A Time for Preemptive DiplomacyNorth Korea''s Kim Jongil, chairman of the National Defense Commission, will reportedly visit Moscow in April in reply to Russian President Vladimir Putin''s visit to Pyongyang last July. President Putin is expected to come to Seoul toward the end of February, and soon after, scheduled in March, are KoreaU.S summit talks and SinoSouth Korea talks. Diplomacy among four strong powers surrounding the Korean Peninsula presents a complicated picture.
Chairman Kim''s visit to Russia may be intended to tackle his nation''s stagnation through active summit diplomacy, as well as to show off his confidence in a stable North Korean system. Additionally, he may want to sound out the pos sibility of Russia''s economic support as North Korea pushes for a policy of Chinesestyle reform and opening up. Russia, hoping to expand its influence in the Far East, is likely to extend sub stantial support, given its competitive relation ship with China. Since its democratization, Russia has emphasized interKorean reconcilia tion and exchanges, and has supported South Korea''s engagement policy toward the North. It is presumed that Chairman Kim''s visit to Russia will not hinder interKorean rapprochement.
Nevertheless, Russia is demonstrating the most sensitive response to the Bush administra tion''s recent announcement of power diplomacy and its stance of pressing ahead with a national missile defense system. Russia is likely to try to draw North Korea in an alliance against the NMD. The emergence of such a conflict structure will not contribute a whit to the settlement of peace on the Korean Peninsula. The major outcome of last year''s inter Korean summit was shifting the Korean Peninsula issue into a matter between the two principals. Now they and the surrounding nations are bidding to come to grips with a new diplo matic order. The efforts to secure independence in the interKorean issue are urgent but difficult.
Preventing it from devolving into a conflict struc ture among the surrounding powers should be the urgent diplomatic task. In its talks with Russia, the United States and China before Chairman Kim''s visit to Russia, the government is advised to embark on preemptive endeavors to secure international guarantees to bar North Korea from taking part in an antiU.S. solidarity.