[OUTLOOK]Don’t create more problems

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[OUTLOOK]Don’t create more problems

The prosecution’s investigation into last year’s presidential campaign funds has started in earnest following the debate over President Roh Moo-hyun’s proposed vote of confidence. But for the average person who is finding it harder and harder to live each day, the economy is a bigger concern. The vote of confidence and the investigation into campaign funds will not solve our economic difficulties. Unless the government puts an end to this chaos and devotes its full attention to the economy, it will find that reality will have “reformed” it before it can reform reality. The unemployment of the young is an index of our economic reality.
The key to solving our economic problem is to address the domestic problem of labor-management relations and the international issue of North Korea’s nuclear program. While there is yet to be a sophisticated suggestion for solving the labor-management problem, the North Korean nuclear situation has seen developments. Last Saturday, a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman announced that Pyeongyang would consider the multilateral nonaggression pact that the United States had suggested as a form of a written nonaggression guarantee. The spokesman said, “Our wish is simple and clear. We want [North Korea] and the United States to lay down our guns, establish normal relations and coexist peacefully.”
Will North Korea present a completely new nuclear negotiating strategy during a visit to Pyeongyang by China’s top legislator, Wu Bangguo? Before we make any hasty predictions, we must analyze carefully the statement by North Korea’s foreign ministry last month saying, “The United States must come forward to adopt a reciprocal nonaggression pact.” The announcement by the foreign ministry’s spokesman included what North Korea said were the reasons that Washington refused such a treaty: “The United States is worried that if it signs such a treaty with North Korea it would be annulling its mutual defense treaty with South Korea, which has designated the North as its ‘main enemy.’” The annulment of the mutual defense treaty between South Korea and the United States would lead directly to the withdrawal of the U.S. troops in South Korea.” What must be pointed out here, however, is that the U.S. position that North Korea is explaining was actually its own position. The spokesman concluded his announcement with the following words, “The longer the United States holds on to this anachronistic treaty and remains obsessed with stationing its troops in South Korea permanently, the further the solution to the issue of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and the surrounding region will stray.”
What has changed in one month is that the United States uses the expression “security guarantee;” what has not is that the North Koreans still insist on the term “nonaggression.” By “nonaggression,” North Korea means the annulment of the U.S.-Korea Mutual Defense Treaty and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Korea.
What has changed is that North Korea has dropped the words “reciprocal” and “treaty.” The North Korean spokesman said it was too early to talk about the six-way negotiations but the North Korean’s selection of words tells us that they are keeping the doors open to six-way talks. But North Korea will still demand a guarantee of “nonaggression” as the core of its comprehensive solution package. The United States, with its deep-rooted distrust of the North Korean leadership, would insist on North Korea getting rid of its nuclear capabilities first. Should the negotiations fall through, North Korea would once again openly threaten to go nuclear and the United States would speed up its proliferation security initiative. We must consider carefully what efforts will get us through this crisis and lead to a nuclear agreement in Beijing.
Despite the new signs of compromise, the solution to North Korea’s nuclear issue is still far from easy, so prospects for an improved international poltical environment for our economy are unclear. We must concentrate on solving our labor-management problem, which we can do ourselves. This is not the time to have leisurely fights over votes of confidence and campaign funds. All politicians, including the president, should sincerely apologize to the people and start solving problems, not creating them.

* The writer is a professor of international relations at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Ha Young-sun

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