- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday said a market economy is needed to relieve the suffering in North Korea, a dictatorship that will be discussed today in a meeting between President Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun.

“It is a heartbreaking thing to think of the circumstance of the people in that country,” said Mr. Rumsfeld, referring to widespread starvation in North Korea.

“But the solution for it, it seems to me, is to recognize that market systems are the ones that are producing the most for their people and dictatorships and despotism don’t.”

Today’s White House meeting between Mr. Bush and Mr. Roh is expected to be dominated by more immediate concerns than a market economy in Pyongyang. Specifically, the two leaders will discuss the looming military threat from North Korea, which is openly developing nuclear weapons.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Roh will issue a joint statement that is expected to call for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, a goal that both men would like to achieve through diplomacy. But it will not rule out military force as a way to achieve that goal, despite Mr. Roh’s desire to take that option off the table.

“The mere thought of a military conflict with North Korea is a calamity for us,” Mr. Roh told The Washington Times in an interview before today’s summit. “If possible, we think it is much more reasonable for us to induce North Korea to reform itself and to open up to the outside world.”

But National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice insisted on Monday that the United States will keep “all options open.” Although the White House is reluctant to initiate military action against North Korea, it is even more reluctant to exempt Pyongyang from the Bush administration’s doctrine of military pre-emption.

Mr. Rumsfeld yesterday said North Korea’s dire economy is beginning to affect its military.

“Food is in short supply,” he said during an awards ceremony at the Hudson Institution in Washington. “Many people in North Korea have not received the kinds of nourishment that they need.

“And indeed the North Korean military, if I’m not mistaken, recently lowered the height at which they would accept people in the military because so many individuals had not grown because of lack of food early in their period,” he added.

Mr. Rumsfeld said the United States is donating massive amounts of food to North Korea, while China and Japan are giving Pyongyang large cash infusions.

“The problem isn’t that they’re not getting enough money from the outside world,” he said. “If you look at that peninsula and you look at it at night from a satellite, the southern portion of the peninsula is just filled with lights and energy and activity, economic activity.

“And from the demilitarized zone north, there’s practically not a light to be seen at night,” he added. “Some in Pyongyang, but it’s a black, bleak picture. Why is that? They’re roughly the same size.”

Mr. Rumsfeld asked, in noting that South Korea’s gross domestic product is many times larger than North Korea’s: “Why? It’s because of the systems. It’s because of the viciousness of that dictatorship.”

In February, Mr. Rumsfeld said the United States might move some of its forces out of South Korea, where they are massed along the demilitarized zone separating the nation from North Korea. Despite his reservations about a military conflict, Mr. Roh is expected to urge Mr. Bush today to keep American forces in place.

Today’s meeting is expected to begin at 6 p.m. in the Oval Office.

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