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[Contribution] Inter-Korean diplomacy paradigm shifts

Posted July. 28, 2000 14:07,   


North Korea traditionally adhered to the banner of anti-imperialism and autonomy in its foreign policy as it struggled for self preservation and economic development. The North also sought ultimate unification of the peninsula under the communist flag as it pursued an expansionist policy.

However, with the fall of the Soviet Union and in the new world order and environment, the North now faces a new political obstacle as it strives for the preservation of its Socialist Party and the retention of power for the Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il lineage.

With the deterioration of the Eastern socialist bloc, the party has, first, expounded its own brand of socialism to curb the loss of faith by the citizenry; second, utilized its research and development into nuclear weapons, missiles and other weapons of mass destruction as bargaining chips at negotiation tables; and third, sought survival through aid and concessions from the capitalist international community.

Following such a policy of survival, the foreign policy of the North has been one of self-preservation negotiations with the United States, the securing of food aid for the relief from famine, and the promotion of foreign investment capital into the North for economic development. In its attempt at such political gains in its foreign policy, the North effectively utilized a crisis management strategy.

Then, in its dealings with others through negotiations to defuse threats, the North attempted to garner across-the-board concessions through brinkmanship diplomacy. Through such diplomacy -- although the North successfully obtained limited concessions and enormous food aid ?it was not enough to provide a solution to its structural economic crisis. Of late, with many citizens in the North having become casualties in the prolonged famine, it appears that Kim Jong-Il has realized that the threats of nuclear weapon and missile development, and a crisis-management policy of foreign affairs cannot serve as bargaining chips.

After the Berlin agreement with Washington last September in which the North pledged to cancel the test launch of its ballistic missile Daepodong 2, the North has been following a blitz of negotiations with nations among the international community.

Beginning with heightened diplomacy at the 54th session of the United Nations assembly, the North has implemented an omni-directional foreign policy to build ties with Italy and other nations in the European Union, as well as Australia and others in Asia.

However, such renewed diplomacy with the West that long had excluded South Korea faced limitations. As such, the North seems to have shifted its traditional exclusionary foreign policy and agreed to the inter-Korean Summit to follow a new inter-Korean policy, which includes the building of trust with the South`s Kim Dae-Jung administration, as well as to make good on the Berlin declaration.

In the wake of the inter-Korean Summit, the two states have entered into various contacts and talks. Following the inter-Korean Red Cross talks to hammer out the details for the reunion of separated families, the ministers from the two states, South Korean Foreign Minister Lee Jung-Bin and North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-Sun, met for the first time July 26 in Bangkok, where they are in attendance for the ARF.

On the same day, a vehicle displaying the South Korean flag and carrying South Korean ambassador to China Kwon Byung-Hyun entered the gates of the North Korean Embassy in Beijing for the first-ever meeting with North Korean ambassador to China Joo Chang-Chun.

Also scheduled for July 29-31 is the inter-Korean ministerial talks in Seoul. Many observe that the rush of inter-Korean talks and contacts is pointing to a paradigm shift in the inter-Korean relationship.

Although the historical ministerial talks in Bangkok are considered an introductory meeting to exchange formalities, the two states have expressed interest in developing more comprehensive ties in a joint declaration.

"With the underlying inter-Korean joint declaration, we shall work in mutual cooperation for the advancement of peace and cooperation both in the peninsula and internationally," the declaration stated.

The contents of the joint declaration adopted by the two ministers reflect the inter-Korean mutual agreement adopted in February 1992. In the 1992 agreement, Article 22 states, "In the international arena, both the South and the North will respect the other`s interests and will enter into intimate cooperative diplomacy when the interests of the people of the two states are involved."

The landmark inter-Korean ministerial talks in Bangkok have indeed paved the way to actualize Article 22 of the 1992 agreement in international diplomacy. Once such a cooperative diplomatic body can be established, the insignificant tit-for-tat exchanges between the South and the North can be shelved for good, as the interests of all Korean people can be pursued.