[GLOBAL EYE]Envoy to North must be cautiousNorth Korea decided to accept a special envoy from South Korea because international society has been pushing the North to give up its nuclear program and take part in peaceful negotiations. The North’s declaration of its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonprolifer-ation Treaty has given reason for the United States, along with the International Atomic Ener-gy Agency, to take the North’s nuclear program to the United Nations Security Council. Although the Security Council’s deliberations would not necessarily mean economic sanctions, any such sanctions would mean additional hardships for a country already in serious economic difficulty. Perhaps because of the threat of international condemnation, North Korea decided to talk with South Korea.
North Korean behavior is deceptive in a way. But its high-wire balancing act has its own logic. We should understand the motivations behind their behavior so that we can cope with it correctly. North Korea has been taking economic help from South Korea, but it claims that it has no reason to be grateful to the donor. Such a presumptuous attitude derives from its 50 years of isolation from the outside world. Conse-quently, it has become South Korea’s job to persuade the North to get out of its self-imposed isolation to learn about the world and observe international standards.
The special envoy to the North should not make any comments that would make the world community suspicious. Also, the envoy should not rush into making any promises to the North even though an aide to President-elect Roh Moo-hyun is accompanying him. If he does, the new government will shoulder an unwanted burden as it is inaugurated. In addition, the senior presidential secretary for security and foreign affairs, who has talked with neighboring countries about the North Korean nuclear program, is included in the delegation. The special envoy should convey a clear message to North Korea so that it would not misinterpret the consensus of the international community. The South would be responsible and earn the distrust of the international community if the wrong message is conveyed to the North.
The envoy should not give any impression that the two Koreas consulted with each other about the pressure from the international community. The delegation is the representative of international society as well as of the Korean government. If the envoy is not careful, other countries will not give any credit to the South for its handling of the North Korean issue.
We should not accuse the North of attempting to develop nuclear weapons, but it is even more dangerous to jump to the conclusion that the North has no intention to do so. In North Korea’s position, it might have seemed reasonable to try to do so. The North might find a role model in Pakistan, which had secretly developed nuclear weapons and exported nuclear technology in violation of international norms, but ultimately the country has gotten recognition from the United States as a nuclear power. The envoy should bear in mind that he was not sent to the North for a casual meeting. The delegation is faced with the strategic choice of seeking peaceful coexistence with a nuclear-armed North Korea or forcing the North to give up nuclear arms and a nuclear development program using the pressure of the international community.
The North was working on a secretive uranium project during the 2000 inter-Korean summit, and inter-Korean dialogue cannot guarantee us safety from the North’s military threat. The envoy should keep the June 2000 summit in mind: Since the summit meeting, has the South become freer in international society or has it had a harder time dealing with diplomatic nonsense created by the North? The essence of the envoy’s duty is persuading the North to understand that if it insists on inter-Korean cooperation without meeting the demands of international society, both Koreas will tumble.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoogAng Ilbo.
by Kil Jeong-woo