Where’s the road map?The government has singled out reinforcing strong security and building a foundation for reunification as its top two agenda items. The ministries of foreign affairs, unification, national defense and patriots and veteran affairs told President Park Geun-hye at a joint briefing session that they will focus on those goals this year. The president had put top priority on paving the way for an era of reunification by declaring unification as a potential “jackpot.”
The ministries’ agendas perfectly concur with Park’s ideas for building a solid foundation for reunification. The Ministry of Unification came up with all-too-rosy initiatives, which include launching efforts to establish a World Peace Park in the Demilitarized Zone within this year, pushing ahead the Eurasian Initiative to promote the joint Rajin-Khasan railway project, cooperation in agro-livestock and forest sectors, and exchanges in arts, sports and cultural assets. The schemes are aimed to facilitate the building of a foundation for reunification by embodying the president’s signature Korean Peninsula Peace Process.
South and North Korea broke a deadlock, at least temporarily, after agreeing to hold the long-awaited reunions of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War. Pyongyang also showed some signs of change recently, as seen in North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s address. To achieve a fundamental turnaround in South-North relations, however, the government must go beyond the North’s sinking of our warship and its shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010. The Cheonan attack, in particular, directly prompted the May 24, 2010, sanctions on the North. To pursue the Rajin-Khasan project, the government must lift the sanctions. But the Unification Ministry made no mention of that.
A bigger problem is the North’s nuclear weapons program. If it conducts a fourth nuclear test or fires a long-range missile, all our conciliatory efforts will go up in smoke. The Foreign Affairs Ministry plans to deter the North’s provocations through a strategic cooperation with Washington and Beijing to induce Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear ambitions. Despite its purported two-track approach, however, the ministry’s approach sounds like diplomatic rhetoric without any substance.
North Korea’s nuclear drive has been pushed back on the priority list of President Barack Obama, and China has no effective solution in the absence of any six-party talks. Under such circumstances, the ministry’s promise to solve the conundrum through strategic cooperation is but an empty slogan. With no insightful road map visible, the government can never solve the nuclear puzzle.