Today's date:
Winter 2004

Like South Africa, North Korea Will Disarm

Ra Jong Yil is National Security Adviser to the president of the Republic of Korea, Roh Moo Hyun, and former vice chair of the KCIA (Korean Central Intelligence Agency).

Seoul -- China's role in bringing change to North Korea is immense. China has become so important not only because, for the first time in modern history, it is playing a leading diplomatic role on the international stage, but also because China itself has changed. It has rapidly left its past behind and is adapting to the new realities of the present world order—a normal, trading order rather than a conflictive one. This has brought a globalizing, modernizing nation right to the border with North Korea.

The North Korean leadership knows that the only way out for them is to also become a normal member of the international community. Becoming a nuclear power cannot accomplish this, no matter how many weapons they can produce. If they go down that path, it will not only mean trouble for relations with China, but gravely affect relations with us in the South—something they can ill afford since the volume of trade with us is now almost as great as with China.

In short, they have to change to survive. They cannot have their cake and eat it too. Ultimately, what made formerly isolated countries like South Africa or, later, the Ukraine give up their nuclear weapons was this same recognition that they couldn't join the community of normal nations as long as they retained them. As vital as a rigorous inspection regime is to any solution of the North Korea crisis, in the end what will ensure their disarmament is a cold accounting of their own interests.