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'South Korea needs to focus on details of end
  来源:苹果蓝号检测  更新时间:2024-06-16 22:21:37
Kyungnam University President Park Jae Kyu speaks during an interview with The<strong></strong> Korea Times at his office in Seoul, Wednesday. / Korea Times photo by Kang Seung-woo
Kyungnam University President Park Jae Kyu speaks during an interview with The Korea Times at his office in Seoul, Wednesday. / Korea Times photo by Kang Seung-woo

Korea-Japan relations unlikely to improve overnight

By Kang Seung-woo

At the United Nations General Assembly last September, President Moon Jae-in repeated his proposal to declare an end to the Korean War as part of efforts to normalize inter-Korean ties and jump-start stalled nuclear talks, and since then his administration has strongly pushed to bring about a peace settlement before his term ends in May 2022.

South Korean and U.S. diplomats have frequently met with each other to discuss the proposal and Director of National Security Suh Hoon also drew support from China following a meeting with top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi earlier this month, prompting Moon to say, Dec. 13, that the U.S., North Korea and China have agreed "in principle" to an end-of-war declaration.

However, Kyungnam University President Park Jae Kyu, a former South Korean unification minister, advises the Moon government not to race against the clock regarding the issue, and to focus on ironing out the details of a complete cessation of hostilities.

"President Moon's proposal shows his own strategic will to break the long-term stalemate in inter-Korean relations and U.S.-North Korea relations," Park said during an interview with The Korea Times at his office in Seoul, Wednesday.

"However, he must not be impatient. Even if such a declaration cannot be implemented within his term of office, it is desirable to prepare calmly from the standpoint of creating the conditions for establishing a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, and laying the groundwork for continuous and consistent discussions."

The proposal immediately sparked concerns over possible negative aftereffects from the declaration such as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Korean Peninsula and the abolition of the United Nations Command (UNC), leading the government to hurriedly explain that it would be a political and symbolic measure to build confidence with North Korea.

But Park said there are two points that should be contained in the declaration.

"First, there needs to be a confirmation and determination of the relevant parties ― that is, South Korea, North Korea, the U.S. and China ― to completely end the Korean War," he said.

"Second, it must include the responsibilities and measures to be taken by the relevant parties to form a new peace system on the Korean Peninsula."

He added, "The contents must contain measures on the implementation of the resumption of inter-Korean dialogue and U.S.-North Korea dialogue, denuclearization, system guarantees, economic cooperation and improvement of relations."

The 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice between the North Korean and Chinese forces and the U.S.-led UNC. Despite Moon's remarks on a relevant parties' agreement, realizing such an agreement must first factor in how to overcome an apparent stumbling block: the growing U.S.-China rivalry.

"The key is that the U.S. and China, the signatories of the armistice agreement, must participate to promote the end of the war; but it is not easy in the context of the current free fall in U.S.-China relations," Park said.

"With the recent U.S. decision to diplomatically boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, and China's stern response to that decision, the future of U.S.-China relations seems even more uncertain."

He also suggested that the government seek to come up with more creative and active approaches such as starting a discussion between the two Koreas, and then leading the U.S. and China in a positive direction, rather than first having the U.S. and China come together.

Kyungnam University President Park Jae Kyu speaks during an interview with The Korea Times at his office in Seoul, Wednesday. / Korea Times photo by Kang Seung-woo
South Korea's top nuclear envoy Noh Kyu-duk, left, and his U.S. counterpart Sung Kim hold a press conference after their meeting in Indonesia, Sept. 30. Courtesy of Ministry of Foreign Affairs

On Dec. 13, President Moon said South Korea was not considering joining the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Games, citing the need for China's help in his push to end the war; and Park also concurred that Beijing could play a certain role in this process.

"Even looking at the results of the recent meeting between Suh and Yang, there is no justification for China to reject a declaration to end the Korean War," he said.

"If China actively supports the end-of-war declaration, North Korea will have little choice but to consider China's position."

North Korea has remained quiet on Moon's proposal since it made two statements on the matter, one by its leader Kim Jong-un who said he did not oppose the declaration itself although he urged South Korea to drop its "double-dealing" attitude first.

"The reason that North Korea cannot refuse to pursue an end-of-war declaration proposed by South Korea is that it is necessary for North Korea to clarify its position in preparing an opportunity to convert the armistice system into a peace regime, along with the withdrawing of hostile policies, through the process of discussing an end-of-war declaration," Park said.

