Seoul and Tokyo will block aid if Pyongyang goes ahead with nuclear test
South Korea has cast doubt on all ties with the North, including military links. There are fears that the entire region will be threatened by nuclear escalation.
Seoul (AsiaNews) South Korea's President and Unification Minister have threatened to block economic aid if North Korea makes good a recent threat to go ahead with nuclear testing. The North's announcement of an experiment threatens to throw the "sunshine" policy of President Roh into crisis: he sought to involve Pyongyang in dialogue by offering economic and food aid. In Seoul, people have taken to the streets to call for the deposition of Kim Jong-il, while opposition parties ask why "we must keep helping North Korea". Many MPs want to stop the flow of aid and even of dialogue between military leaders of the two Koreas.
After an emergency meeting between the National Assembly and the reunification and defence ministries, even President Roh Moo-hyun said the response to Pyongyang would be "resolute and cool-headed". Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok said Seoul would halt economic aid to North Korea if it carried out a nuclear test.
The entire region of the Far East has been deeply shaken by North Korea's announcement that it will go ahead with a new nuclear test. Vice-Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan warned that North Korean escalation could push Japan to adopt atomic weapons. "This will prompt countermoves by China or Russia and lead to a change in the balance of power in Northeast Asia," Yu said.
The Japanese government has announced that if North Korea dares to proceed with nuclear tests, Tokyo will look into possible economic sanctions, to the extent of an embargo on North Korean ships.
China has the economic leverage to make Pyongyang see sense, but for now it is opting to urge everyone to keep calm.
Meanwhile, the newspaper Chosun Ibo said the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il has not appeared in public for at least 20 days, prompting many analysts to think he is preparing for the nuclear test. The newspaper said the "dear leader" tends to vanish from the scene in times of international tension. This happened in 1998 before North Korea test-fired a long-range missile that flew over Japan and in 2003, after the country quit the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and it happened again last July when the missile tests took place. Pyongyang has not yet specified the date of the imminent nuclear test.