[VIEWPOINT]Our North Korea strategy only hurts usI was not at all surprised to hear CNN’s breaking news on the morning of Oct. 31, describing North Korea’s bold decision to return to the six-party talks mechanism about the deadlocked nuclear issue.
The agreement was announced after a meeting between North Korean, U.S. and Chinese diplomats in Beijing. Our government welcomed the announcement, but the stark fact that our diplomatic team was totally ignorant of the resumption of nuclear negotiations agreed among the U.S., China and North Korea proves that our government’s diplomatic efforts toward North Korea have failed to a certain degree.
We South Koreans must pay attention to this sad diplomatic failure with regard to resolving North Korea’s nuclear brinksmanship.
Our vague position toward North Korea, which is based on emotional nationalism, does not help resolve the complicated issue.
In an interview with USA Today reporter Paul Wiseman right after the nuclear test in North Korea on Oct. 9, I argued that the North Korean leader has shortened the life of his regime (USA Today, Oct. 12, 2006, “Analysts predict beginning of the end in N. Korea”).
South Korea’s unconditional economic aid and emotional support for the North Korean regime has resulted in diplomatic isolation from our traditional allies, such as the United States and Japan.
As a scholar of international politics, I have been closely following the detailed developments in the six-party talks. As of now, to my mind, North Korea’s image is rather like that of the boy who cried ‘wolf!’ in a cautionary tale for children. In the tale, the boy lied and lied, so that in the end nobody listened to him when he shouted the truth.
Nobody would possibly believe the truth that North Korea is willing to give up its system’s survival strategy ― the use of nuclear weapons. The country uses its program as leverage to get more economic aid from the international community, including South Korea, as well as to insure the regime against a military attack.
On Sept. 19, 2005, the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan agreed to a draft agreement under which North Korea would scrap its nuclear programs in return for multilateral security assurances and aid.
However, that formula did not work out because North Korea walked away from the agreement.
Washington has continuously insisted that Pyongyang return to the talks without conditions, and said it would be willing to meet privately with North Korean officials within the context of the broader six-way negotiations.
In the same context, the United States has also refused to lift the financial sanctions it imposed last year on North Korea to counter what it said was illicit trade, money-laundering and the counterfeiting of U.S. currency; Pyongyang has cited the sanctions as the major stumbling block for its return to the talks. Time has passed and finally, all of a sudden, North Korea tested nuclear weapons in October.
I know that we South Koreans are wary of shunning North Korea, which is viewed as a wayward brother. Reflecting this national sentiment, Kim Dae-Jung’s people’s government (1997 to 2003), and Roh Moo-Hyun’s participatory government (2003 to 2008) have actively sought to engage the Kim Jong-Il regime under the Sunshine Policy.
The total amount of unconditional aid to North Korea amounts to $8 billion, excluding unofficial aid. Despite South Korea’s tremendous help to Kim Jong-Il, nothing has changed to the benefit of our brothers and sisters there. I would rather call the regime a version of George Orwell’s novels, “1984” and “Animal Farm.”
Until now, some have starved due to the lack of food and because political freedom is not allowed for ordinary North Korean citizens. Our Sunshine Policy has instead consolidated the power base of the despotic dictator Kim Jong-Il’s Workers’ Party with its juche or self-reliance ideology.
South Korea-U.S. alliance relations have suffered noticeably because of Roh Moo-Hyun’s pro-North Korean diplomatic line and his constant pronouncements about independence (paju in Korean) from international power politics.
This anti-American sentiment has damaged the friendship many American people felt toward South Korea. In conclusion, nothing has changed in Mr. Kim’s nuclear strategy and North Korea’s intention to communize South Korea.
Due to our government’s stance toward emotional nationalism with North Korea and walking away from the close alliance with the United States, our diplomacy has lost its all-important credibility with our friends such as the U.S. and Japan.
This is a severe loss for our national interests. It is urgent that our government restore this credibility for effective future diplomacy in this era of a multi-layered world system. We have to keep in mind that South Korea is a trade-dependant nation.
We have to vividly remember that North Korea clearly violated the South-North agreement, the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which was jointly agreed to by the two Koreas in 1992.
*The writer is a visiting professor at the Department of Diplomacy of National Chengchi University in Taipei. He also works as secretary general of the Democratic Pacific Union Korea Chapter.
by Park Tae-woo