Sanctions do more damage than none at all; scholars
International analysts gathered for the fifth conference of the Korea Forum for Peace, Prosperity and Unification, organized by the JoongAng Ilbo and JTBC, at Lotte Hotel in Sogong-dong, central Seoul. They tackled the theme of how to resolve Pyongyang’s nuclear problem and ensure peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Baek Young-chul, professor emeritus at Konkuk University and chair of the forum, suggested at the seminar that the resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue would involve an exchange over Pyongyang’s denuclearization and a peace treaty to end the Korean War (1950-53).
“As the United States and China exchange opinions on the denuclearization of North Korea and a peace treaty, they are opening a two-track approach of sanctions and negotiations,” said Baek. He added that the South Korean government should hurry to prepare a dialogue and negotiation card.
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2270, imposing the toughest-ever sanctions on North Korea for its fourth nuclear test in January and long-range missile launch in February. But some experts have consistently pointed out that such strict sanctions should not be an end-all policy, as this could exacerbate the problem.
Baek continued, “If the South Korean government puts everything into a one-sided policy of sanctions, it will be difficult to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea.”
He added that Seoul needs to put forth a policy of denuclearization and the establishment of a peaceful regime to follow this period of tough sanctions. “Even if North Korea conducts a fifth or sixth nuclear test, eventually, this issue has to be resolved through dialogue,” he said.
Such a move would require the will and discernment of the leaders of South Korea, the United States and China, Baek said, as well as a peace treaty, the normalization of relations between Pyongyang and Washington and the foundation of a Northeast Asian peace and security structure.
Other participants in the annual forum included Robert Carlin, a security analyst and visiting scholar at Stanford University, Zhu Feng, a professor at Nanjing University, former Prime Minister Lee Hong-koo, former Korean Ambassador to the United States Lee Tae-sik and Hong Seok-hyun, chairman of the JoongAng Ilbo and JTBC.
The forum is a think tank comprising 40 conservative and liberal experts and academics, who weigh in on issues relevant to the Korean Peninsula and unification. It marks it fifth anniversary this year.
“North Korea’s position is that it will not engage in any negotiation under these sanctions,” said Ko Yoo-hwan, a North Korea studies professor at Dongguk University. “It exaggerates its nuclear capability as a tactic to pressure other nations to shift from using sanctions to negotiation.”
American security expert Carlin said that Washington currently does not consider North Korean policy a “priority” and does not have any intention of resolving the North Korean nuclear issue at the moment.
“The United States expects China to take more responsibility, while China wants North Korea and the United States to bilaterally negotiate denuclearization,” Chinese security expert Zhu said. “Overall, China’s position is that diplomatic dialogue is the best method here.”
JoongAng Ilbo Chairman Hong said in his opening remarks, “Even the smallest progress in North Korea’s denuclearization needs to be secured in order to provide an impetus toward cooperation and exchange, and to enable a mutually virtuous circle.”
The forum, sponsored by the JoongAng Ilbo Unification Research Institute, was launched in March 2011, to tackle inter-Korean relations and propose a roadmap for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
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