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[Editorial] Misreading Libyan crisis

North Korea has found a new justification for its nuclear weapons program ― the attack on Libya by the United States and its allies.

Denouncing the Western countries’ bombings against Libya, a spokesman of the North’s Foreign Ministry asserted on Tuesday that what is unfolding in the North African nation has confirmed once again that “a nation can ensure peace as long as it has the power to do so.”

In an interview with the official Korean Central News Agency, the Pyongyang official suggested Libya lost that power when it agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons in 2003 after years of negotiations with the United States.

Referring to the “Libyan-style nuclear disarmament,” the official said the approach Washington used for Libya was found out to be “to dupe a country into disarmament with sugar-coated promises of a security guarantee and improvement of diplomatic relations and then attack it.”

Then he praised the North’s military-first politics and self-defense capabilities as a vital deterrent against invasion.

The North’s reading of the Libyan crisis reflects its permanent siege mentality, which makes it unable to view things in their proper context. Libya invited air raid by the U.S. and its European allies not because it has renounced its nuclear program but because it used tanks and jet fighters against its own people.

What underlies the Libyan crisis is Gadhafi’s failure to reform and rampant corruption committed by his children. Inspired by the “Jasmine Revolution” in their neighboring countries, Libyans stood up against dictatorial rule and demanded more freedom and equity in wealth distribution.

If the Libyan turmoil offers a lesson for North Korea, it is obviously not that it should develop nuclear weapons to prevent foreign intervention in its affairs. Rather it is the realization that it could also face popular resistance if it fails to ensure a minimum standard of living for its people.

To avoid uprisings by its disgruntled people, the North should pursue economic reform and open up to the outside world after giving up its nuclear weapons. It should do this before it is too late.