U.S. Expert Casts Doubt on 'Grand Bargain' for N.Korea

      October 09, 2009 12:08

      Joel Wit

      The "grand bargain" proposed by President Lee Myung-bak to induce North Korea to relinquish its nuclear weapon program in return for money will not solve the problem, argues Joel Wit, a senior research scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University.

      Wit, who worked on North Korean affairs in the U.S. State Department during the Bill Clinton Administration, was speaking at a seminar titled "Obama and North Korea: Next Steps" at Columbia University on Wednesday, where he presented a paper on "U.S. Strategy toward North Korea: Rebuilding Dialogue and Engagement." He said the "grand bargain" idea was dead on arrival, and buy-out deals like those offered on Wall Street cannot solve the North Korean nuclear issue.

      He said denuclearization of North Korea can be achieved only through fundamental transformation of relationships, not through simple monetary transactions. Setting up offices that will enhance communication and increase contacts between North Korea and the U.S. and a joint declaration of peace by both Koreas are some of the examples.

      Commenting on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's remark that he is willing to return to "multilateral talks including six-party talks," Wit said the form does not matter, and improvements in North Korea's relationship with South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. should go hand in hand. Wit was also pessimistic about sanctions against the North, saying they have not worked so far and are unlikely to work now.

      He urged the countries involved to realize that this is the only chance to solve the matter and seek solutions in continued dialogue. The U.S. government should seize the opportunity while Kim is still powerful and North Korea has not yet expanded its nuclear weapon arsenal while the power of Kim's successor is still weak.

      Asked if U.S. President Barack Obama's visits to South Korea, Japan and China scheduled in November will bring progress, Wit said the influence of summits as face-to-face meeting of heads of states should not be underestimated, as they are totally different from what is being done at the bureaucratic level.

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