[Viewpoint] World in flux offers unique chance

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[Viewpoint] World in flux offers unique chance

Henry Kissinger pointed out in Tokyo several days ago that if the five participating states in the six-party talks - the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea - fail to cope with North Korea’s unreasonable provocation, there will be no room to discuss the task of building a new world order from the beginning.

If the U.S., Japan and China, which are the world’s first, second and third-largest economies, are at a loss about how to deal with North Korea’s waywardness, it will prove that we are in a no-man’s land of diplomacy. Against this backdrop, above all, finding a diplomatic solution to the long-running North Korea problem is a significant prerequisite to providing a firm foundation to create the new world order. The biggest task facing Korean diplomacy is to make this historic experiment a top priority for the international community, especially the U.S. and China.

Every nation feels anxious in the midst of this transition period, which heralds a complete overhaul of the balance of power and the political and economic landscape in the international community.

Amid such an atmosphere, we understand North Korea’s desperation to find a means of survival and escape has caused it to go on the offensive, seized with fear that it would surely lose a conventional contest.

However, Korea is no longer a country of the 19th or 20th century. Korea is fully armed with power and willingness to open a new chapter in the peaceful future of the Korean people by overcoming this complicated diplomatic battle, in which the interests of major powers are intertwined. Therefore, our reunification diplomacy aims to help North Korea, which has become increasingly isolated from the world economy, and make a concerted effort to help build an Asian community.

The crisis caused and exacerbated by the North has caught the world’s attention, but because of that it may serve as a new opportunity to drive reunification diplomacy forward. This moment, when the nations participating in the six-party talks are busy reconciling their own interests, could be a great opportunity for us.

The Obama administration came into office proclaiming that it would accept the pluralism of global political forces and take the lead in creating a new world order by forging close ties through dialogue, rather than resorting to military means. However, it has not confirmed any concrete strategies to deal with the problems facing the Korean Peninsula or Asia.

It is still quite unlikely that the U.S. will accept with good grace the North’s attempt to drag it into bilateral negotiations through force. The U.S. is in a position to explore possible solutions through the six-party talks, especially by cooperating with China, as it is reluctant to hold itself liable for North Korea’s future.

Japan cannot help feeling on edge, worried that its self-image as a “peaceful nation” might be a mere illusion whenever a North Korean missile flies across its skies. However, what hurts Japan’s pride and confidence most is the nightmare of taking a backseat to a rising China in a bipolar world system with the United States. Therefore, Japan is busy driving ahead with trilateral talks with the U.S. and China, and has no capacity to present solutions to the North Korean issue at this time.

Russia, which seems to feel pushed to the periphery of the Asian region, does not always seem to dislike North Korea’s role as a spoiler, weighing on the U.S., China and Japan. However, if the strategic dialogue between the U.S. and Russia proposed by Obama is put on track, Russia’s geopolitical stance on the Korean Peninsula will be gradually fixed.

China holds the key to the success of multilateral diplomacy. China is rising to the rank of a world superpower in various fields, politically, economically and militarily. As it realizes its dream of recapturing its glorious past, China’s accumulating power becomes more apparent amid the global economic downturn.

How China will use its new predominance and responsibility, especially in its self-proclaimed role as Asia’s standard-bearer, is a matter of keen interest. Whether China will play a leadership role in peacefully resolving the North Korean problem, although it has consistently attempted to dominate international forums about the situation, will serve to test China’s new presence.

In this regard, the urgent task facing those who favor reunification diplomacy is to bring the participants of the six-party talks to a consensus on how to share the risks and burdens accompanied by China’s choice.

The two Koreas have different perceptions of the same situation. The North may think its radical behavior will bring diplomatic victory, while we believe that we have an opportunity to open a new chapter of reunification diplomacy.

The forces that drive history forward are mysterious indeed. It is high time we sharpened our vision and implemented strategies for a new kind of reunification diplomacy.

*The writer, a former prime minister, is an adviser to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Hong-koo
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