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‘Libya war to undercut effort for N.K. denuclearization’

WASHINGTON ― The war in Libya will hinder international efforts toward North Korea’s nuclear dismantlement as North Koreans reflect on Moammar Gadhafi’s decision years ago to abandon his nuclear weapons, a scholar said Tuesday.

“The latest developments in Libya will have a strong effect on North Korea,” Ruediger Frank, a professor at the University of Vienna, Austria, said in a contribution to the Web site “38 North,” specializing in North Korean affairs. “The North Koreans must feel alarmed, but also deeply satisfied with themselves. After all, this is at least the third instance in two decades that would seem to offer proof that they did something right while others failed and ultimately paid the price.”

Frank was referring to the collapse of the Soviet Union and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Mikhail Gorbachev’s “foolish belief that his policies to end the arms race and confrontation with the West would be rewarded by respect for the Soviet Union’s existence and support for its faltering economy” was betrayed by “Western support of anti-communist governments in its European satellites and independence movements in various former Soviet Republics,” the scholar said.

In Iraq, Hussein’s compliance with Western control over half of his airspace “did not save Hussein’s regime from allegations of hiding weapons of mass destruction, and ultimately from complete annihilation in the Second Gulf War,” he said.

North Korea has said that Hussein’s failure to secure a nuclear arsenal led to his collapse.

After years of negotiations, Gadhafi announced in 2003 he would abandon his programs for the development of weapons of mass destruction in return for improved ties with and economic assistance from the U.S. and its western allies.

Washington and its allies have called on Pyongyang to follow suit.

Then-South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, currently U.N.

secretary general, visited Tripoli in 2005 and urged Gadhafi to persuade North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to abandon nuclear weapons.

Speaking at the National Press Club here through a video conference from Libya in April, Gadhafi dismissed calls for his government to persuade North Korea and Iran to quit their nuclear weapons programs.

“This was raised several times from America, Europe, that we approach the Iranians, the North Koreans, that they do not follow this course, the course of nuclear armament,” the Libyan leader said at the time. “The problem is that Libya has not been compensated for its good deed. Therefore, the Libyan example is not attractive to them because Libya has not made any big gain, for example, using the nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. So we really don’t have much of a strong argument that we can use with Iran or North Korea.”

The U.S. and its European allies began aerial attacks on Libya last week under the authority of the U.N. Security Council to protect the lives of civilians. Gadhafi’s forces have attacked revolutionaries who took control of the eastern part of the oil-rich North African state.

“In the eyes of the North Korean leadership, all three countries took the economic bait, foolishly disarmed themselves, and once they were defenseless, were mercilessly punished by the West,” Frank said. “It requires little imaginative power to see what conclusions will be drawn in Pyongyang. If there was anybody left at all in the elite who would dare try to persuade his leaders to sit down with the West and find a way to denuclearize, he will now be silent. Those who thought that the economic price of the military-first policy was too high will stand corrected. Not yielding an inch on the nuclear question will continue to be the key paradigm of North Korea’s foreign policy for the foreseeable future.”

The U.S. on Tuesday dismissed North Korea’s claim that Libya’s abandonment of its nuclear weapons programs resulted in the recent bombings of the North African state by the U.S. and its allies and called on the North to abide by its denuclearization pledge for better relations with the U.S.

Mark Toner, State Department spokesman, was reacting to the North Korean Foreign Ministry, which said earlier in the day that the air raids on Libya justify Pyongyang’s military-first policy focusing on its nuclear armament as a deterrent against invasion.

“Where they’re at today has absolutely no connection with them renouncing their nuclear program or nuclear weapons,” Toner said.

“It’s a good thing that they did because if they had such weapons of mass destruction, and they turn weapons so easily against their own people, then God help us.”

(From news reports)
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