Accessibility links

Breaking News

Western Press Review: North Korea's Arms Deals, EU Copenhagen Summit, And Russia's Chechnya Campaign

Prague, 12 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Several editorials in the Western press today look at the seizure and subsequent release of a ship carrying North Korean Scud missiles to Yemen, and what this indicates regarding North Korea's role as an international arms dealer. The EU enlargement summit opening today in Copenhagen is also a topic of debate, as is Russia's continued military campaign in Chechnya and ongoing pro-reform protests in Iran, among other issues.


An editorial in "The Irish Times" says a "great deal is at stake" for the future of the European Union at the EU enlargement summit opening today in Copenhagen. This next European expansion, which will bring in 10 new -- most formerly communist -- nations, "brings the division of Europe agreed at Yalta and implemented during the Cold War decisively to an end. It brings the revolutions of 1989 towards political completion by extending and affirming norms of democratic stability, the rule of law and protection of human rights to the candidate states," which have "made the difficult and costly transition to functioning market economies."

But the Copenhagen summit will also bring a new round of intense negotiations over the details of accession. The final bargaining over the financial package for new members will involve continuing demands, particularly from Poland, that new members' benefits be improved. The paper says this financial wrangling "is a demeaning business compared to the scale and nobility of what is at stake for Europe," but acknowledges that it is also "normal in the final stages of such negotiations." Whatever the final deal, governments of the candidate states will have to convince their electorates of the benefits of EU membership in upcoming referendums. "It would be an avoidable disaster if the summit broke down on financing and it should not be allowed to happen."


An editorial in "The Daily Telegraph" says, "In its half-century of existence, North Korea has proved an egregiously delinquent state" that has frequently dealt in arms and missile technology. "In 1983, it blew up members of the cabinet of South Korea in Rangoon. [Despite] being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has retained plutonium from its reactors and has recently admitted to enriching uranium." North Korea has also "developed a ballistic arsenal that has become one of its main export earners," and "stalled on allowing United Nations inspectors to verify that no plutonium has been retained."

The paper calls on regional nations to cooperate in attempts to rein in the threat presented by Pyongyang. In South Korea, it says, "next week's presidential election may produce a government favoring a harder line against the North than [President] Kim Dae-jung's." The editorial says "conditions are ripe for a concerted drive to persuade Pyongyang that there is no way out of diplomatic isolation and economic ruin until it turns its back on weapons of mass destruction. Divisions among the regional powers have enabled North Korea to play the rogue state for far too long."


An editorial in "The New York Times" also discusses North Korea's penchant for dealing in arms, and calls it "repugnant and more than a little weird for a country that cannot feed itself to devote so much of its talent and energies to making missiles, nuclear bombs, and other unconventional weapons." The paper says Pyongyang's strategy is to raise much-needed cash "by selling arms and weapons technology to the highest bidder or extorting the West for money to shut down its production and supply lines." But depending on such a deal to be honored "is not encouraged by North Korea's recent behavior, which includes concealing a program to enrich uranium for nuclear bombs," as well as the "clumsy" Scud-missile shipment detained on 9 December on its way to Yemen.

"The New York Times" says effective containment of the North Korean regime "will depend on close American cooperation with South Korea." The leading presidential candidates in the close campaign ahead of next week's election are divided over how best to pursue future relations with North Korea. The editorial suggests Washington should make clear that the U.S. administration is not taking sides in the election "and stands ready to work closely with whoever wins to end North Korea's unconventional arms production and exports."


The discovery of Scud missiles on a ship bound for Yemen from North Korea, briefly detained by Spanish and American forces and released yesterday, is the subject of a commentary in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung."

The paper says only two months ago, North Korea shocked the world by openly admitting to developing atomic weapons, in violation of a 1994 agreement in which Pyongyang consented to giving up its nuclear-weapons program in exchange for two civilian nuclear-power plants and shipments of fuel oil. The paper calls the latest developments "an unsettling reminder that the communist leadership continues to develop weapons of mass destruction unhindered, and is brazenly living up to its reputation as a country unscrupulously providing missile technology -- and thus, is amply earning its reputation as one-third of the 'axis of evil.'" The commentary continues, "it is thus not antagonistic to monitor North Korea, it is necessary." Rather, "it would be dangerous to refrain from doing so," it says, "as North Korea constitutes a calculated security risk."


Another editorial in "The New York Times" tackles the thorny question of where something actually exists once it has permeated cyberspace. "Since the Internet's inception, its promise has been threatened by governments seeking inappropriate jurisdiction over far-flung online communications." A case is now proceeding in Australia involving a suit against the Dow Jones company by businessman Joseph Gutnick. Gutnick is bringing what the paper calls "a novel, cross-border libel suit" against Dow Jones for an article about him published in its financial publication, "Barron's."

At issue before the court is whether Dow Jones has committed libel in Melbourne, Australia, with content Gutnick downloaded there -- although "Barron's" uploaded the magazine's content to the Internet at its U.S. headquarters. This is "the first time a nation's highest court had wrestled with the question of where something is actually published" within cyberspace.

Dow Jones argues that "the article's publication occurred in New Jersey, and that therefore the lawsuit should properly be tried in American courts and under American libel law, which is more protective of publishers."

