South Korea president is sworn in

Roh warns Pyongyang against nuclear goals

February 26, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

SEOUL, South Korea - Roh Moo Hyun was sworn in as president of South Korea yesterday before a large and enthusiastic crowd and promised a new era for South Korea, his region and relations with the United States.

As if to signal that many messy details remain unsettled from the old world, here in the only part of the globe where the Cold War lingers, this country's impoverished but heavily armed neighbor, communist North Korea, fired a short missile into the eastern seas, briefly overshadowing the ceremonies.

Roh, a liberal 57-year-old labor lawyer who scored a surprise victory after a tumultuous electoral campaign in December, took no note of the land-to-sea missile launching in his inaugural speech, which followed it by several hours.

Instead, he spelled out an ambitious, even idealistic vision for reinventing economic and political relations in Northeast Asia.

In a nod to the United States, which was represented at the ceremonies by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Roh's address contained a clear warning to North Korea that cooperation with South Korea would be imperiled by the North's development of nuclear weapons.

"The suspicion that North Korea is developing nuclear weapons poses a grave threat to world peace, not to mention the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia," Roh said.

"North Korea's nuclear development can never be condoned. Pyongyang must abandon nuclear development.

"If it renounces its nuclear development program, the international community will offer many things that it wants," he said.

"It is up to Pyongyang whether to go ahead and obtain nuclear weapons or to get guarantees for the security of its regime and international economic support."

Speaking to the media, Powell used virtually identical language, including a hint of U.S. economic cooperation, should North Korea comply with Washington's demand that it verifiably dismantle its nuclear weapons programs.

"We remain ready to help them out of their distress, but it has to begin with an honest dialogue," Powell said.

Powell played down the North Korean missile launch, calling it "not particularly shocking."

Both Roh and Powell seemed to go out of their way to minimize the tension between the two allies, which has grown since the fall.

Washington had made no secret of its preference for the conservative candidate here, Lee Hoi Chang, who for months appeared all but certain to win an easy election.

Roh appeared to be propelled to victory by a huge wave of anti-American protests that were sweeping the country at the time.

Roh, who had a youthful reputation as a leftist, campaigned on what he called the need to seriously review the alliance with the United States and on his commitment to dialogue.

His opposition to the use of force against North Korea matched the mood of the demonstrators.

Since his election, Roh has frequently repeated many of the themes of the campaign, which analysts here say suggest deeply held views about rapprochement with North Korea and a determination, as he has vowed not to be "bossed around" by the United States.

South Korea's new leader's outspokenness has clearly ruffled feathers in Washington, particularly at the Pentagon.

The United States maintains 37,000 American troops here, many of them on the front line, for the defense of South Korea.

Yesterday, he introduced a new name to the policy of peaceful engagement with North Korea known as sunshine policy under his predecessor and political mentor, Kim Dae Jung.

Roh said his approach would be called the "peace and prosperity policy."

This approach, he said, would seek to "build mutual trust and uphold reciprocity" and to ensure that "South Korea and North Korea are the two main actors in inter-Korean relations."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.