[GLOBAL EYE]A change of views is in orderWith the confirmation of the resumption of the six-way talks, there are people who say that the fourth round may be the last chance to make the nuclear disarmament talks a success. However, the word “last” is inappropriate for talks that deal with a complex issue like the North Korean nuclear problem, which has been dragged out for more than 14 years. There is no need to feel that an extreme situation will result if the negotiations don’t conclude in the next round.
According to sources, the United States and North Korea both have changed their perspectives of each other, at least on a low level, moving up from the very low level they had before the announcement of the resumption of six-way talks.
If the secret gathering in Beijing between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye-gwan led to an agreement on the date for the resumption of six-way talks, following the negotiations in New York, there are expectations that the next round of talks would result in more advanced proposals from both sides.
Therefore, we have to use this common ground as a basis for building mutual confidence, at least on a small scale, and provide a turning point for achieving practical progress on the solution to the North Korean nuclear problem. If there is a real change in perceptions, the rest of the problems will be lower level, but still difficult, technical problems.
Let’s take a look at a historical example. In 1985, former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev announced that he would change the coordinates entered in the nuclear warheads of the Soviet Union so that they would not be aimed at U.S. cities. After that, the people of the United States could sleep better at night than they they did when Leonid Brezhnev was in power.
However, the Soviet Union in the time of Mr. Gorbachev had just as many nuclear weapons as it did in the the time of Mr. Brezhnev. The only reason the United States did not feel as much of a threat was because its understanding of the Soviet Union had changed.
The weapons of the Soviet Union became weapons that had no reason to be launched at U.S. territories, just like the nuclear weapons of France or the United Kingdom. And to Europe, they became weapons that had no reason to be launched at its soil, just as the nuclear weapons of the United States did not pose a threat to them.
In this way, Mr. Gorbachev changed the perception of people all over the world who used to have hostility toward the Soviet Union and its intentions, not by a change in the number of weapons it owned but by a change in its foreign policies and philosophy.
For a solution to the North Korean nuclear problem, the change of perceptions like this is also very important. South Korea can contribute a lot to making both the United States and North Korea change their perceptions of each other because we are an ally of the United States and the same people as North Korea.
Fortunately, those who deal with the North Korean nuclear problem on the U.S. side are moderates who favor a negotiated settlement and are in line with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill. There are signs of a change in their attitude.
Also, North Korea seems to be increasing its efforts to solve the nuclear problem, gradually expanding the openness of the country.
It is the duty of South Korea and other surrounding countries to encourage both parties to continue to develop such a situation, so that they can change their views of each other and so bring about a change in their policy.
The North Korean nuclear problem is one that involves both guns and bread for the Korean people. Since the North Korean nuclear problem has been divulged, the economies of both North and South Korea have been held down by international politics and security.
At the same time, security seems to work as a framework that stabilizes the economy. The problem is that if this situation is prolonged, there is a chance that the dynamics of Northeast Asia will fall under a strain. The economic zone encompassing Korea, China and Japan, the most dynamic and growing economies of the world, needs to be joined by the Russian Far East and North Korea to make a larger market, but this vision is being hindered by the North Korean nuclear problem at the moment.
North Korea needs to understand the benefits of co-dependency. In co-dependency, there are both zero-sum and non-zero-sum factors, and it is diplomatic capability that turns them into something positive.
We should free ourselves from the perception that neighboring countries will only pursue policies that are designed to stop rival countries from gaining power. Politicians in France and Germany not only have vested interests in improving their own economic situation, but also in improving the economic situation of their neighbors as well. This is because the benefits from the co-dependency of the French and German economies have grown.
This is, of course, a situation that was unimaginable in the 1890s. There are such benefits from developing co-dependency in Northeast Asia, too.
At the next six-party talks, North Korea must change how the world and its neighboring countries view it. If the North succeeds in doing so, it will be able to grab a chance to make it more secure and prosperous, not through a reinforcement of its arms but through a change in perceptions.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Suk-hwan