[OUTLOOK]Who’s steering the ship?U.S. President George W. Bush won a mandate from Americans for his war on terrorism by winning the election. The United States is most concerned about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorist groups.
If a nuclear bomb the size of a briefcase exploded in Manhattan, at least 600,000 people would be killed. This is why Mr. Bush pays attention to the North Korean nuclear problem. The removal of North Korean nuclear weapons is bound to be his overriding task. In the meantime, North Korea is absolutely convinced that it needs nuclear weapons. In a situation where the gap of its national power with that of South Korea is already 30 times, North Korea cannot compete with conventional weapons. For Kim Jong-Il, nuclear weapons are a lifeline to maintain his regime. During the presidency of Bill Clinton, bombing the nuclear facilities in Yeongbyeon was reviewed. In 1998, training for a nuclear attack on North Korea was conducted.
Our government says that South Korea could play a role in mediating between the United States and North Korea, but the United States does not see the North Korean nuclear issue as an inter-Korean issue. Because the North Korean nuclear problem is a global strategic concern of the United States, it will be handled at Washington’s discretion. Considering his character, Mr. Bush will not leave North Korea a nuclear power as it is. But this is not to say a war will break out. As Secretary of State Colin Powell said some time ago, the United States would never bomb North Korea; it is a long way to go to war. But the measures taken at earlier stages could be fatal to North Korea.
I’d like to say how foolish North Korea is to believe that it will be able to maintain its regime only if it has nuclear weapons. As is the case with things in the world, weakness lies in unexpected areas and that weakness causes ruin. Did the Soviet Union collapse because of the absence of nuclear weapons? North Korea’s weakness does not lie in outdated conventional weapons and the lack of fuel for its jet fighters. I see the absence of human rights and humanitarianism as North Korea’s mortal weakness.
Visitors to Mount Geumgang may have seen undersized North Korean soldiers, about the size of South Korean middle school students, because of malnutrition. Why is the number of North Korea defectors increasing? They confess that they risked their lives to eat their fill of food.
Human rights and humanitarianism are a good cause. They are international morals that nobody can oppose. Because of this, Washington’s North Korean human rights bill will gain momentum. The helping hands of civilians given to North Korean defectors, although seemingly weak, will have explosive power. Our government shouldn’t be the only one that turns a blind eye to North Korean human rights, reading the mind of the North Korean regime. The “sunshine policy” did not shine light on the dark side of hungry, shabby North Koreans, but shone more light on the sunny side of North Korea.
If we give cash to North Korea, only the ruling elite will benefit. In addition to developing nuclear weapons, they will ride in their Mercedes Benzes and drink high quality wine. I don’t know why our government is antagonistic toward South Koreans with vested interests while trying to embrace and protect North Koreans with vested interests.
A report said that China recently deployed 100,000 troops along the border with North Korea. Was it because China had soldiers to spare? Probably it was because of its need to block North Korean refugees in case of an emergency and more proactively, to intervene in North Korea. When there was a blast at the Yongcheon train station in North Korea, former Prime Minister Goh Kun, who was assuming the role of acting president during the Constitutional Court’s deliberation on the impeachment of President Roh, said, “I couldn’t sleep at all, worrying over the situation on the Korean Peninsula.” He said that even if something happened to Kim Jong-Il and China established a pro-Chinese government in North Korea, there was hardly a countermeasure or a policy alternative that we could have taken to cope such a situation.
A thief does not come with notice. When we wake up in the morning, we learn that a thief has come in. When awake one day, we may learn that some event has occurred overnight in North Korea. Such a possibility has increased with the re-election of Mr. Bush. When a storm is likely to come, the captain should give all his attention to which direction he should steer his ship. Then his ship can survive. But our captain seems to be fighting with the passengers, coming down into the cabin accompanied by the steersman and the navigator to say that some of the passengers are disagreeable. While we fight over the National Security Law and other things inside the ship, a big storm might hit us suddenly. The day when we regret our foolishness could be here soon.
We should be prepared. Economic power is our foremost priority. We are surrounded by big powers and cannot do anything with military power. The problem of military power should be solved with the South Korea-United States alliance. If we want to help North Korea, we should have economic power. Economic power is the only card that we can play with.
We should also build up our diplomatic power. The time may come soon when we have to persuade the United States and strike a diplomatic deal with China. And the North Korean problem can be transferred to the United Nations. Then, we will need competent diplomats. We should value talented diplomats.
There is a possibility that the North will resort to provocations. We should at least defend the military demarcation line ourselves. To do so, national defense is important. These big pictures consist of a vision.
If we are to pursue this vision, is there time to fight over past problems?
* The writer is the chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk