Reflections on Kedo

Joong Ang Daily
6/1/2007

The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, or KEDO, announced yesterday that the project to build light water reactors at Sinpo, North Korea, has been scrapped. The infiltration of a North Korean submarine into Gangneung, South Korea, in 1996 and the firing of a Daepodong missile in 1998 were all incidents that cast a shadow on the project. In particular, the admission in 2002 by North Korea that it was working on a nuclear program using enriched uranium was the final straw in the Bush administration’s decision to halt a project that it was already skeptical about. In response, the North withdrew from the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty in 2003 and went on to declare in 2005 that it possessed nuclear weapons. Such developments led to today’s situation.

The confrontation between North Korea and the United States does give us something to think about. While agreeing with us on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the North secretly hung on to developing nuclear weapons. In response, in 1994, we cooperated with the United States but were not even allowed into the negotiations yet we still agreed to cover 70 percent of the cost of the light water reactor project. That may have been inevitable, because South Korea was the country most threatened. Nevertheless, it is debatable whether the negotiations in which Seoul paid the bills but had no say in the matter were the best method. This is an issue that the government needs to ponder seriously.

It has also become clear that the changes in U.S. foreign policy with a new administration are too much for us to deal with. Even though we threw away $1.1 billion, a solution to the North Korean nuclear problem seems to be even further away, Washington continues to cling stubbornly to its new policies.

So the administration should think about what it has learned from this experience and how it should use that knowledge. One good example is the announcement by Seoul last year that it would provide 2 million kilowatts of electricity to the North even before figuring out what the North’s answer would be.

The announcement was billed as an “important proposal,” but the North has turned a blind eye to it and says it wants a light water reactor. With an astronomical amount of tax money already having disappeared, isn’t offering to provide electricity to the North another burden? Whether it’s North Korea or the United States, others have an ability to think strategically and look into their opponents’ minds. Why not us?

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