[OUTLOOK]A South-North summit must waitThe president’s call for constitutional change lies stranded on the rocks. A ship is likely to wreck when it is pushed at all costs. The next card in Mr. Roh’s hands is the summit talks with Pyongyang, notwithstanding the administration’s official denial. Unfortunately there is no path forward for the summit talks either. If pushed further, Captain Roh’s ship is doomed to crash again.
January in Pyongyang is busy. North Koreans have to study and practice writing headlines for New Year’s Day editorials at the three major newspapers. The editorials give the most accurate clues about the future path for North Korea. One must be able to read them accurately in order to understand the thoughts and behaviors of the Kim Jong-il system.
Every new year I read the editorials in a somewhat rosy frame of mind. I did so this year too, but the hope ended with gloomy, discouraging news. The basic framework behind the colorful propaganda about Kim’s regime did not change at all.
First, the 1-3-1-1 strategy remains in place. As we can see in the title of an editorial, “Let’s open the prime times of Chosun by paying homage to our leader, and with an elevated sense of victory,” the foundation of North Korean leadership still lies in prioritizing the military over anything else. Nuclear leadership is particularly emphasized, notably with much pride, in this year’s editorials.
Then the editorials promise to continue the great march toward the three goals ― economic power, military power and powerful political ideology ― under the heading of nuclear leadership. Thirdly, they focus on the nation, defending peace and on the principle of national cooperation. These have been repeatedly stressed in inter-Korean relations since the June 15 summit talks. Finally, they address the fight for independence against imperialism in international relations.
North Korea’s foreign policy in 2007 is unlikely to make a breakthrough as long as Kim’s regime promotes the 1-3-1-1 survival strategy. In the upcoming six-party talks scheduled after the recent Berlin agreement between Christopher Hill, the U.S. representative, and Kim Gye-gwan, his North Korean counterpart, North Korea may agree to freeze nuclear facilities in Yongbyon in return for economic support.
These would be preliminary steps for solving nuclear issues, much like the Geneva agreement in the early 1990s.
But the next steps ― reporting on and cancelling all nuclear programs ― will not be accepted until the nuclear rhetoric in the editorials changes. North Korea will attempt to break the linkage between the first and the second steps of implementation, whereas the U.S. will try its best to associate the two. Ultimately the talks will face a stalemate and fail to provide any resolution to the nuclear crisis.
By securing the survival of the North Korean regime and providing massive economic support, the South Korean government is trying to solve the nuclear crisis within the framework of peaceful resolution. But this administration should realize that an agreement on peace is impossible between Pyongyang’s nuclear leadership and Washington’s anti-terrorist, anti-weapons of mass destruction war leadership style. Philosophies of nuclear leadership and eliminating weapons of mass destruction form an irreconcilable paradox.
Yet the focal point for resolving the nuclear crisis does not lie in tedious contention over whether to freeze or discard nuclear programs. Rather it depends on how to induce the nuclear leadership of North Korea to adopt a system open to reforms.
North Korea classifies inter-Korean summit talks into the third 1, not the first 1, in its 1-3-1-1 strategy. It renders the summit talks more as a means to achieve economic relief and a Pyongyang-style national cooperation than as a way to resolve the nuclear crisis.
Therefore, Roh’s administration faces a threefold hurdle if it is over-ambitious in pushing for the summit talks. Above all, there is no possibility that talks will contribute to solving the nuclear crisis.
Next, the summit talks under the restraints of a nuclear crisis will not produce the same domestic political effects as the June 15 summit talks. They may instead have a bad impact on the presidential election at the end of the year.
Last but not least, summit talks before solving the nuclear crisis would seriously aggravate the Korea-U.S. relationship without any practical gains.
The conclusion is simple. The inter-Korean summit talks should be promoted only after leadership style in Pyongyang steers away from nuclear weapons. This will benefit both the administration and the ruling party.
*The writer is a professor of international relations at Seoul National University. Translated by the JoongAng Daily staff.
BY Ha Young-sun