[Letters] Let Kim Jong-un participate in APEC summit

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[Letters] Let Kim Jong-un participate in APEC summit

It’s been over a month since the Kim Jong-un system has launched in North Korea. The funeral ceremonies for Kim Jong-il that lasted for more than 10 days are finally over, and Kim Jong-un has been made supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army on top of the title of vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party.

Many North Korean experts forecast that he would soon become the chairman of the Central Military Commission as well as the general secretary of the Workers’ Party to conclude the power succession process. However, they have crossed views on the direction of the South Korean policy that Kim Jong-un’s regime would pursue.

Some forecast that Pyongyang would choose reform and conciliatory policy in order to receive economic assistance, as well as refrain from provoking the South.

Others predict that he would continue nuclear development and threaten with military provocation. In some cases, Pyongyang may carry out another nuclear experiment or long-range missile launch in order to boast its status as a prosperous and strong nation.

Until the celebration for the 70th birthday for Kim Jong-il and 100th birthday of Kim Il-sung, both scheduled for April, North Korea is likely to refrain from provocation while focusing on internal unity. The problem is its direction afterwards.

Kim Jong-un inherited power at a young age, and he may want to establish himself in economic, military and diplomatic fields in order to shore up his vulnerability. The party executives, bureaucrats and military officials supporting him would try to invent achievements for the new leader.

It is nearly impossible to score outstanding results economically or diplomatically. So they may resort to military means to show off the new leader’s competency.

We cannot completely rule out the possibility for cyber attacks and other provocations as well as another nuclear experiment between the general election in April and the presidential election in December.

Then, the stability and peace of the Korean Peninsula will become more distant. Seoul must make efforts to control North Korea’s provocation by diplomatic and defense measures.

For example, we need to display maximum deterrence capacity with a military exercise with the U.S. Seventh Fleet in the East Sea during the annual Korea-U.S. joint exercise “Key Resolve” in March. The passing of the bill on defense reform that includes “active deterrence” will also help.

Seoul also needs to make diplomatic efforts to bring North Korea to the international society and encourage opening and reform. China and Russia should be utilized as well.

Beijing pursued aggressive diplomacy by expressing condolences for Kim Jong-il’s death. It may be effective if China invites North Korea’s new leaders and military brass and urges them to follow China’s track of reform and opening.

New government will be elected in Russia in March, and by consulting the new Russian leader, we may coordinate North Korean leadership to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vladivostok in September as an observer, if not as a full member.

Such diplomatic efforts may discourage Pyongyang from aggressive policy against the South and ultimately induce North Korea’s opening and reform.

Park Young-jun, a professor at the Korea National Defense University
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