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U.S. Is Unfair to North Korea

November 30, 2002

Re "N. Korea's Foolish Gamble," editorial, Nov. 22: In the Agreed Framework of 1994, the construction of two light-water reactors and the supply of heavy fuel oil were agreed to by the U.S. as a consideration for North Korea's freezing its graphite-moderated nuclear reactors, not for North Korea's giving up nuclear weapons programs. North Korea agreed to remain a party to the international nuclear nonproliferation regime in exchange for a U.S. promise to provide it with formal assurances against the threat or use of force, including nuclear weapons. The U.S. has yet to fulfill this promise.

The U.S. is the country that once invaded North Korea. Fifty years later, it still maintains a 37,000-strong force on the doorstep of North Korea. Its president openly brands North Korea as an "axis of evil" nation. Its defense report officially names North Korea as a target for preemptive attack. Thus, the risk of American military invasion is not phantom but real to North Koreans.

North Korea was never self-sufficient in food. Its rigid system and poor management may have contributed to the worsening of the situation. But if the U.S. gives North Korea a legally binding nonaggression pledge, Pyongyang could substantially reduce its military expenditures and save enough money to import food. A U.S. nonaggression pledge would not be a new reward for North Korea. It's the price Washington agreed to pay eight years ago in order to buy Pyongyang's renunciation of nuclear ambition.

Hwal-Woong Lee

Granada Hills

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Your editorial counsels North Korea: "Spending money on weapons instead of food and moving at a snail's pace to overhaul a disastrously mismanaged economy threaten the nation more than the phantom risk of invasion." North Korea and Iraq -- and thousands of California's super-productive farm workers who nevertheless don't know where they'll get their next meal from -- could give the U.S. the same advice.

Paul Lion

Los Angeles

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Your editorial posits that North Korea is making a "losing bet." I beg to disagree. Just who is going to call the bet and make North Korea pay off? President Bush declared war on the "terrorists," and that worked so well that he has found it expedient to go to war with Iraq. He has made clear that the U.N. and international law do not constrain him, and the rest of the world's outlaws won't hesitate to follow his lead.

Bush has stated his policy: Might makes right. The next step in Asia is easily foreseen -- China's takeover of Taiwan. The Republican administration and its commitment to business as usual will certainly not be willing to argue with its business partners in China, and our armed forces will be occupied in Iraq.

The next step after that may very likely be that North Korea will begin a forceful reunification with South Korea. The United States will not be in a position to do anything to prevent it, and China would undoubtedly take advantage of the opportunity to embarrass the U.S. again. After all, "might makes right." Now we will see who is truly the mightiest. God bless America.

Thomas W. McCarthy

Chino Hills

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"Striking Iraq, Stroking North Korea" (Opinion, Nov. 24) was confused at its core. Jay Taylor asks why the president hasn't "adopted a similar policy of deterrence and diplomacy toward Iraq" as he has applied to North Korea. This question comes after Taylor has expended quite a bit of newsprint explaining that while defeating Iraq militarily will be a fairly easy matter, taking on North Korea could be catastrophic for us and may turn Seoul into a "sea of fire."

Didn't Taylor answer his question before he asked it?

Lewis Soloff

Santa Monica

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Taylor asks why we are aiming at Iraq while North Korea also represents a threat. Elementary strategy holds the answer: When confronted by two enemies, don't be afraid to take them on -- one at a time.

Gerald Adler

Los Angeles

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