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[Opinion] The Only Option of the North Is Dialogue

Posted February. 22, 2002 09:27,   


What would be the response of the North to the Korea-U.S. summit? North Korea probably evaluates it as both positive and negative in its inside but may strongly denounce the U.S. externally.

The North that has been nervous about the remarks of `axis of evil` by U.S. President George W. Bush may positively evaluate the facts that Bush declared to solve the problem of the weapons of mass destruction and did not make any public remarks about the conventional weapons that the North has criticized as a typical unilateral demand of the U.S. And therefore it would provide an actual justification for the North to step forward to the North-U.S. dialogue.

However, the North might interpret as a serious threat that Bush understands the North Korean regime and the North Koreans separately right at the spot of the divided Peninsula and continuously raised the issue of the North Korean system. The reason why the Bush`s remarks betraying his understanding of the North is specially problematic due to the characteristics of the North Korean regime. North Korea asserts itself as the nation that the leader-party-people have formed a unity. Therefore, the separation of the people from the government might be understood as nothing but the rejection of their supreme leader. Hence, the North will strongly demonstrate its official protests, which will end up with the decrease to be half effective of the Bush`s reserved remarks during his visit to Korea. Eventually, the chances to resume the North-U.S. dialogue will be narrowed down in a short run.

However, there is one thing that the North should remember at this summit. The relatively prudent remarks of Bush at the Korea-U.S. summit is the most moderate remark since 9.11 terror, especially considering the characteristics of the Bush administration and the world strategy of the U.S. after 9.11 terror. And it only became possible thanks to the honest efforts of the South government. U.S. President Bush will not show any more reserved attitude until the North demonstrates something. Therefore, denouncing the U.S. will not be helpful to solve the problem any more. The dialogue is the only option.

U.S. President Bush particularly emphasized the family reunion of the separated families and put his signature to a railroad tie to reconnect the Kyong-Ui line at the Dorasan Station wishing for the unification of the Han nation. Such actions of the U.S. President expresses his intention to juxtapose his policy to eliminate the North`s WMD with the South`s Sunshine policy.

This situation provides an opportunity to the North. If the North steps forward to the Inter-Korean dialogue before the North-U.S. dialogue, it would be understood as the North`s expression for peace. Thus, the improvement of the Inter-Korean relationship will be a crucial factor to ease the U.S. attitudes toward the North. If the North-U.S. relationship is still unfriendly, the North should take this opportunity to change the situation.

The North Korean leaders must now break through the current crisis through the Inter-Korean dialogue first of all. And for the new Inter-Korean relationship, the North must carefully reflect two things in the following.

Firstly, the North Korean leaders must ruminate reasonably what they have earned by the result of the interruption of dialogue for the past one-year conflicting with Bush. The North has delayed the improvement of the Inter-Korean dialogue, denouncing the South government that has shown strong efforts to alleviate the U.S.`s hard-line policies as sticking too much to the Korea-U.S. cooperation rather than the Inter-Korean cooperation. However, the result was only a stronger distrust of the U.S. Even though the North criticizes the Korea-U.S. dialogue, the North must know the fact that, through the Korea-U.S. dialogue, the South government could manage to adjust the level of the Bush`s remarks.

Secondly, North Korea should question to itself whether the delay of the Inter-Korean dialogue for various reasons while it argues for the autonomous resolution of the problem of the nation can be justified. And the North should recognize that such attitudes have accelerated the distrust in the North in the international society.

If the North is really concerning about the security of its system and the peace in the Korean Peninsula, it should come forward to the dialogue table immediately, even granting some dissatisfactions. If no change comes out in a few months, Mr. Bush will pour out such unscreened negative remarks and lose his self-control in the North Korean policies. North Korea should clearly understand that the Korean government won`t be able to persuade the U.S. any more then if there is no dialogue between the two Koreas.

Lee Jong-Seok ( North Korean Studies, The Sejong Institute)