Too anxious to pleaseSome 1,600 years ago, a Roman military expert, Flavius Vegetius Renatus, wrote a famous maxim: “Let him who desires peace prepare for war.” However, the second South-North Korean summit meeting, which opens today, seems to be taking the opposite approach.
There are signs that President Roh Moo-hyun is going to discuss agreements that will shake the foundation of South Korea’s national security, such as concluding a peace treaty with North Korea and conducting negotiations of the Northern Limit Line (NLL).
President Roh entrusts the North Korean nuclear problem entirely to the six-party talks. The results of the six-party talks will take some time to surface, but it appears that an agreement was reached at a lower level than expected.
There is a chance that the talks will end only after layers of protective walls are piled on North Korea in order for it to avoid getting rid of its nuclear program. Now there is a need to consider the North Korean nuclear problem from a few fundamental perspectives.
Is the dismantlement of the North Korean nuclear program a precondition for peace on the Korean Peninsula, or is peace a product that will follow nuclear disarmament? The ambiguous compromise that both dismantlement of the North’s nuclear program and a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula will be pursued simultaneously is the content of the agreements signed on Sept. 19, 2005 and Feb. 13 this year. As a result of the compromise, the clear goal of the six-party talks has been diluted, and the confusion in today’s North Korean nuclear standoff has been created.
Is the term “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula used with the same meaning by all the participating countries in the six-party talks?
North Korea claims, “The nuclear problem will be solved only when all nuclear war-related facilities are withdrawn from South Korea.”
The U.S.-North Korea military talks proposed by North Korea in July was actually a proposal for U.S.-North Korea nuclear disarmament talks or Korean Peninsula denuclearization talks.
What North Korea means to say through that proposal is that the United States should fold up the nuclear umbrella it provides to South Korea, and withdraw the U.S. forces from Korea, too. North Korea is raising issues that are not negotiable.
Under the present circumstances, will it be possible for the six-party talks to bring about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program? Most specialists are dubious about this point. The fact that the six-party talks are attempting a detour approach by deciding to accommodate such North Korean demands as a Northeast Asian peace and security system, a Korean Peninsula peace system and normalization of U.S.-North Korea and North Korea-Japan relations, ultimately shows that the participants in the talks are also skeptical about achieving North Korea’s dismantlement of its nuclear programs.
If denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a process that has to be executed in the long term, isn’t it necessary that the Korean Peninsula peace process should also be examined and pursued with the same long-term perspective?
However, South Korea and the United States appear to be in a hurry to establish a peace system on the Korean Peninsula by promoting such things as the declaration of the end of the Korean War, shifting the current military armistice system to a peace system and the South-North Korean summit talks, despite the fact that prospects for the resolution of the North Korean nuclear problem remain opaque.
The actual completion of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through dismantlement of the North Korean nuclear program is a process that needs a long period of time.
In the meantime, North Korea will call itself a country in possession of nuclear weapons and act accordingly at home as well as abroad, and all non-nuclear countries in the region will have to make contingency plans in case of emergency.
If various international mechanisms, including the six-party talks, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Security Council, drag on in finding a solution to the North Korean nuclear problem for a prolonged period, it will not only damage the trust among nations in the region, but may also increase the possibility of nuclear proliferation. It is hard to expect the six-party talks to develop into a Northeast Asian peace and security cooperation system. Where can South Korea stand under such circumstances?
The answer is clear. President Roh should strongly urge the complete dismantlement of the North Korean nuclear program at the South-North Korean summit talks. If he avoids this out of fear of getting into a debate with the North Korean leader, he is neglecting his duty as the supreme commander of our armed forces. The six-party talks also exist for the same purpose.
Complete dismantlement of the North Korean nuclear program is a precondition for peace on the Korean Peninsula, not a byproduct.
*The writer is the vice president of GSIS, Hallym University and former vice minister of national defense. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Park Yong-ok