[OUTLOOK]Thinking through the problemIf you are upset, reason sometimes fails. We have to calm down and watch the moves by other countries, which have quickened in the wake of the North’s nuclear test. We have to pick an appropriate response.
President Roh Moo-hyun will meet today with China’s leader, Hu Jintao. A Chinese vice prime minister in charge of foreign affairs is to visit the United States and Russia. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visits to Korea, China and Japan are expected earlier than once planned. At the United Nations Security Council, a draft resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea is being circulated. The Security Council will adopt a resolution for economic sanctions, with military measures under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter ruled out. All of these moves are to resolve the nuclear crisis through diplomacy.
The United States and North Korea both say they want to use the six-party talks to end the crisis. In a press conference on Wednesday, President George W. Bush stressed diplomacy, using the term more than 10 times. The same day, the Foreign Ministry of North Korea said in a statement that although it had conducted a nuclear test because of the United States, Pyongyang still wanted a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. It also said its nuclear test was an active move to implement the Sept. 19, 2005, joint statement at the six-party talks in Beijing. This sounds like Pyongyang wants to return to talks with Washington. Both Washington and Pyongyang agree on the usefulness of the six-party talks.
If the United Nations Security Council adopts a resolution sanctioning North Korea, South Korea should implement it, under one condition: sanctions should not block a resolution through diplomacy. The goal is appropriate pressure on the North to return to the situation of Sept. 19 of last year.
If a UN resolution is adopted and diplomatic efforts have been made, a fierce debate will erupt here on joining the Proliferation Security Initiative and providing aid to the North. These are important matters and we must be prudent.
The Proliferation Security Initiative includes a measure to inspect North Korean ships in international waters. But U.S. or Norwegian naval vessels, for instance, checking North Korean ships on the Pacific Ocean or the Indian Ocean is a different level of risk than that of South Korean and Chinese naval or police vessels inspecting the North’s ships in Chinese or Korean waters. South Korea should join the Proliferation Security Initiative and yet should think carefully about what it should or should not do in that effort.
Aid to the North should be re-examined as well. South Korea should join the UN sanctions on the North. South Korea has invested heavily in the North; Kaesong Industrial Park and the Mount Kumgang tour programs have become symbols of economic cooperation between South and North Korea and thus have now become the major issues to think about. When implementing economic sanctions, interpretations always vary. If a UN resolution is adopted, South Korea should study those two major projects in the resolution’s framework.
If our goal is to bring North Korea back to the table and make it give up its nuclear ambitions, we should put sanctions on the North but leave the back door open for it to retreat from its programs.
A key to resolving the problem is for North Korea to be satisfied with talking to the United States in the framework of the six-party talks. Although President Bush and Secretary of State Rice oppose direct dialogue, they have never said they oppose having talks with the North in that context. A consensus by the six parties can be reached through multiple two-way, three-way or four-way talks; Pyongyang-Washington talks during the larger meeting have no less standing than independent diplomatic meetings.
President Roh’s meeting today with Mr. Hu will include discussions of ways to deal with the new situation caused by the North’s nuclear test by broadening their common approach toward the North. That’s a part of the larger discussions, but what’s most important is cooperation between South Korea and the United States.
To promote the better cooperation that is needed in this new crisis, ties between South Korea and the United States must be mended. The Roh administration’s “self-reliance” diplomacy has created problems; the administration and the Uri Party should not assert that the United States is to blame for the North’s nuclear test. They should leave such assertions to the media and analysts outside the government or the ruling party.
If they shout political and emotional arguments about the Proliferation Security Initiative and aid to the North, that does not help in resolving the problems either.
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie