[VIEWPOINT] After the Summit, Next Tasks for Korea
President Kim Dae-jung's visit to the United States, which aroused the scrutiny of the press and of officials in charge of North Korea and foreign policies in the two countries, is over. Apart from exchanging opinions on foreign affairs, security and trade issues with President George W. Bush, Mr. Kim had an opportunity to make a first-hand assessment of the atmosphere in Washington, the hub of international diplomacy, through his meetings with U.S. congressional leaders, Korea Peninsula experts and members of international financial institutions. Because the summit took place almost immediately after the inauguration of the Bush administration, with its official policy toward North Korea yet to be determined, Mr. Kim has ample time to devise future measures based on his perceptions of the differences between South Korea and the United States over North Korea.
The keynote U.S. policy toward North Korea that Mr. Kim confirmed through his visit can be summarized as "continuation of the policy of engagement based on reciprocity and verification." The United States intends to improve its relations with North Korea only when the latter takes sincere measures on political, economic and security issues. It also believes that any measures North Korea adopts for change must be verified.
Mr. Kim-while recognizing the need for verification-proposed "comprehensive reciprocity," based on a broader definition of the principles of reciprocity. Instead of applying a strict give-and-take policy, he suggested that South Korea and the United States guarantee North Korea's security, promote economic cooperation and support international loans to the North, in return for its compliance with bilateral agreements with the United States.
The U.S. administration's North Korean policy, when finalized, will but reflect its basic perceptions of the North, which Mr. Bush revealed through the recent summit. North Korea's response is one of the variables, and China, Russia and Japan will also fine-tune their future policy direction. As for South Korea, we have to tackle several quite challenging tasks in order to accomplish the goal of establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula and stability in the Northeast Asian order.
First, we must try to establish "tangible peace" rather than "declarative peace" on the Korean Peninsula. The derailed peace process in the Middle East, which failed to establish peace despite the conclusion of peace agreements time and again, can be a lesson. It is far more important to secure an actual easing of tension and neighboring states' support, so that the signing of a peace agreement can appear to be a mere formality. In Washington, Mr. Kim said he hopes to reinstate the 1992 South-North Basic Agreement, which includes pacts on inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation, as the basic legal framework for advancing inter-Korean relations, rather than seeking a peace declaration with North Korea. If properly restored, the Basic Agreement should contribute to establishing actual peace between the two Koreas.
Second, we must simultaneously persuade the United States based on our relations with North Korea, and the North based on our relations with the United States. It is important that we hold the initiative in expanding reconciliation and cooperation with North Korea, and also persuade the United States to implement a rational Korean Peninsula policy by taking into account the achieved results. But just as important, we must always bear in mind our alliance with the United States as the basis for merging U.S. principles of strict reciprocity with our own wisdom, to encourage North Korea toward changes. Should our traditional alliance with the United States become eroded, it will be hard to look forward to any synergy effects in North-South and North Korea-U.S. relations.
Third, we should not wait until the United States finalizes its North Korea policy, but actively set forth our position. Aside from cooperation between the two governments, we need to win the favor of the U.S. Congress to contribute to the process of the U.S. administration's formulation of its policy on North Korea. One way could be sending skilled diplomats to sell our position convincingly when the U.S. administration holds congressional and senate hearings relating to the Korean Peninsula. The National Assembly also must do its part to engage in more active diplomacy toward the U.S. Congress.
Finally, we need to pursue diplomacy that sees the large picture as well as the particulars. Our policy on North Korea does not concern just North Korea; it is linked with our policies on the United States and other neighboring countries, which have to accomplish their intended purpose for our North Korea policy to succeed, not to mention our diplomatic activities at international organizations. Since North Korea is not the sole factor of consideration in our foreign policy, we have to accurately perceive the international flow in politics and the economy. We have to have wisdom and also seek ways to channel the global flow into a direction more beneficial to our national interests.
The writer is a professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs & National Security.
by Kim Sung-han