Letter: Threats to North Korea

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Sir: Why is North Korea not doing what it's told by the International Atomic Energy Authority in Vienna and by the United States? Why is the US so aroused? Is the future of world peace dreadfully threatened?

Your leading article 'Carrots, sticks and North Korea' (7 June) presents one side of the picture. But there is another (which the Russians, the Chinese, the Japanese, even the South Koreans, are well aware of) that explains why the United Nations Security Council is likely not to approve immediate sanctions against North Korea.

You quote President Clinton as saying 'We want them to become part of our world': indeed. But North Korea happens not to want to be become part of President Clinton's world. That world, with its vast (including nuclear) deployments and exercises and scenarios, has been surrounding the North Koreans ever since the 1953 armistice. The collapse of the Soviet Union left them feeling very naked to threats and pressures which did not cease with the 'end of the Cold War', and their responded with their announcement of withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). (According to the North Koreans, the present stalemate arises from the US not fulfilling its part of the package agreement the two countries reached a year ago, at which North Korea announced its part- withdrawal from the NPT. The 'carrots', they claim, are put off indefinitely, and ever bigger 'sticks' waved at them.)

In fact, the real danger for the international security system, such as it is, lies in the possibility that the US, its proposals for sanctions rejected by the Security Council, might try to mount them regardless, opting out of the UN system because it doesn't get its way. This prospect is far more serious than the threat posed to world peace by North Korea's uncertain nuclear efforts.

Boris Yeltsin's proposal for a meeting of neighbour states on 'security and the non-nuclear status of the Korean peninsula', to be attended by Russia, both the Korean states, the US, China and Japan, might provide a way out

of what is an increasingly nasty corner.

Yours etc,


London, W2

8 June