Chips Worth Bargaining For

Last week, North and South Korea announced that they had "agreed to actively cooperate to resolve [the crisis regarding the North's nuclear program] peacefully." What exactly does that mean? Nothing. As Reuters noted, Pyongyang made no binding promises. That's because North Korea doesn't consider South Korea to be its bargaining partner. It only wants to deal with the United States. And the answer in resolving this crisis will have to come between North Korea and the United States. The real question is: What are we willing to demand of the North Koreans in exchange for our help? Up to this moment, the North Koreans have been doing all the demanding. But we need to understand that Pyongyang's nuclear program is, as an unofficial spokesman for North Korea put it, a "bargaining chip." Dr. Kim Myong Chol told the Singapore Straits Times that his country's nuclear ambitions are designed to "[bully] America to the negotiating table, to come to a peace agreement with North Korea on North Korea's terms . . . " North Korea's "terms" include "exchanging monitored renunciation of nuclear weaponry," which it had agreed to years ago and then renounced, "for a U.S. commitment of military 'non-aggression'" and increased economic aid. That's a bad deal. Settling for those terms would only perpetuate the suffering of the North Korean people. And it would do nothing to reform a rogue state. Any negotiation must focus the debate on North Korea's abysmal human rights record. It's documented, and "BreakPoint" has reported on it, that the North Koreans torture and kill their own citizens by the thousands -- including Christians. How to negotiate human rights issues was the subject of a statement published in the January 17 Wall Street Journal, titled "From Helsinki to Pyongyang." The statement, signed by, among others, Michael Horowitz, Bill Bennett, and myself, pointed out that this isn't the first time a "communist regime headed by an odious despot . . . [threatened] nuclear war if the world's non-communist powers fail to accede to its demands." The Soviet Union did this thirty years ago. Then, instead of limiting the agenda to the Soviet's demands, the Nixon administration broadened the scope of negotiations to include human rights. This led to the 1975 Helsinki Agreement, an agreement that in turn contributed to the collapse of the Soviet empire. Today, it's time for history to repeat itself. We're being forced to talk through Pyongyang, but we must insist on expanding the agenda. If Pyongyang wants to negotiate a peace treaty, it must agree to negotiations over human rights: the free exchange of people, religious liberty, open borders, and family reunification. Likewise, if Pyongyang wants to talk about lifting trade sanctions and receiving American economic assistance, we must demand the verifiable adoption of market-based and rule-of-law reforms. It's possible to turn what looks like a no-win crisis into a major victory if we learn from what happened thirty years ago in our confrontation with another evil regime. If North Korea wants to talk, okay. But let's make sure that the horrendous suffering of the North Korean people is central to the conversation. For further reading: "From Helsinki to Pyongyang: How to Deal with North Korea? Nixon Showed the Way," Wall Street Journal, 17 January 2003, A10. Jane Macartney, "North Korea Demands Crisis Talks with Washington," Washington Post, 26 January 2003. Li Xueying, "N. Korea's Nuclear Card 'Meant to Bully U.S.,'" Singapore Straits Times, 31 December 2003. Henry Sokolski, "North Korea Can't Wait," National Review Online, 6 January 2003. Kristin Wright, "A Foothold in the Regions of Misery," BreakPoint Online, 9 January 2003. Stand Today offers many ways citizens can help persecuted Christians in North Korea and elsewhere. Also see BreakPoint's list of human rights organizations. "Eyewitness to Evil," a "BreakPoint This Week" special broadcast interview with Dr. Norbert Vollertsen, German physician who has witnessed human rights abuses in North Korea.


Chuck Colson


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