[OUTLOOK]'Peaceful means' have their limitMany people have seen their vague suspicions about North Korea turning into reality in recent days.
Up until now, those armed with a sense of trust in North Korea in the name of the "sunshine policy" had believed that if we treated North Korea with goodness, then North Korea would respond with reconciliation and open its doors. The sunshine policy supporters have passionately doled out help to North Korea for years. But the North, in a remarkable snub to those supporters, admitted to a U.S. special envoy, James Kelly, that it had continued with the development of nuclear weapons despite the agreement with the United States not to do so.
From a strategic point of view, North Korea's timing could not have been more subtle. The North Koreans chose a time when the United States would find it difficult to come forward with any strong sanctions because of its preoccupation with Iraq. In addition, it has chosen to admit to a nuclear weapons program shortly after a series of gestures by its leader, Kim Jong-il, that seemingly led toward reform, including an apology to Japan about abducted Japanese citizens and a plan to open the city of Sinuiju as a special economic district.
Pyeongyang might have hoped that its earlier forthcoming steps would dull the international reaction to its nuclear confession.
Even though it is unclear why North Korea admitted to a nuclear weapons program, all countries except North Korea are still talking about a "peaceful settlement." Pyeongyang's timing was good.
The U.S. hopes for a "peaceful settlement" are an acknowledgment of its limited options.
Japan's talk of a "peaceful settlement" seems more rhetorical because is has no other real options.
China's is also deeply invol-ved in the geopolitical balance on the Korean Peninsula. China stating that North Korea's nuclear weapons problem should be peacefully solved is equivalent to a statement that it cannot pursue both peace and nuclear nonproliferation on the peninsula at the same time.
A policy cannot be built just on hopes. Turning wishes into reality is what diplomacy and politics are about. A peaceful settlement means preventing nuclear proliferation without going to war. Thinking of war and peace as two contrasting alternative policies here would be wrong. War is only an extension of political and diplomatic means. Should it become impossible to achieve an objective by peaceful means, it becomes inevitable to use military force.
The presence of a military option in the background of diplomatic talks is one way to give those talks a better chance of succeeding. In other words, no matter how much we cry for peaceful settlement, we should not exclude the possibility of military force. Pyeongyang must be faced with and understand fully the use of the words "peaceful settlement." It is sadly mistaken if it thinks that the United States, pursuing a peaceful settlement for now, has excluded any possibility of going to war against the North. In order for a peaceful settlement to be possible, the underlying problem must be solved.
If resolving the underlying issues is impossible through diplomacy, military measures become inevitable. Seoul must understand that point as well. We have a tendency to talk too easily about peace -- we talk as if a one-time summit meeting would guarantee eternal peace and that all tension would disappear if we just stopped thinking in the Cold War frame of mind.
Peace is not that simple. We need to find the equation for stability somewhere between meshing the interests of both parties peacefully and an uncertain balance of power. The present situation, in which North Korea has continued its nuclear weapons program in violation of the 1994 Agreed Framework, has further complicated matters for the future because from now on, even if an agreement were reached with Pyeongyang, whatever is agreed upon must go through air-tight verification procedures.
The one hopeful piece of news, however, is that compared to the period of 1993 and 1994, the North Korean economy's foreign dependency has increased greatly.
If South Korea, the United States, Japan, China and Europe take a common stance, even North Korea would have to think twice about the consequences of threatening the nuclear non proliferation re-gime.
A great trial for peace on the Korean Peninsula has just begun.
The writer is the president of the Social Science Institute.
by Kim Kyung-won