A time for nimble diplomacyWith the artillery drill in the waters off Yeonpyeong Island now over, tensions on the Korean Peninsula appear to be easing, at least temporarily. As long as there is a constant threat from the North to launch a surprise attack, we must be on high alert from a military perspective. But such preparations should be combined with diplomacy, one of the two main pillars of security. In response to our artillery drill on Monday, North Korea took a more peaceful stance by proposing to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson during his visit to Pyongyang that it will allow inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency again and ship its spent fuel rods overseas. U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley viewed the offer as a positive sign, adding that the U.S. government will craft its policies based on the North’s actions, not its words. The North’s proposal appears to be an inducement to shift away from military confrontation and toward dialogue and cooperation. It is hard to completely ignore the North’s peace offensive.
The continuation of the volatile situation on the peninsula is not desirable for anyone. We should seek discreet dialogue yet continue to be firm. If the North apologizes for the bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island, the South could propose that both sides discuss ways to reduce tensions on the peninsula.
As explicitly shown in a fierce debate over our military drill at the U.N. Security Council, a Cold War paradigm is re-emerging, with South Korea, the U.S. and Japan on one side and North Korea, China and Russia on the other. In fact, China sided with the North while posing as an arbitrator. Russia took a conflicting approach, denouncing the North’s Yeonpyeong attack in the beginning but later submitting the issue of our legitimate artillery drill to the Security Council. China and Russia also plan to conduct a joint military exercise next year.
As confrontation between the two sides grows, we will face more difficulties in positioning ourselves in the emerging power dynamic. Our alliance with the U.S., and cooperation with Japan and the U.S. are, of course, important. But these relationships cannot guarantee our security. As revealed by its new defense strategy, Japan is trying to exploit rising tensions on the peninsula to rejuvenate its Self Defense Forces. We should reduce our diplomatic dependence on the U.S. and strengthen our ties with China and Russia. Amateurish diplomacy relying only on the goodwill of neighbors cannot solve the problem. It is time for nimble diplomacy.