Friday, July 2, 1999

Nuclear reactors for
North Korea

Bullet The issue: Japan had threatened to withhold payment for two nuclear reactors in North Korea after Pyongyang launched a missile that flew over Japanese territory.
Bullet Our view: The Japanese parliament's approval of a $1 billion payment is welcome because it permits the nuclear reactor program to proceed but the program's future is uncertain.

The Japanese parliament's approval of a $1 billion payment to help finance the construction of two nuclear reactors in North Korea relieves tension in Northeast Asia for the moment. But North Korea's provocative actions -- the latest of which resulted in a battle with South Korean warships -- continue to threaten a breakdown of the shaky peace.

Parliamentary approval was needed for Japan's payment to the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), a consortium formed under a 1994 agreement.

North Korea promised in that accord to halt its nuclear program, which was suspected of developing nuclear weapons, in exchange for two light-water reactors and shipments of fuel oil. The light-water reactors do not produce weapons-grade material and are intended to prevent North Korea from producing nuclear weapons. In addition to Japan, the United States, South Korea and the European Union comprise the consortium.

After North Korea fired a missile that flew over northern Japan last August en route to plunging into the Pacific, there were threats to withhold the Japanese payment. The incident understandably heightened Japanese concerns about a military buildup in North Korea. Tokyo then decided to join with the United States in collaborating on research on missile defense, which it had previously resisted.

However, Japan is still willing to fulfill its commitment under the North Korean nuclear agreement, and this is vital to the program's survival. Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura commented, "Despite the public's harsh view of North Korea, the parliament understands that KEDO is the most realistic framework for preventing North Korea from developing nuclear arms."

But the worst may still lie ahead. There are reports that North Korea is preparing to test-launch another missile, which could bring tensions to a crisis point. Charles Kartman, a special U.S. envoy to North Korea, reportedly told Pyongyang that another missile test would mean the end of North Korea's talks with the U.S., South Korea and Japan.

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, whose policy of engagement with the North is encountering growing criticism at home, was meeting with President Clinton today in Washington seeking fresh U.S. support to offset the domestic criticism. South Koreans are becoming restive after the recent battle with North Korean warships.

The Clinton administration, for its part, is concerned that the South Koreans are working on their own missile program and may get into an arms race with the North, particularly if Pyongyang stages another missile firing.

For the time being, Washington, Tokyo and Seoul are maintaining a policy of patience with North Korea, for lack of a realistic alternative. But how long will the Japanese put up with missiles being fired over their country without responding? And how long can Kim Dae-jung hold out against demands for firm action?

Barbers Point

Bullet The issue: Barbers point Naval Air Station has been turned over to the community.
Bullet Our view: The former base could become a valuable asset if properly developed.

AFTER 57 years, Barbers Point Naval Air Station has been returned to the community as part of the Defense Department's program of closing bases that are no longer needed. Naval air operations have been transferred to Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay.

Now it is up to the city, the state and community groups to make the most of its 3,600 acres.

The most pressing need, but the easiest to fill with the former naval air station, is a general aviation airport. This is needed to eliminate the dangerous mix of big, fast jets and slow light aircraft at Honolulu Airport. The runways and related facilities are already in place, saving the state many millions of dollars. The turnover ends more than 20 years of searching for an acceptable site for a general aviation facility on Oahu.

There are a number of other uses planned for the area, which reverts to its old Hawaiian name, Kalaeloa. There will be a 333-acre regional beach park. The city envisions a 192-acre sports complex.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is getting 586 acres, including the former Navy headquarters, to be used as industrial and commercial sites, as part of a settlement of claims to federal land elsewhere.

The Hawaii National Guard will occupy 150 acres, moving out of Diamond Head crater.

The Navy will retain 1,113 acres for its housing complex, commissary and exchange, medical center and golf course. The Coast Guard will keep its 48-acre station for search-and-rescue helicopters and C-130 transport planes.

Much of the land will remain undeveloped for years while government and private groups compile the funds needed for improvement. It will cost something like $275 million to make it possible for utilities, roads and other facilities to meet city standards.

If done well, the development of Kalaeloa could be a major asset for the residents of the nearby communities of Kapolei, Makakilo and Waipahu and for the rest of Oahu.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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