[Outlook]Is it time for peace?It seems that there is a time for everything. There are some things that one cannot get no matter how desperately one may want it if it is not the right time. I talk of this fatalism because of the six-way talks in Beijing. The United States and North Korea have such complicated and contradicting interests that it is hard to resolve the situation neatly with human resources and strategies. Without trust, a sincere agreement is hard to achieve. The negotiation room in Beijing is a grey area when it comes to trust. North Korea still does not trust the United States and vice versa. Human wisdom doesn’t seem very meaningful when there is a lack of trust.
Despite this problem, I still believe there will be a right time for a resolution because a butterfly flapping its wings might cause a storm on the opposite side of the globe. In Washington, there is a move toward the withdrawal of soldiers from Iraq, which is much stronger than a butterfly flapping its wings. The wind caused from this movement is now blowing from the Capitol Hill toward the White House. That wind might become a storm and hit the Korean Peninsula, producing a mixture of expectation and worries.
U.S. President George W. Bush is in a very difficult situation because of the Iraq issue. At his request, nearly 30,000 soldiers were dispatched to Iraq this year, but the situation has not improved at all. The death toll for Americans exceeded 4,000 and 26,500 were injured. Around $450 billion was spent. Some 70 percent of Americans demand the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Major media outlets say withdrawal is necessary. As veteran senators also join the call, the Congress is rapidly going in that direction.
Politicians are concerned about votes. Policies tend to be decided depending on whether they will help politicians gain votes or not. Foreign policies are the same. Because there will be an election late next year, changing the Iraq policy is a priority for Republicans. The United States is capable of changing its stance suddenly and entirely once it decides to do so, even when it concerns foreign policies affecting other countries. We have seen such incidents in the past.
The withdrawal of troops from Iraq means the failure of Bush and the Republican Party. They naturally want some other achievements in foreign relations to make up for the failure. As a belated move, President Bush suggested on Tuesday to hold an international meeting on peace in the Middle East. The Middle East, Europe and East Asia are the three major pieces on the chessboard of the United States. Washington might calculate that if the North Korean nuclear issue is resolved and leads to establishment of order and security in East Asia, the failure in Iraq will be offset to some degree.
Is it a mere coincidence that the Bush administration becomes increasingly interested in ending the Korean War at the same time when withdrawal of troops from Iraq is gaining wide support? As the February agreement is being implemented, the U.S. administration will start to have serious discussions on replacing the cease-fire agreement of the Korean War with a peace agreement. It will also talk about concrete plans to change the framework for the six-party talks into an organization for security and cooperation.
Kim Jong-il faces a limited life expectancy and insecure feelings about choosing a successor. President Bush is running out of time, so there is a possibility that he might make a hasty, big deal out of a desperate need for achievement. There is the possibility that the North Korean nuclear issue will be wrapped up halfway ― at the step of disabling nuclear facilities ― instead of being fully resolved. This is the most inspiring scenario for South Koreans who live with the cancerous tumor of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. It is terrible to imagine that the United States and North Korea will make up with each other only for the promise that North Korea will not deploy existing nuclear weapons.
Last week, North Korea suggested a military meeting with the United States, excluding South Korea. Contrary to our expectations, the United States responded positively.
There is no guarantee that South Korea will know all that passes between U.S. top negotiator Christopher Hill and his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-gwan. As the clock of fate is ticking, both expectations and worries grow.
*The writer is an editorial writer and traveling correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Bae Myung-bok