[Outlook]Lee and the North

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[Outlook]Lee and the North

In February, President-elect Lee Myung-bak released the framework of his North Korea and foreign policies, the so-called MB doctrine, at a meeting with journalists who cover international news.
The MB doctrine contained seven parts, the first of which is a declaration that South Korea will support North Korea voluntarily opening its doors on the condition that the North completely abolish its nuclear development program.
He also presented concrete measures last summer on how to support North Korea in a plan called “denuclearization and opening doors 3000.” The plan is that South Korea will raise an international fund of 40 billion dollars to develop the North. It wants to increase North Korea’s national per capita income to 3,000 dollars within 10 years, also on condition of North Korea’s abolition of its nuclear program.
Lee’s North Korea policy seems realistic and reasonable, considering that the six-party talks for North Korea’s nuclear issue are making progress. North Korea has already started disabling its nuclear facilities and will make a complete report on its nuclear development program by next spring.
However, the MB doctrine has a crucial weakness when subjected to a primary test. Namely, this question: Who will abolish North Korea’s nuclear development program and how?
Nobody can guarantee that North Korea will give up its nuclear ambitions entirely. Even Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s leader, may not be completely sure about it. With the U.S. presidential election in November, U.S. President George W. Bush will be tempted to compromise with North Korea, accepting less than complete denuclearization to announce the issue is closed. North Korea is disabling its nuclear facilities but it hesitates to report its nuclear development program to the extent that Washington expects.
The participants in the six-party talks, excluding North Korea, want to press the North one last time, but they can’t for two reasons. First, they do not have any leverage, such as the funds they froze at the Banco Delta Asia.
Second, there is a danger that they will miscalculate the degree of pressure and push the North across a bridge from which it cannot return.
The weakness in the MB doctrine is, therefore, that North Korea’s denuclearization is considered a given. The doctrine has a plan for prosperity but no vision for peace. If North Korea’s denuclearization gets stuck at the point where the North is supposed to report its nuclear development, which will freeze the six-party talks, “denuclearization and opening doors 3000” probably can’t even get started.
Even an incompetent president, like Roh Moo-hyun, could make a policy on the premise that North Korea completely abolishes its nuclear development program.
Lee must clarify his stance on the following questions. What exactly is his notion of North Korea’s complete denuclearization? To what extent should we leave dialogue and economic cooperation with North Korea in a gray area in which the six-party agreement has not been discarded but North Korea’s denuclearization hasn’t been carried out either?
At this stage, does a declaration of peace by the leaders in Washington and Beijing bear any meaning? If the United States implements preliminary measures for normalizing ties with North Korea before the North completely abolishes its nuclear development program, what stance will Korea take?
Needless to say, peace through North Korea’s denuclearization is the surest kind of peace for the Korean Peninsula. But even if North Korea’s nuclear issue is not resolved to our satisfaction in five or 10 years, we cannot give up on peace. Lee linked economic cooperation with North Korea to the abolition of its nuclear development program.
That stance abides by the principles, and suits the feelings, of most South Koreans. However, reciprocity of this type might tie down not only the Lee administration’s North Korea policy but also its foreign policy as a whole. If reciprocity is too strictly abided by, one can easily ruin an entire picture while trying to fix a small part.
So how should it be done? North Korea’s nuclear issue must be approached within a larger framework. Currently, South Korea’s North Korea policy is subordinate to North Korea’s nuclear issue. The Lee administration must turn this around.
North Korea’s nuclear issue must be reduced to a part of a policy for peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia. North Korea’s nuclear issue must be placed inside a larger framework of peace. The administration must not look up at North Korea’s nuclear issue from below, but instead it must look down from a high policy for peace and prosperity for Northeast Asia, India, Australia and even Central Asia.
If the administration looks around in all directions from that height, it will be able to find a way. Denuclearization is a means, not a goal.
If we cling to North Korea’s nuclear issue and are desperate about denuclearization, North Korea will further delay its report on its nuclear development program in a bid to receive more gains.

*The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Young-hie
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