[Viewpoint]Balance carrots and sticks on North Korea

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[Viewpoint]Balance carrots and sticks on North Korea

The “participatory” government claims its policy for peace and prosperity is something it has inherited and developed from the preceding “one nation” government’s policy for reconciliation and cooperation, also known as the engagement policy or Sunshine Policy.
However, we must not forget that the Sunshine Policy is derived from the theory of guarantee by the four powers surrounding the Korean Peninsula. That theory came into being in 1971, when the Cold War was at its peak. The foundation for it is the idea of separating politics from the economy, which means promoting exchanges and cooperation because trust didn’t exist between the two Koreas.
In this context, military confidence-building measures can be taken only after long-standing economic exchanges and cooperation have matured, and the possibility of political unification can be discussed as a result of political agreement and coordination.
They can, at best, go in tandem with, but cannot be expected to precede, economic exchanges and cooperation.
Therefore, the idea of segregating the economy from politics is realistic on the one hand, but has its own limitations on the other.
“Warm economics and cool politics” follows the sequence of “economy first and politics afterward.”
The four-power guarantee theory is a “2+4” formula, as seen in the German reunification process.
It means to obtain endorsements from the four powers for the outcome of consultations led by North and South Korea. Realistically, however, it can only be a process in which the four powers take part in the North and South Korean consultations from the initial stage, to efficiently create agreements they will be able to endorse and to effectively coordinate the interests of the concerned parties.
This formula means to induce consent from neighboring states to agreements produced jointly by South and North Korea, without leaving their destiny to the will of major powers. Therefore, we need to push this formula ahead constantly and consistently.
For South Korea, the 2+4 formula so far remains the most appropriate, effective and able way to formulate a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula because it has two obvious and pressing objectives: first, to open a representative or liaison office in Pyongyang before the United States and Japan, and second, to maximize the dependence of North Korea on South Korea.
Peaceful reunification can be forthcoming and North Korea will not be able to return its current strategy of “national collaboration” back to the “alignment with the United States and containment against South Korea,” if the above-mentioned two objectives are achieved.
North Korea earlier raised security concerns as one of the prime agenda items in the six-party talks. But if the resolution of security concerns of one party increases the concerns of the other ― or, vice versa ― then North and South Korea cannot achieve a common security.
On top of these, a series of domestic developments have aggravated the security concerns of citizens and in effect encouraged North Korea’s strategy regarding South Korea. Among these developments are the controversy over the “principal enemy” concept; the issue of “independent national defense;” the transfer of wartime operational command and control; a campaign to remove the statue of General Douglas MacArthur; demonstrations against the relocation of U.S. military headquarters to Daechu-ri and exercise facilities in Jikdo; the National Teachers Union textbook controversy; labor unions’ tribute to the “Three Sacred Revolutionary Grounds;” activities against Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations, and so on.
Recent changes in North Korea, as imposed by the outside world, have weakend the notion of North Korea’s immutability.
But arguments for excessive and premature resumption of aid to North Korea persist, contributing to heightened insecurity in South Korea. A lot of compromises and concessions to North Korea in the six-party talks ― even after it provocatively test fired of missiles and a nuclear device with impunity ― with a view to helping resolve its security concerns will only serve to deepen insecurity in South Korea.
The Sunshine Policy has three basic principles, the first and foremost of which is not to tolerate armed provocations from the North. If this fundamental spirit and principle is shaken, distorted, forgotten or misunderstood, we cannot say the Sunshine Policy has succeeded or developed.
This was evidenced by the fact that the decisive occasion on which the Sunshine Policy gained strength was the triumph of the South Korean Navy in the June 15 conflict around Yeonpyeong-do in 1999. By contrast, the supporting ground for the policy was visibly eroded after the ill-fated June 29, 2002 skirmish on the Yellow Sea.
North Korea returned to the six-party talks on Feb. 8 this year because the United States tenaciously pulled Pyongyang’s Achilles tendon by keeping its funds at Banco Delta Asia frozen. The unanimous support for the United Nations Security Council resolution, promptly adopted in the wake of North Korea’s nuclear test, added impetus for North Korea to accede to a proposal for the second stage of the talks in Beijing.
As the talks have yielded some initial results, we now have to return to the original Sunshine Policy.
The other five parties of the talks, including South Korea, have become busy preparing to provide joint assistance to North Korea. However, they will also have to be prepared for a third Security Council resolution sanctioning North Korea in the event it returns to a provocative cycle.
When our carrot grows bigger, our stick tends to look dwarfed. However, we need to prepare a stick of the same size as the carrot.
This is the way to keep faith with the original spirit of the Sunshine Policy.

*The writer is a former distinguished professor in diplomacy at the Graduate School of International Studies, Yonsei University.

by Kim Jae-bum
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