[VIEWPOINT]Broad effort needed to solve crisisWith his visit to China, President Roh Moo-hyun has completed the first stage of his foreign policy to coordinate relations with the major powers, except Russia, surrounding the Korean Peninsula and to secure cooperation to solve the North Korean nuclear problem.
In the South Korea-United States summit, President Roh clarified the relations of North and South Korea and the United States in suggesting that he would link the nuclear issue to economic collaboration between the two Koreas in order to settle “peace” before “prosperity.” In Japan, the leaders of South Korea and Japan agreed that if North Korea showed sincere efforts to solve the nuclear problem, they would jointly provide economic support to the North. In China, President Roh confirmed that although China used the expression “talks among concerned parties” instead of “multilateral talks” to show its concern for North Korea, China generally had the will to mediate between the two Koreas and had a considerably common stance with South Korea in its strategy towards the North.
In the 11th North-South ministerial talks, North Korea contended that it could have dialogue with any foreign forces regarding its nuclear program; that if the United States guaranteed the security of its regime it would give up its nuclear program; and that South Korea should confront the United States in collaboration with North Korea as compatriots. But North Korea’s stance was very hypocritical.
If the North scraps its nuclear program, South Korea, China and Russia will ask the United States to guarantee the security of its regime. Regardless of this, North Korea is trying to play a power game with the United States, in which it takes risks recklessly, mortgaging national welfare and peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Consequently, by mobilizing every channel to North-South dialogue, Seoul should explain clearly that if Pyeongyang makes concessions, the security of its regime will be guaranteed and economic support will be given as well, but if it sticks to its competition of pride, harsh sanctions from Washington will follow and Seoul will have to join Washington.
Above all, the Roh administration should put every effort into persuading North Korea not to make other countries misunderstand that Pyeongyang is continuing its strategy of brinkmanship by using Seoul as its leverage, and to show a concessive atttude.
On the other hand, if the United States truly wants North Korea to repeal its nuclear program, the Bush administration might as well first guarantee the North’s regime and then conduct a nuclear inspection, and impose sanctions only if North Korea breaks a promise. But I wonder if the United States really intends to restore peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, because it demands that North Korea first scrap its nuclear program unconditionally and insists on multilateral talks. In any case, Washington will show a sincere attitude toward solving the nuclear problem only when its hegemony in Northeast Asia is guaranteed after the resolution of the problem.
But as the greatest victim of the unstable situation on the peninsula, Seoul cannot simply wait for Washington’s change of attitude. The Roh administration should resolve the present crisis peacefully with its own solution. To do so, we should help both North Korea and the United States maintain their honor while restoring their lost trust or at least making up for their lack of trust. For this purpose, our government tried to offer a friendly mediation between the two countries but faced difficulty because of opposition from the United States.
Japan is not suitable as a mediator because it pursues a foreign policy following the steps of the United States, and North Korea has nationalistic antagonism toward it. Therefore, we should pin our hopes on China and Russia. Just as the Bush administration is demanding that China put pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear program and accept multilateral talks because China has provided substantial energy supplies and food to the North, the Roh administration is requesting that China mediate between the two Koreas. But China’s influence on North Korea seems to be exaggerated. China can certainly play the role of deterring U. S. military action against North Korea, but seems to lack the ability or will to press North Korea to take specific actions.
Therefore, the Roh administration should seek Russia’s positive role as well. The North Korean nuclear development programs have been carried out in cooperation with Russia over decades and the two countries have held annual summit talks for the last three years. In line with the fact that the nuclear crisis originated from the North’s electricity shortages, Russia has not only rapidly increased energy supplies to North Korea recently and improved power transmission lines between the two countries but it also plans to provide electricity by building a nuclear plant in the Maritime Provinces. Russia also showed its good faith by dispatching a special envoy to North Korea to try to resolve the nuclear crisis.
It is necessary for our government to create an environment in which Russia can play a positive role in the nuclear crisis and, if possible, consider holding three-way summit talks among North and South Korea and Russia in Khabarovsk or Vladivostok.
* The writer is a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Hong Hyun-ik