North Korea

The disarming truth - peace brings prosperity

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2007, 12:00am


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North Korea's transformation from a secretive, battle-ready nation to a responsible member of the wider world has begun. With on-the-ground work now under way to disable its nuclear facilities, its partners for peace must make every effort to help it achieve economic and political integration.

Only the initial steps of the process have been negotiated, and complications may lie ahead. But there is no room for scepticism: through denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, a trail can be blazed that can lead to peace and stability for the region.

As the five nations that have been negotiating with North Korea for the past four years well know, this is easier said than done. The suspicions and fears that led to the restarting in 2002 of a nuclear programme that had been dormant for eight years, culminating in the testing of an atomic device 13 months ago, reveal a resourceful and determined nation.

Talks spearheaded by China and with the United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia also at the table made a breakthrough in January. Six months later, North Korea took its first step by shutting down its plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon.

With US and North Korean workers yesterday taking the first concrete measures to rid the nation of its nuclear capabilities, disabling the programme is no longer merely a hope. Next, the North must live up to its pledge to come clean on all its nuclear programmes so that they, too, can be dismantled.

For the nations involved, the price is not high. North Korea will get energy aid and diplomatic concessions which, in the short term, will end the country's nuclear threat and ultimately will open the way for a negotiated end to the Korean war.

Much needs to be done before then. Key to such an outcome are pledges by the US, South Korea and Japan to ensure the North's security, the right of its leadership to rule and of help with its economic development.

The peaceful and prosperous rise of China and Vietnam are ample evidence of the benefits of such an approach.