Increasing Interdependency is the way to Peace on the Han Peninsula

An analysis on the Northeast Asian situation following the nuclear experiment of North Korea


Kim Sam-Su

Director, Korea Reunification Society


North Korea experimented with a hydrogen bomb on the 6th of January, the 3rd such experiment since February 2013. The reactivation of loudspeaker broadcasts against North Korea and the deployment of U.S. B-52 strategic bombers just 4 days after the experiment signal the Han Peninsula is confronting a crisis. As tensions mount at the DMZ, they said sooner or later B-2 stealth bombers, nuclear powered submarines, and nuclear powered aircraft carriers would be deployed, too. If North Korea keeps insisting on being ready for nuclear war, U.S. strategic nuclear weapons will continue being staged against the country. While the North Korean nuclear issue heads to a close, a true peace resolution for the Han Peninsula is still far-off.



▲ North Korea’s hydrogen bomb – Yonhap News


Talks and Negotiation: principles cannot be ignored


Unlike North Korean propaganda, there is much doubt about the success of the hydrogen bomb experiment, which North Korea claims to be more effective than the atomic bomb. No matter the result, its existence poses a serious threat to the peace of the Han Peninsula, Northeast Asia and the rest of the world. After announcing its nuclear doctrine in 2013, North Korea has activated ‘strategic force’ from the ‘strategic rocket force’, which had previously been established. Last December, North Korea attempted to experiment with a submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM), and now it has reached its 4th nuclear experiment, attempting to create a downsized nuclear bomb. Recently, it has become more difficult to report and investigate on North Korea’s nuclear program. It is the moment to consider a strategic approach, not only for increasing deterrent power for self-defense, but also for securing nonproliferation of the bomb.

North Korea would like­ the U.S. to accept its possession of a bomb, which could be deployed in an actual situation, as fact, so that it might dominate the strategic nuclear relationship. The international community would reinforce sanctions against North Korea. through the U.N. Security Council. The sanctions, however, would not be effective if China is reluctant to impose them. There is a slim possibility of China abandoning North Korea in order to reinforce military cooperation among South Korea, the United States and Japan. Considering the geopolitical landscape surrounding the Han Peninsula, a forceful military action is not logical, as it would strengthen North Korea’s capability of developing a nuclear bomb.

The experience of Iran can be an important precedent in this situation. Despite strong opposition from conservatives, such as U.S. Republicans and Israel, the United States maintained its willingness to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomatic negotiations. This model might be applied to the nuclear issue with North Korea. The South Korean government must promote multilateral and bilateral diplomatic efforts to foster cooperation from China, whose role is crucial in solving the North Korean nuclear issue. Since there was an agreement through a joint statement made September 19, 2005 on carrying out a mutual abolition of nuclear weapons and a normalization of relationships between the United States and North Korea, there must be shown an active willingness on the part of the U.S. to resolve the issue as it did with Iran. It must not become a mere checking Chinese power through the North Korean nuclear incident.     



Increasing Interdependency


President Park commented that the experiment was a serious provocation, although she could not offer any clear counter measurement besides the reactivation of loudspeaker broadcasting. The government suggested the necessity of 5-Talks, excluding North Korea, while simultaneously proposing the effectiveness of 6-Talks, including North Korea. Since North Korea was not involved, 5-Talks became a consultative group, focusing on sanctions against North Korea itself. China instantly rejected the suggestio­n, doubtful whether there were enough chief delegates from South Korea-US-Japan, South Korea-China, and South Korea–Russia. It seems the government has shown its diplomatic incapability without considering the effectiveness of sticking with sanctions to solve the nuclear problem.  



6-Talks for the resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue - SBS


The government of South Korea has been focusing on denuclearization at the diplomatic stage and through joint statements from the summit with the United States, China and Japan. However, denuclearization is a far cry without the restoration of talks between both Koreas as a confidence building measure. So far, bilateral talks have been successful in making reunification part of the national agenda. However, it is not possible to reestablish the relationship between both Koreas with the Park’s current rigid approaching. She must dare to give up the notion of conditional cooperation, which her administration has been sticking to thus far.

The Park administration must be reminded that the ultimate goal of policy on the Han Peninsula is peace. Increasing the interdependency of both nations through expanding and developing an economic interchange based on strong security is the only way to move forward with denuclearization and peace. The government has to restore the confidence of both nations through reinstitution of action 5.24; resuming tourism to Mount Guemgang, expanding interchange of various actors, and afterwards promoting the transformation of rational thinking regarding North Korea and the fulfillment of the joint declaration on denuclearization. It is the South Korean government’s part to resolve the nuclear struggle between the U.S. and China.


Translator : Myung Jin-Geon

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