News Analysis; NK Leader's Absence in UN -- A Calculated Action

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), September 7, 2000 | Go to article overview

News Analysis; NK Leader's Absence in UN -- A Calculated Action


North Korea's nominal head of state Kim Yong-nam, blaming a ``rude search'' by U.S. airline security officials, cancelled his trip to the U.N. Millennium Summit, in what has come as another surprising twist in the U.S.-North Korea ties, which also provides a handful of lessons to Washington, in ``taming the shrew.''

Initially, Seoul officials fear that the incident might hurt the U.S.-North Korea ties and make the international community consolidate their impression of North Korea as an ``unpredictable'' state, further likely to erod

the foundation of the reconciliation mood created by the historic June inter-Korean summit.

``As North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su-hon said in a press conference that the incident would not affect relations between South and North Korea, we believe that inter-Korean ties will remain unaffected. However, we are worried that the international community might form a bad impression about North Korea,'' a Foreign Affairs-Trade Ministry official said.

In addition to his scheduled meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, Kim Yong-nam was set to hold bilateral talks with, among others, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The incident took place on Monday when the North Korean leader and his entourage were about to board an American Airlines plane from Frankfurt to New York.

First, it is noteworthy to pay attention to Vice Minister Choe's remarks to reporters in Frankfurt. He said, ``The U.S. air security officials insisted that according to instructions from their superiors, everyone from the eight countries, including North Korea labelled as `rogue' states, would absolutely not be allowed to go on board without passing through the above-mentioned search.''

He further insisted that this incident is an ``intentional and premeditated plot'' by the U.S. administration, calling for an official apology.

By saying so, the North Korean official, apparently on the instruction from Pyongyang, is increasing pressure on the Washington government to lift stiff economic sanctions against it.

In fact, the intensive search was prompted by U.S. aviation regulations which oblige security officers to launch strict checks on citizens of any count y branded as a state sponsor of terrorism. However, the regulations are not subject to diplomats.

Although the North Korean decision to cancel Kim's trip to New York seemed to have been hastily reached, it is highly likely that this decision may

have come from shrewd political calculations by seasoned strategists in Pyongyang, as the lifting of U.S. economic sanctions is one of North Korea's top priority foreign policy objectives.

North Korea is one of seven countries branded by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism. Under U.S. laws, that bars all but humanitarian aid to Pyongyang and rules out bank loans from major international financial organizations.

Recently, the two countries held negotiations on dropping North Korea from the list, but failed to narrow their differences over a few issues. At present, one of the key remaining issue is how to deal with the Japanese Red Army Faction members who have been staying in North Korea after participating in the hijacking of a Japanese Airlines flight to North Korea in 1970. …

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