Sunday, July 21, 2013

‘Consensus, policy consistency integral for reunification’

Some interesting perspectives, the most interesting being the description of the Korean War:

Park: The Korean War was neither a civil war nor international war. Particularly, it was not a civil war as the root cause of the war was the great powers having divided and occupied the peninsula. On top of that, Stalin of the Soviet Union and Mao Zedong of China were directly involved in the decision to initiate the war, and major war-related policies were determined in Washington, Tokyo, Moscow and Beijing. This holds true with the ending of the war. A civil war is a fight over who would represent one society in a country like the English, American, Russian, Spanish and Chinese Civil Wars. 
The Korean War was a “war of world citizens.” Koreans were world citizens who experienced a world conflict, namely the Cold War, at its forefront. The Korean War was a microcosm where that global conflict exploded. It was virtually a world war. Yet, it did not escalate into World War III.

I think Professor Park would agree that the ROK needs to make preparations for unification and not simply develop scenarios and make plans.
“First and foremost, Seoul should establish a consistent internal perspective and policy toward North Korea and reunification. Just crafting reunification scenarios is not a top priority,” Park, 49, said.
An interesting description and criticism of President Park's Northeast Asia Initiative or process:
Park: The process approaches problems in a reverse order. The level of regional cooperation on non-political sectors in Northeast Asia have come close to that of Europe and the North American region. Regional exchanges in trade, economy, investment, tourism, people and culture are nearing some type of regional integration. I can hardly imagine how the Park government can foster regional trust and multilateral cooperation by adding more items to that list, such as climate change, terrorism and nuclear safety. It may have little impact. It is because the region has failed to build any trust in the areas of politics, history and security despite the high level of regional cooperation. 
The centerpiece is the trust and cooperation in areas of politics, the military, security and history. I hope President Park will demonstrate her capability to enhance and lead innovative multilateral cooperation in these areas in a way that encompasses North Korea, Japan, China, the U.S. and Russia.
Although Professor Park criticizes those as alarmist who believe that the north would seek to sideline the ROK through direct talks with the US he does seem to agree with those of us who believe that strength of the ROK/US Alliance provides the ROK and US flexibility to deal with the north.

Park: The trust and the alliance between South Korea and the U.S. have remained unwavering when it comes to North Korean nuclear issues. Thus, the more talks Seoul or Washington have with the North, the better things will become. What the North seeks through talks is by no means crucial. As long as the allies agree on what to offer and take from the North through dialogue with the North, it does not matter whichever side holds talks with the North. 
V/R
Dave

‘Consensus, policy consistency integral for reunification’
2013-07-21 16:44
This is the fifth in a series of articles to mark the 60th anniversary of the armistice agreement that halted the 1950-53 Korean War. -- Ed.

Park Myung-lim (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

Park Myung-lim, a leading scholar on the Korean War, called on South Korea to build internal consensus as the first step toward reunification, pointing to persistent ideological divisions over North Korea and its policy inconsistency.

During an interview with The Korea Herald, the Yonsei University professor stressed the South should be able to take responsibility of peacefully managing all peninsular issues, noting the North was already a “failed system.”

“First and foremost, Seoul should establish a consistent internal perspective and policy toward North Korea and reunification. Just crafting reunification scenarios is not a top priority,” Park, 49, said.

With his decades of extensive research including interviews and fact-finding trips, Park has sought to uncover the truths behind the 1950-53 war, the first major armed conflict of the Cold War.

Through painstaking research, Park also hopes to console the spirits of those who died in the conflict and contribute to finding the right direction toward peace and reunification.

“I have continued to delve into the war as I believe someone should help relieve the pain from the endless tragedies of the deceased, wounded, widows and orphans. Even for a moment, I have never forgotten the deep sadness in their eyes,” he said.

Following are excerpts of the interview with Park. The full transcript is available on The Korea Herald website.

Korea Herald: This year marks the 60th anniversary of the armistice agreement. How do you assess the agreement so far? Some say it is already in tatters as Pyongyang has long sought to make it null and void.

Park Myung-lim: Due to its tentativeness, the armistice regime born out of the agreement was a two-sided system that guaranteed not only stability but also instability. Despite this, we should not forget the armistice regime was the minimum mechanism to ward off war aggression and maintain security on the peninsula.

During some time before and after the cease-fire, it was actually the South that showed reluctance toward the agreement. With South Korean President Syngman Rhee (hoping for a unified Korea), the South did not join the signing of the armistice. In addition, the South, on the surface, pushed for a strong policy to advance into the North (to unify the peninsula.) Moreover, it was the South and the U.S. that argued in the 1950s that the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission should be pulled out.

