Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Arms Plan Puts Pressure on North Korea

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Arms Plan Puts Pressure on North Korea

Article excerpt

THE United States plan to banish its tactical nuclear weapons worldwide may be handing North Korea both a military advantage and a political defeat.

The Communist-run regime in the north has long contended that the US deploys nuclear weapons in South Korea. But the North has also insisted upon their removal before it would accept any international inspection of its nuclear facilities, which the US believes will be able to produce a nuclear bomb by the mid-1990s.

President Bush, in making his surprise announcement, has in effect called the north's bluff. Withdrawal of any alleged US nuclear weapons will now add pressure on the north to open up to inspection. Pyongyang signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1985, but refuses to sign the related accord on outside scrutiny of nuclear plants.

"This announcement will deprive North Korea of any pretext to delay signing the safeguards," said Taizo Watanabe, a Japanese government spokesman.

A second possible spinoff of the US plan would be to push along peace talks between North and South Korea. Those talks, which began in 1990, have stalled on the condition of a possible security pact between the two nations.

Without such a pact, the Korean peninsula could remain a stubborn remnant of a military standoff from the cold war, and a potential nuclear flashpoint.

South Korean President Roh Tae Woo ordered his Cabinet Oct. 1 to draft a "joint arms-reduction plan" to be proposed to the north at the next round of prime ministerial talks, which are slated for Oct. 22-24. The plan would include "confidence-building" measures, such as mutual notification of troop exercises and other military information.

"North Korea may surprise us all and agree to most of the south's proposed draft for a security treaty," said Kim Kyung Won, the former South Korean ambassador to the US and now president of a Seoul think tank, the Institute of Social Sciences. The north recently submitted to one of the south's demands and agreed to join the United Nations under a separate membership last month.

In recent months, a number of American and South Korean scholars have suggested that the US declare that it had no land-based nuclear weapons in the South, since such weapons are considered by many no longer to be necessary. …

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