Don’t miss the opportunityAfter years of talks, Iran and six global powers have finalized a historic deal to curb the Middle Eastern country’s nuclear program in return for an easing in economic sanctions. The lift in trade bans including Iranian oil could be a political and economical boon for Korea. Separately, the conclusion in the Iranian nuclear saga raises hopes that a similar breakthrough may be possible for the North Korean nuclear problem. Washington has been dragging its feet on the North Korean nuclear issue citing strategic patience. Six-party talks on denuclearization have not been held for the last seven years. The resolution of the Iranian problem may persuade many in Washington to look towards the east.
The Iranian deal could mean more for President Barack Obama than curbing Iran’s nuclear program. It would achieve what the president has promised before he was sworn into office in 2009: that he would shake hands with the three foes, Cuba, Iran and North Korea. He can now cross out two, having normalized ties with Cuba earlier this month and now striking a deal with Iran. Washington has been preoccupied with major crises in Ukraine and the Middle East. State Department Secretary John Kerry appeared to be spending more time in the Middle East than in Washington. Now that other major foreign policy work is done, U.S. officials can now turn their eyes toward Pyongyang. Since the U.S., China and Russia worked closely over the Iranian deal, the same members of the six-party talks may be able to run the negotiations smoothly with North Korea.
North Korea may be feeling anxious watching the same allies of the “foe” making friends with the U.S. Iran has long been North Korea’s staunch ally in nuclear arms. The two countries share missile and nuclear arms technology and it was only Iran North Korea turned to for help to fight a food crisis from the worst-ever drought. The Pyongyang regime would have been shaken that Tehran has given up its nuclear weapons program.
We must not let the opportunity pass. Some believe Obama may not want to fret with the thorny North Korean nuclear issue for his remaining two years in office. Seoul must be more persuasive. President Park Geun-hye must make it a top priority when she visits Washington.
Iran’s sanctions relief opens up an immense market for Korea. The trade front will be normalized within the year. Iran with a population of 81 million people and a size nearly eight times the Korean Peninsula is rich in gas and oil as well as iron ore and zinc. The country’s economic growth could quadruple when sanctions are lifted. We must make the most of the boom in Iran. JoongAng Ilbo, July 15, Page 34