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies
in Honolulu. "The North Koreans pulled the rug out from everyone" at
a time when it appeared "safe to go back to six-party talks," last
held in December 2008, on the North's nuclear program, Mr. Cossa
Indeed, the specter of the North Korean missile test hangs heavy
over the summit during which leaders are certain to mull the nuclear
ambitions of both North Korea and Iran "on the sidelines," over
meals, in quiet sessions in hotel rooms - and in mini-summits with
In symposiums and seminars staged here all week, analysts have
focused on the shock of the North Korean rocket launch rather than
on nuclear terrorism.
Everyone appears to agree that North Korea's real aim is to test
an advanced version of the same long-range Taepodong missile that it
has test-fired on two previous occasions, in August 1998 and again
in April 2009. …