[Viewpoint] Stop being suckers for Kim Jong-il

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[Viewpoint] Stop being suckers for Kim Jong-il

When the Korean word for “straw” is used as slang it has two meanings.

Sometimes it means an insider who leaks information, and at other times it describes an animal that a parasite lives on.

Since 2000, we have had more active dialogue, engagement and cooperation with the North.

And what have we been to North Korea?

Have we been a straw through which the North can suck whenever it wants, rather than a generous, benevolent partner for cooperation toward mutual prosperity?

Before the shock from the tragic death of our former president has subsided, North Korea conducted a nuclear test, teaching us several lessons.

First, despite seeming to denuclearize in the past few years, North Korea has not given up its will to become a nuclear state. This policy has continued unchanged.

A test of a weapon of mass destruction requires continuous research, development and investment.

That a second test was conducted after the first one in 2006 proves North Korea still has an obsession with nuclear and ballistic missiles. North Korea’s nuclear development program was frozen only on paper.

Second, some may argue that a lack of dialogue with North Korea and lack of will on the part of both Seoul and Washington to negotiate with Pyongyang led the North to resort to a second nuclear test.

Of course, North Korea may have calculated that another nuclear test would provide a better chance to have direct talks or negotiations with the United States.

However, we should remember that the dialogue that North Korea wants is out of the ordinary.

What Pyongyang wants is nuclear armament talks with the United States, in which the U.S. and North Korea talk at the same level - or perhaps even where North Korea gains the upper hand.

The agenda North Korea wants to pursue is not just normalization of ties with the United States or economic aid. It wants the cancellation of the U.S. agreement to provide security to South Korea, which would fundamentally change the strategic environment on the Korean Peninsula.

Third, the latest nuclear test showed that North Korea is capable of easily ignoring the minimum degree of common sense in inter-Korean relations.

For North Korea, South Korea’s shock and grief over the deceased former president meant nothing.

Its act can be interpreted as sending the message that dialogue, engagement and cooperation will stop at any time South Korea refuses to accept all North Korea’s demands unconditionally.

Even though South Korea is the closest potential victim of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction, the North has made it clear that it is not interested in its relationship with the South but its relationship with the international community - specifically, the United States.

We need to stop the exhausting division in our society and the unproductive debate on the North Korean nuclear issue.

It is time to deliver a calm but resolute statement of defiance to the North.

Though we perceive North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction as an issue that has continued for a long time instead of a direct threat to our safety, North Korea has conducted nuclear tests twice and continued its steps to possess nuclear weapons.

For the great causes of peaceful co-existence and reunification, cooperation between South Korea and North Korea and humanitarian aid to the North are certainly needed.

However, our government and the people must think seriously about what we have done so far and what we should do in the future in order to stop the most impulsive and arrogant regime in the world from possessing the most dangerous weapons.

We must make demands equivalent to the aid and investment we give the North. We must be wise and prudent in the course of realizing our participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative, which the government has just announced.

*The writer is a senior researcher at the Korea Institute of Defense Analysis. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Cha Du-hyeon
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