The Korean Catholic Church "welcomes with joy and satisfaction the signing of the agreement for North Korean disarmament" and thanks nations who contributed "to averting a real catastrophe for all mankind", Cardinal Cheong, who is also Apostolic Administrator for Pyongyang, North Korea, told AsiaNews after the signing of the accord on nuclear disarmament between the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, China and the US.
Pyongyang has committed to dismantling its main atomic reactor in Yongbyon in exchange for energy aid.
The make-up of projected aid is not yet clear although diplomatic sources have said 50,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil will be supplied in exchange for the shutting down of the first reactor.
The regime is said to have committed to allowing inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency to enter its territory in exchange for a further 950,000 tonnes.
According to Cardinal Cheong the agreement "averted a catastrophe of unimaginable consequences. We are satisfied and thank God for how things turned out".
The accord contains "light and shadows", Cardinal Cheong said, "given that the energy demanded by the regime in exchange for dismantlement will go first and foremost in the tanks of the military. All the same, we must also think about the population that will benefit, even if less so."
The problem is also geo-political, Cardinal Cheong added.
"In the case of war, refugees from the north would have invaded South Korea. This is a concrete risk that must be taken into account beyond the threats of Kim. We want to welcome our suffering brothers but we are not ready to do so. Their economic conditions are disastrous and a mass exodus would transform into a reciprocal catastrophe."
The only solution is "to wait for the death of the dictator and prepare our neighbours for a program of gradual economic aid. It is only when the economies are on a par that we will be able to open our borders without fear and re-embrace."
However, AsiaNews also quotes other unnamed sources in Seoul diocese as saying that the "signing of the accord appears to signal successful blackmail by the regime. And yet, there is no option but to accept it, given that the nuclear program of Kim Jong-il put the Korean peninsula and the rest of the world at risk."
If things had gone differently, we would have seen a nuclear conflict that would have destroyed us", the sources say.
Card. Cheong: "Joy and satisfaction about nuclear disarmament" (AsiaNews, 13/2/07)
Cardinal: Agreement to disarm North Korea nuclear program ‘averts catastrophe’ (Catholic Online, 13/2/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Bishops Conference of Korea
Agency ignores calls to sever North Korea ties (CathNews, 19/10/06)
World "sleepwalking" towards nuclear terrorism (CathNews, 11/10/06)
Disarmament, not armaments: Vatican on North Korea (CathNews 9/10/06)
Korean Christians unite to help bring together North and South (CathNews, 17/1/03)
14 Feb 2007