[VIEWPOINT]Key issue is peaceful coexistenceA cabinet-level meeting between North and South Korea in Seoul has just ended, and U.S. officials say the North Korean nuclear issue will soon be presented to the United Nations. It was only a matter of time for North Korean nuclear problems to be put before the UN Security Council whether we like it or not, since nuclear problems are international cases. The members of the UN Security Council, which include China, Russia and the United States, oppose North Korea's nuclear armament program, so the council will probably take steps in line with the UN Charter that could be as strong as sanctions. But North Korea, already pushing the limits, has said it would consider Security Council sanctions a declaration of war.
Regime preservation is the biggest North Korean interest, so the North is unlikely to give up its last bargaining chips, nuclear weapons and missiles, easily. Although the North is relying on brinkmanship, it would not want to hold on to them as it plunges over the cliff. The North is demanding a nonaggression pact with the United States in order to preserve its regime, but it is well aware that treaties are pieces of paper. So it would not give up its two cards unless it got a crystal-clear guarantee that its regime would survive. Signs of the North's behind-the-scenes attempts to find a breakthrough by such diplomatic deals continue to appear.
Seoul must determine where its national interests lie and how to promote them without being left out during the complicated diplomatic negotiations. The Kim Dae-jung administration's "sunshine policy" transformed the frozen North-South relations of the half-century since the division of the Korea Peninsula. But the sunshine policy is a strategy, not an objective. Its purpose is to establish peaceful coexistence between the North and the South for the time being, prevent another Korean War and create conditions for peaceful unification. There must be steps to establish peaceful coexistence as in the case of the former East and West Germany. The premises are a balance of power and mutual trust between the North and the South. In 1991, the agreement on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was an important basis of the balance of power and the mutual trust that allowed the sunshine policy to be announced.
But the North opened a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility that produced plutonium and then began trying to build a uranium-enrichment plant, openly violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and destroying the balance of power and the mutual trust that are the basis of mutual coexistence. Our national interests lie in setting up a new agreement to safeguard the framework of peaceful coexistence, through bilateral and multilateral negotiations.
The public understood but was uneasy about the government's appeasement policy toward the North that accompanied the sunshine policy. In order to keep a dialogue and other exchanges with the North going forward, Seoul cannot repeatedly overlook the North's actions that shattered the basis for mutual trust. Such policies would harm the new government's efforts to set up a new scheme for peaceful coexistence. When the world is watching us, we cannot ask a third party to represent our interests and shirk our responsibilities. Instead of reacting to the North's ploys, the government must develop its own diplomatic tactics to deal with the North's ploys.
* The writer, a former Korean ambassador to the United Nations, is the president of Jeonju University.
by Lee See-young