Recently, Pyongyang sought aggressively to nullify the armistice. It is clear that it aims to forge a peace treaty, which would replace the armistice regime. But the armistice can’t be modified, supplemented or invalidated unilaterally by one side according to the mutual agreement. Thus, until both sides agree on its replacement, the armistice has to be seen as an apparatus to secure peace and security. North Korea’s provocations can also be called “provocations” because the armistice has been in force. 

KH: There have been conflicting descriptions of the cause of the Korean War. Some say it was a civil war while others say it was an international war. What is your analysis?

Park: The Korean War was neither a civil war nor international war. Particularly, it was not a civil war as the root cause of the war was the great powers having divided and occupied the peninsula. On top of that, Stalin of the Soviet Union and Mao Zedong of China were directly involved in the decision to initiate the war, and major war-related policies were determined in Washington, Tokyo, Moscow and Beijing. This holds true with the ending of the war. A civil war is a fight over who would represent one society in a country like the English, American, Russian, Spanish and Chinese Civil Wars.

The Korean War was a “war of world citizens.” Koreans were world citizens who experienced a world conflict, namely the Cold War, at its forefront. The Korean War was a microcosm where that global conflict exploded. It was virtually a world war. Yet, it did not escalate into World War III.

KH: What do you think about the implications or impact of the Korean War on the dynamics of East Asia?

Park: Its biggest impact is on the establishment of a Cold War structure in East Asia -- namely, the creation of the San Francisco system and a failure to introduce the Yalta system. The Yalta system is multilateral competition between capitalist and socialist collective security systems like the contest between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Warsaw Treaty Organization. 

But due to the Korean War, East Asian countries such as Japan, China, South Korea, North Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan forged either bilateral alliances or confrontational relations with the U.S. Thus, East Asia failed to build a multilateral, collective security mechanism. We call this “Northeast Asian exceptionalism” or a “hub-and-spokes system.” The very reason why the Cold War structure still lives on in East Asia is that the hub-and-spokes system -- the fundamental characteristic of the San Francisco system -- was built after the war.

Secondly, in the wake of the war, the nascent state of China emerged on the world stage and its division with Taiwan became solid. Less than a year after China founded its communist nation, it fought against the world’s greatest power, the U.S., and the Korean War ended in a tie. The war also played some role in preventing China from waging a war to unify with Taiwan, leading to a permanent separation between China and Taiwan.

Thirdly, we can point to the “Japan problem.” After the war, Japan returned to the international community through the San Francisco Treaty without thorough compensation or an apology for the inhumane crimes it perpetrated during World War II. Without Japan exhaustively taking moral, political and legal responsibility for them, we now have a host of issues such as territorial disputes, the wartime sexual enslavement of Asian women and historical distortions. The Japan problem is not just a nationalistic issue between Korea and Japan, and between China and Japan, but an issue of universal human rights, peace and war crimes, that questions the conscience of humanity. 

KH: The two Koreas have been caught in a relentless security dilemma with suspicions about each other’s intentions. How do you think we can overcome it? And the North vows to hold nuclear arms until the U.S. ends its hostility toward Pyongyang. What is the security situation from the North’s standpoint?

Park: Pyongyang’s argument that it cannot help pursuing nuclear armament because of U.S. hostility is baseless. The U.S. never invaded the North when it did not have any nuclear weapons. The North’s pursuit of nuclear arms is directly connected to the threat of its regime collapse that stems from a combination of the deepening isolation since the collapse of the Soviet Union; subsequent disintegration of the Cold War system; the widening inter-Korean gap in national power; the risks of being unified under South Korean control; and its debilitated economy.

So, what security means from its perspective is the comprehensive resolution of these threats to its regime survival. The security dilemma can’t be resolved when Pyongyang only seeks to remove external threat elements such as the South, the U.S. and Japan. The North should objectively face up to it.

A shortcut to resolving the security dilemma is recognizing each other and building mutual trust. I have long said the South can adopt the method of the West and East Germany -- namely, normalizing bilateral ties and international relations at the same time. First of all, it is crucial to recognize each other in realistic terms -- until the day of reunification -- by signing an inter-Korean basic treaty. By doing so, the two Koreas are to recognize each other as a state, albeit tentatively, and clearly declare their peaceful coexistence. And then, the U.S. and the North should also normalize their ties as quickly as possible. By formally recognizing the North, the South and the U.S. can eliminate an element of its security threat and the North can abandon its nuclear arms. 

KH: Replacing the armistice regime with a peace regime is also a crucial task facing the two Koreas. What kind of efforts should be made to that end?

