When will we grow tired of fighting?

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When will we grow tired of fighting?

Pyongyang raised tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the international community by test-firing a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on May 9. Seoul responded by test-firing a 500-kilometer (310.67 mile) ballistic missile, whose range covers all of North Korea, on June 3. The next day, a spokesperson from the Communist nation criticized it as a “missile launch commotion against North Korea.” While June was expected to be a time for improved inter-Korean relations, the situation is going in the opposition direction.

In the 43rd ministerial talks of the Organization for Cooperation between Railways (OSJD) in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, on June 4, Korea’s entry was denied due to Pyongyang’s opposition. The OSJD is an organization that oversees the Eurasian railway transport. Entry into the group requires unanimous agreement among 28 member countries. Failure to join would hinder President Park’s “Eurasian initiative” and “Silk Road Express” plans.

Korea was hopeful until the OSJD General Directors meeting in April in the Czech Republic. Its bid to join the organization was unanimously chosen to be included in ministerial talks by the 28 members, including North Korea. The OSJD entry was expected to bring a breakthrough in inter-Korean ties, which were stalled due to the Kaesong Industrial Complex wage issue.

However, a day before the voting for OSJD entry, South Korea test-fired the ballistic missile. The North Korea representative at the OSJD ministerial talks then strongly opposed Seoul’s bid, so its entry was denied. This level of frustration is certainly not the first time in seven decades of division, but we should not let it be repeated over and over again.

Seven months before Mao Zedong died, he met with Richard Nixon in February 1976. Mao told Nixon that the two countries have been enemies for decades, and that only enemies get to work out problems. He proposed a toast as enemies become friends when they grow tired of fighting.

Nixon cited Mao’s poem, “Nothing in this world is a challenge. We can take a step at a time as we climb the mountain.”

The United States and China had been hostile since the 1950-53 Korean War until Nixon’s visit to China brought a dramatic reconciliation. The two countries were tired of being enemies after 22 years. Henry Kissinger played a critical role in Nixon’s decision. He thought that U.S. foreign policy was immersed in idealism, moralism and legalism just as George Kennan criticized in “American Diplomacy, 1900-1950.” Kissinger integrated realism into American diplomacy and orchestrated detente with China. South and North Korea have not become friends after fighting for 70 years. Both sides have grown tired. Now we need to face the reality.

The author is a researcher at the Unification Research Institute, JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 8, Page 30


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