[VIEWPOINT]Our North policy needs U.S.The two major planks of the United States’ world strategy are preventing the spread of terror and weapons of mass destruction, and spreading the values of the United States. The so-called “axis of evil” is one of the obstacles to this plan, and North Korea is one of the “axis of evil” countries.
Therefore, the aim of the U.S. policy on North Korea is to establish a free North Korea through regime change, or, if this is not possible, the next best thing would be to destroy North Korea’s nuclear program.
The Bush administration has clear principles in handling the North Korean nuclear problem. The first is that the problem has to be approached multilaterally because it is a problem that threatens world peace. The second is that the “complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement” of all nuclear programs, known by the acronym “CVID,” should be a prerequisite.
The third is that North Korea should give up its nuclear weapons first and that “there is to be no compensation for evil conduct.” The fourth and last principle is that “all alternative plans remain open.”
The United States can choose different approaches to the North Korean nuclear problem, such as having talks, taking disciplinary action against North Korea, allowing the possession of nuclear weapons for the time being, or changing the regime through secret operations or military action.
The United States will first of all attempt a diplomatic solution through talks. This is not only the best option for the United States right now, but is also a necessary step to secure international support to pressure North Korea later.
If the United States fails to solve the problem through talks, the second option will be either taking disciplinary action against North Korea or leaving it in possession of nuclear weapons for a while. If the United States is confident of gaining cooperation from the North’s neighboring countries, such as China and South Korea, on sanctions, it will start pressuring North Korea that way. But if the United States doesn’t see this as possible, it can call attention to the responsibility of the North’s neighbors to solve the nuclear issue.
The next step will be to change the Kim Jong-il regime to a pro-Chinese regime with the help of China. The United States and China would both benefit from this because a pro-Chinese regime would be easier to handle and more adaptable to the international order.
Finally, in case China and Korea both agree on a military solution, or China gives its tacit agreement despite South Korea’s objections, the Unites States could resort to a military attack. However, this is not an easy choice even for the United States.
Ultimately, the most likely choice is to find a solution through dialogue. If there is no clear outcome from talks, however, increasing pressure from the international community ― such as referring the case to the UN Security Council, strengthening the Proliferation Security Initiative, or issuing economic sanctions on North Korea ― will be used along with the talks. Even China will probably prefer to cooperate in pressuring North Korea or changing it into a pro-China regime rather than endorsing the use of U.S. military power.
The United States is attempting to form an anti-terror alliance for the 21st century. This change in the nature of international relations is even changing the meaning of alliances too.
Faced with new threats, the United States clearly defines its allies from its enemies and takes the position that the United States cannot tolerate allies that do not actively participate in the war against terror.
The problems that South Korea faces now, the North Korean nuclear program and progress toward national unification, cannot be independent from the trend and framework of international politics. Our wisdom and skill in cool-headedly adapting to the changes in international politics will command the future of our country.
However, there is a big difference in how South Korea and the United States perceive North Korean threats and North Korea itself. The United States views North Korea’s nuclear development in terms of prevention of international terrorism or nuclear non-proliferation, but South Korea thinks that the nuclear problem stems from North Korea’s worries about its security, which has been caused by diplomatic isolation and a bankrupt economy.
That is why South Korea focuses on the reform and the opening of North Korea. Nevertheless, the majority of U.S. policy specialists do not believe that North Korea will adopt true reform or truly open up.
Seoul was bent on playing the role of mediator in talks between North Korea and the United States. However, instead of taking action after carefully calculating the interests of concerned parties, South Korea became too caught up in its own ideals and made the mistake of misjudging the essence of the problem.
There was a time when an “inherent approach” toward North Korea, meaning we should try to see North Korea from the North Korean point of view, was thought to be the right way. Today, we need an “inherent approach” toward the United States to clearly understand the United States.
* The writer is a professor of international relations at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Namkoong Young