[OUTLOOK]Look to Helsinki for guidance

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[OUTLOOK]Look to Helsinki for guidance

Since the day after they agreed on a joint statement at the six-nation talks on Sept. 19, North Korea and the United States have been in sharp conflict and engaged in a war of words over the “provision of a light-water reactor.” Putting the “dramatic agreement” in the shade, both sides are bickering with each other at the entrance, even before they enter a negotiating place. Truly, it is unclear yet whether there will be any progress at the talks scheduled to be resumed this November. But the two countries revealed a common calculation in that both tried to avoid extreme confrontation and conflict, and this was also the background to the agreement this time. Here lies the grounds for a careful forecast that they will maintain the “arena” known as the six-nation talks even if they play a tense tug-of-war. To maintain the momentum of the six-party talks, they should show signs of making even a little progress. There is the possibility that the next phase will be to establish and make permanent a working group to make the agreed goals take concrete form. A fierce struggle over conditions may occur when they move their stage to more specific issues.
Of course, attention will be focused on the North Korean nuclear problem. But the more carefully we read the joint statement agreed upon at the talks this time, the more we see significant parts. The document could be interpreted not simply as aiming to handle the urgent task of resolving the North Korea nuclear problem but also as developing a regional framework to pursue a comprehensive consultative body on the security of Northeast Asia. During her visit to China in July last year, Condoleezza Rice, then national security advisor to the White House, reportedly proposed to China the permanent establishment of the six-party talks. This was to suggest conceiving a bigger framework that went beyond the North Korea nuclear issue.
In the joint statement, the United State “promised” to respect North Korea’s sovereignty, exist peacefully together, and affirmed it has no intention to attack or invade North Korea. Also, it clearly stated that the six parties “affirmed” not only to provide energy that was deemed to be in return for the abandonment of nuclear arms but also to “promote economic cooperation in the fields of energy, trade and investment, bilaterally and/or multilaterally.”
These expressions almost directly remind us of the Helsinki Declaration of 1975. This declaration was the document that laid the basis for the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe that commenced in 1972. It is considered that the Helsinki Declaration provided the framework to overcome the division between East and West and ultimately to put an end to the Cold War in Europe.
The Helsinki Declaration consists of three baskets of issues. The first basket had questions related to security guarantees and was made up of “10 principles,” including sovereign equality, refraining from the threat or use of force, inviolability of frontiers and non-intervention in domestic affairs and confidence-building measures. They were the principles of coexistence that acknowledged differences between regimes and prescribed how to establish confidence and reduce armaments. The second basket had questions regarding cooperation in the fields of economy, science and technology and the environment. The third basket had questions regarding “cooperation in humanitarian and other fields,” and stipulated the promotion of human contacts and free distribution of information.
These three baskets were the product of negotiation and compromise between East and West at that time. The first and second baskets were the demands from the former Soviet Union and East European countries and the third basket was the demands they accepted from the West in return.
The simultaneous operation of these three axes formed a great foundation for peacefully ending the Cold War in Europe. The principles of the first basket helped realize peaceful coexistence and, with a sense of security, the former Soviet Union and East European countries could carry out the reconstruction of their economies gradually through cooperation with the West. In addition, the mutual approval of humanitarian principles became the driving force for the emergence of civic society in the former Soviet Union and East European countries.
The simultaneous operation of these three axes was not limited to Europe but offered a universal approach to expand homogeneity through exchange and contacts and achieve “integration” at a new level while heterogeneous systems coexisted.
The six-nation joint statement did not directly mention humanitarian and human rights issues. These issues will cause resistance from North Korea, be sensitive problems for China too and meet with many obstacles in the reality of Northeast Asia. But they will become unavoidable issues once North Korea and the United States begin to negotiate over the normalization of diplomatic ties in earnest. To prevent the issues from becoming a particular country’s means of diplomatic pressure, it is necessary to seek discussion and practice within a regional framework. We can learn a lot from the Helsinki Declaration and the experience of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

* The writer is a professor of international relations at Rikkyo University in Japan. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Lee Jong-won
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