NSC must work to empower itself

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NSC must work to empower itself

Envisioning a reunified Korea has become popular in political, academic and media circles ever since President Park Geun-hye dropped the line “Unification is a windfall” during a carefully choreographed New Year’s press conference. A sudden breakdown in the world’s most heavily armed border, however, could be more of a catastrophe than a godsend. We are glad that society is plugged into the discussion of reunification in order to better prepared for a unified Korea.

But Korea cannot be one simply because the public wants it. The peninsula, historically, is interlocked with competing interests from global powers and neighboring countries. Korea can potentially unite with the endorsement and support from the United States and China, which both have an enormous stake in the North and South.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made an interesting comment over the weekend during a security meeting in Munich, Germany. While explaining America’s “pivot” to Asia policy, he said he plans to discuss North Korean issues when he visits China later this month. “I will be in China in two weeks working on the North Korean issue, working with Korea, Japan, reunification,” he said. Kerry did not drop the word “unification” and mentioned Korea, China and Japan by accident.

Korean unification was also the focus of the “Asia-Pacific Global Development Research” report issued by the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The report named unification as the biggest potential change that could sweep the Korean Peninsula over the next five to 10 years. Beijing’s most influential think tank said China should drop its stance of supporting North Korea. The report cannot suggest a change in Beijing’s official stance, but it is rare for a state think tank to float the possibility of unification and divorce with Pyongyang.

Unification should never be fantasized about. Still, it is a development in which Washington and Beijing are taking an interest in. Whether unification arrives abruptly or gradually, we must be open and ready for all possibilities.

The new National Security Council secretariat is officially organized. It must fulfill its role in risk management and assisting the president on the security front. The NSC office must balance power and coordinate policies among the defense, security, unification and intelligence meetings. Role-sharing between the senior presidential secretary on security and foreign affairs and the NSC secretary general must also be clear. The revived NSC must serve as the main authority on national interests, unification and perilous developments in the region.
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