"Also observable and at work here in this situation is the burden of responsibility for the refusal to talk."

Since the Hanoi summit between the U.S. and North Korea ended without a deal in February 2019, inter-Korean ties have been stalled. Park said another summit between South and North Korea could offer an opportunity for a change in the situation on the peninsula, including the end-of-war declaration.

"Since an end-of-war declaration should contain a declaration and contents on its implementation, dialogue and consultations between the two Koreas must take place in the process of promoting such a declaration," he said.

"To do this, it is necessary to ensure that the U.S.-China relationship does not deteriorate nor have a negative impact on the Korean Peninsula. As well, there needs to be close consultations between South Korea and the U.S., accompanied by consultations between South Korea and China, and at the same time, efforts should be made to ensure North Korea responds with trust."

When Joe Biden was elected as the 46th president of the U.S. in November 2020, concerns were rampant in Korea that his policy toward North Korea may follow in the footsteps of the Barack Obama administration's "strategic patience" ― its failed diplomatic approach to Pyongyang.

Strategic patience means no engagement with the North Korean regime as long as its leadership persists with nuclear weapons development and ballistic missile testing. But many critics say this policy actually failed to address the North's ever-growing nuclear and missile programs.

With Biden being in office for nearly a year now, some concerns are being realized as there has been no progress between the U.S. and North Korea regarding nuclear talks. Park advised Washington to do something more to get the negotiations back on track.

"Traditionally in the U.S., the Democratic Party has conducted value-based diplomacy based on the alliance, solidarity, democracy and human rights. If dialogue is being refused, the possibility of presenting a hasty carrot policy to North Korea is very low," he said.

Since Biden took office in January, the U.S. government has repeatedly offered to meet the North Korean regime "anywhere, anytime" amid a continued impasse in negotiations between the two, with the reclusive state remaining unresponsive.

"The U.S. needs to show a willingness to build new trust with North Korea and break the status quo by mobilizing official and unofficial channels, rather than simply say it has 'no hostile policy toward North Korea' or it is willing to 'resume dialogue without preconditions,'" he added.

According to him, the U.S. has a midterm election next year, so there is a demand to manage the North Korean issue stably.

"The U.S. is proposing a resumption of dialogue without conditions and it will be difficult to expect new changes and progress if Washington is satisfied with simply managing the situation in a way that does not give North Korea an excuse for provocation," he said.

"We need to get rid of the complacency that time is on the U.S. side."?

Kyungnam University President Park Jae Kyu speaks during an interview with The Korea Times at his office in Seoul, Wednesday. / Korea Times photo by Kang Seung-woo
President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida / Courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae

Currently, ties between South Korea and Japan have slumped to their worst level in years due to the latter's imposition of export controls on three key materials critical for the semiconductor and display industries here in apparent retaliation for a ruling by South Korea's Supreme Court ordering Japanese companies to compensate South Koreans who were forced to work for them before and during World War II.

However, since the inauguration of the Biden administration, which stresses the importance of trilateral cooperation with South Korea and Japan, the Moon administration has offered an olive branch, although Tokyo has urged Seoul to come up with an acceptable solution.

Even a leadership change in Japan ― the inauguration of the relatively moderate Fumio Kishida Cabinet ― is unlikely to reverse the current downward spiral of bilateral ties with Seoul anytime soon, according to Park.

"Considering the political schedule ― such as next year's House of Councillors election in Japan in July ― the possibility is low of there being a radical change in Japan's conservative policy toward South Korea," Park said.

"As South Korea has its own presidential election next year in March, I expect the Kishida administration in Japan will manage Korea-Japan relations without any changes to its existing policy. Tokyo will keep its eye on the election trend in South Korea."

He also said public opinion in Japan on Seoul-Tokyo relations was not so good these days.

Saying that historical issues are one of the biggest obstacles in bilateral ties that cannot be overcome solely by one side or the other making concessions, Park said future administrations will need to acknowledge differences yet continue to pursue a resolution of such obstacles.

"It is necessary for South Korea and Japan to firmly establish a cooperative relationship in order for all of us to respond to the urgent global challenges we face, such as the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and supply chains disruptions," he said.

"It is necessary to continue to encourage Japan to cooperate on efforts to resolve the North Korean issue, as well as guide South Korea, the U.S., and Japan to improve trilateral cooperation."



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