"The New York Times" says to "subject distant providers of online content to sanctions in countries intent on curbing free speech [is] to undermine the Internet's viability. Publications must be held accountable for their actions where they operate. The Internet's universal reach should not be reason to force publishers to censor themselves."


An editorial in the "Financial Times" says if everything goes well at the EU's summit in Copenhagen, EU members will "complete an agreement to admit 10 new member countries from Eastern and Southern Europe in 2004, achieve a deal [to] end the 28-year-old division of Cyprus," make progress on "creating an EU rapid-reaction force and give Turkey a date for negotiations on membership to begin. That is a formidable agenda," the paper remarks.

Enlargement negotiations with the 10 leading candidates "should be the easiest issue to resolve, in spite of the tough stance taken by Poland in demanding a better financial settlement." There is "genuine resentment in Central and Eastern Europe" over subsidy levels for new members, which will begin at "a fraction of those awarded to current EU members."

Cyprus is likely to be the toughest issue, the paper says. Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaderships must agree to the UN "peace deal for the island, pending negotiations that would allow Cyprus to enter the EU as a single entity." If Ankara successfully encourages the Turkish Cypriot leader to negotiate, it "will deserve generous treatment in setting a date for starting negotiations on EU entry."

The paper says the summit will be dealing with "a tangled web of interlocking issues, but the prize for success -- notably of welcoming a stable Islamic democracy into the EU fold -- is enormous."


The "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" looks at the latest developments in the case of Chechen envoy Akhmed Zakaev. He appeared in a London court on 11 December amid a row between Russia, Britain, and Denmark over Moscow's demand for his extradition to face charges of involvement in terrorist activity.

The paper says it is truly surprising that Moscow's prosecutor-general is demanding Zakaev's extradition using the same argument he employed in calling for Zakaev's extradition from Denmark, particularly since his claims that Zakaev was involved in terrorist activity were dismissed on the grounds that the evidence was "insufficient and unconvincing."

However, the paper continues, "Moscow does not think in legal but political terms: the world is at one in its fight against terror; and Moscow deems Zakaev a terrorist rather than the Chechen negotiator with whom Russian representatives recently conducted talks."

If Russia is expecting to benefit in this instance from the friendly personal relations between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Vladimir Putin, this is a gross miscalculation, says the paper: Courts in both Denmark and Great Britain have nothing to do with the legislative or executive powers, but exist as part of an entirely independent judiciary.


In a contribution to "The Wall Street Journal Europe," Daniel Gros of the Center for European Policy Studies discusses the economic implications of EU enlargement. He says a point to keep in mind is that enlargement, to a large extent, has already happened. Tariffs and quotas have largely been done away with. He points out that many candidate nations have also already adopted elements of the EU's required acquis communitaire, its common body of law. And investors have already come to Eastern and Central Europe in large numbers in anticipation of the region's eventual EU membership.

Gros says economic theory indicates that economic integration is more beneficial when the differences are greater between the separate parties. As a result, the gap in relative incomes between current and future members "should thus be regarded as a source of potential economic benefits," he says. But the ultimate goal is for new members to catch up to EU levels of per capita income, which "will require more hard work, especially in the area of labor markets and fiscal policy."

Candidates will still have to take "the ultimate step in economic integration," membership in the eurozone. Gros predicts that the likely outcome is that the attraction of EU membership "will force sensible policies and then, if history is any guide, the new member states should be able to prosper once they have joined the largest market in the world."


In France's daily "Liberation," columnist Patrick Sabatier says as Europe is enlarging it also must ask itself, What is Europe? Europe has known multiple challenges and borders, he says. At one time or another it has been a cultural space with a common religious identity, in Christianity; shared the common philosophic tradition of the enlightenment; maintained a vast free-trading system or been a strategic power aspiring to ensure the security of the world. Identity, security, and prosperity are the three elements in a European equation that has varied at times according to which currently had priority.

The upcoming "big bang" round of enlargement from 15 to 25 members will again shift these elements. This plan will launch 455 million Europeans into an uncertain future. Sabatier says Europe is going to have to free itself "from the concepts and reflexes inherited from a past era in which the priority was to heal ancestral hatreds and [address] the communist threat." He says Europe should find a way to allow itself to evolve into "a colossus with multiple identities -- but prosperous, democratic and peaceful -- that is without historical precedent."


An editorial in "The Boston Globe" says the ongoing, "dramatic confrontations in Iran between hard-liners and reformers [suggest] that the Islamic Republic may be tottering." The paper recalls an observation made by former Soviet reformist leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and says, "A political system rooted in lies and repression cannot long survive the telling of truth that comes with free speech."

The paper says that "only a clairvoyant could know" if the current demonstrations in the streets "foreshadow another Iranian revolution, this one against the clerical dictatorship." The unelected hard-line mullahs that hold power "do not seem to have lost the will to rule," it says. They "have shown no reluctance to bring on a bloodbath if that is the price for retaining their political power and their control over gigantic economic conglomerates disguised as religious foundations."

The editorial goes on to say the best US policy in this case is "to maintain a shrewd silence." The hard-liners have often tried to appeal to Iranian patriotism by alleging that Iran's reformers are in league with Washington, the so-called "Great Satan." U.S. President George W. Bush "should say nothing that could be used to validate the accusations hard-liners level at Iran's reformists. Too many disasters in Iran over the past half-century were caused by U.S. meddling."

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)