Park: It should be a three-fold process. First, as I said, the process involves the two Koreas signing a basic treaty to recognize each other and the normalization of U.S.-North Korea relations. That is to restore normal state-to-state relationships among them.

Secondly, the armistice should be turned into a peace treaty. In this process, the South -- which is the principal party for peninsular peace, but did not join the signing of the armistice -- must partake. Without its participation, any peace regime on the peninsula can’t be effectively upheld. Thus, a peace treaty can be formulated with the participation of the two Koreas, the U.S. and China in a two-plus-two format.

Thirdly, a collective security institution or multilateral security mechanism should be created in East Asia. Should a collective security system be built, the peninsular security issue would be elevated as an issue of multilateral security in the region, and therefore, a war can scarcely be waged. 
Denuclearization and arms reduction that these three measures entail would be a starting point for a peace system on the peninsula. 

KH: How do you assess President Park Geun-hye’s dialogue-based peninsular trust-building process? Do you have any advice for her?

Park: I hope the Park government consults policy cases of Germany, Taiwan and the U.S. As witnessed in these cases, a moderate, liberal policy toward a hostile state was far more effective for a conservative government. As it is a conservative administration, conservatives would not object to it nor would liberals shun it. The hostile state would also follow the policy after all as there is no other choice to take.

Indeed, the South needs to delve into the polices that the Christian Democratic Party in West Germany, the Nationalist Party of Taiwan and the Republican Party in the U.S. adopted. In particular, the South can study the implications of the Nixon government’s normalization of relations with China; Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s policy toward East Germany; and the Nationalist Party’s policy of coexistence and cooperation with China.

Among past Seoul governments, the South can learn from what the Roh Tae-woo administration did. Without undermining the Korea-U.S. alliance at all, it normalized ties with China and the Soviet Union -- two countries that sponsored the North and which Seoul fought against during the Korean War. 

KH: Park is also pushing for the “Seoul process” -- a trust-building mechanism for peace in Northeast Asia. The process, as she puts it, seeks to build trust in non-political areas first and then moves onto the areas of “high-politics” such as security in what experts call a functional approach. 

Park: The process approaches problems in a reverse order. The level of regional cooperation on non-political sectors in Northeast Asia have come close to that of Europe and the North American region. Regional exchanges in trade, economy, investment, tourism, people and culture are nearing some type of regional integration. I can hardly imagine how the Park government can foster regional trust and multilateral cooperation by adding more items to that list, such as climate change, terrorism and nuclear safety. It may have little impact. It is because the region has failed to build any trust in the areas of politics, history and security despite the high level of regional cooperation.

The centerpiece is the trust and cooperation in areas of politics, the military, security and history. I hope President Park will demonstrate her capability to enhance and lead innovative multilateral cooperation in these areas in a way that encompasses North Korea, Japan, China, the U.S. and Russia.

KH: There is a lot of talk about the possible collapse of the North Korean regime, but there is little discussion of reunification. What preparations do we need for that?

Park: North Korea is already a failed system in terms of its value and substance. Thus, whether reunification is near or not, regardless of when the North would cease to be, the South should be equipped with responsibilities and capabilities to undertake and manage overall peninsular issues including North Korea issues peacefully. 

The first and foremost thing to do for reunification is establishing a “consistent” internal perspective and policy toward North Korea and reunification. Crafting reunification scenarios is not the top priority. With the hitherto internal conflicts over North Korea and policy fluctuations between liberal and conservative governments, the South can never manage peninsular issues in a consistent manner. So, the first step is internal compromise, integration and unity. 

Without this, the South would suffer from policy swings and self-denial, and be relentlessly embroiled in internal conflicts without a sustainable, resilient reunification policy. This would also send a confusing signal to North Korean people and the international community. 

KH: Whether conservative or liberal, Seoul governments’ policies toward the North has made little headway, particularly on the issue of denuclearization, in the last two decades. What is the fundamental problem?

Park: The first thing to do is to combine a national-level goal with an administration-level policy. With regard to North Korea policy, South Korea as a state should have a consistent, clear policy goal. Within this goal, a liberal or conservative administration can have autonomy and flexibility. But while South Koreans do not make efforts to reach consensus over the former, they often tend to value the latter more. This is a very dangerous, ideologically-skewed approach.


The second is to recognize and honor previous governments’ inter-Korean and international agreements. Albeit insufficient, the two sides can implement them as they can modify and supplement them later in practical terms. In this way, the South can gain policy consistency and international trust. The signal to its citizens and North Koreans would also remain consistent. 
(Continued at the link below)

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