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Strategy in Inter-Korean Talks

Posted October. 19, 2010 11:26,   


The Chosun Shinbo, a newspaper published by the pro-North Korea General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, commented on the North’s reconciliatory approach to South Korea Saturday, saying, “It is reasonable to see that (the approach) was made based on a highly calculated policy decision.” The daily added, “(The North) apparently seeks it as a breakthrough to tackle inter-Korean relations as a milestone for 2012. (The North has designated 2012 as the year it will become a strong and advanced nation).” Pyongyang is going on a dialogue offensive by using the daily as a tool to promote its 2012 goal. The Chosun Shinbo is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the North’s communist regime.

If Pyongyang believes inter-Korean talks are a safe variable for 2012, Seoul should respond differently. If swayed by the North’s suggestion without a grand and thorough strategy, the South will end up helping the succession process of the North’s heir apparent Kim Jong Un.

Before holding bilateral dialogue, Seoul must know if Pyongyang genuinely wants dialogue and what its real intent is. The North said last week that it is willing to implement the 2005 joint statement on its nuclear program. This is, however, simply a propaganda tool it has often used since leader Kim Jong Il mentioned the resumption of the six-party nuclear talks in September last year. If Pyongyang really intends to revive the talks, it should at least try to resume the disablement of its nuclear facilities. Even at a bilateral working-level meeting of the two Koreas’ militaries, the North absurdly claimed that the South violated the inter-Korean maritime border without mentioning the sinking of the Cheonan. Pyongyang obviously wants to focus on resuming the Mount Kumgang tours rather than alleviating the pain and suffering of separated families in both Koreas.

Voices in South Korea suggest an inter-Korean summit as necessary for a package deal, while other say bilateral talks are needed for a successful hosting of next month’s G20 summit in Seoul. Opposition parties are urging massive assistance to the North and dialogue, claiming the South is responsible for strained relations. As opposed to the North, which is conducting a dialogue offensive based on a sophisticated policy decision, the South seems to have an incoherent voice. Though a package deal that can resolve the North’s nuclear program is undesirable, the opposition seems intent on painting a rosy picture for the people and blasting President Lee Myung-bak as a failure.

There is no reason to believe in a rosy picture for an inter-Korean summit given the previous two summits. In 2000, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung agreed to a lower-level reunification model of a Korean Peninsula confederation without the consent of his people, only to have North Korea go nuclear and commit provocations in the Yellow Sea. In the second summit in 2007, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun never even mentioned the word “nuclear.” If a third summit is held, the sinking of the Cheonan will probably be glossed over. President Lee promised zero tolerance of the North possessing nuclear weapons and demanded that Pyongyang admit to sinking the Cheonan. If the South cannot make substantial changes in the North and is rather swayed by it, it will likely help the power succession of the North’s ruling Kim family and the propaganda of the communist regime.