The Korean Peninsula: Ban on nuclear weapons, cooperation, reunification

Among of the “hot spots” of the international system – locations that host an evolution of events that may influence general stability and security on a global scale – one must mention the Korean Peninsula as well. This geographic region joints thus a list shared with the Mideast issues – “hot spots” in Syria, Iraq (IS), but also Yemen and other states) to the Chinese – Indian border at the Eastern China Sea, to mention but a few, where powerful events always make headlines in international media.

Why is the Korean Peninsula a “hot spot”? A short and conclusive  answer would be that the situation appeared after the Peninsula and the Korean nation were divided in two states, a situation that exists since the end of the 40s, in the previous century, and enforced by the truce signed in 1953. The truce ended a war fought by intermediates in the Korean Peninsula, of the two Cold War giants, the USSR and the USA, the first, but not the last of this genre throughout the Cold War – and it established the existence of two Korean states, one in the North with an internal communist organization and one in the South, dedicated to market economy and multipartism. The demilitarized area among the two divisions of the Korean nations and the two states became one of the most volatile areas of the planet and remained so until today. The repeated attempts to find a solution to the issue of division and to realize the reunification of the Korean nation, especially during the 70s of the last century, failed out of various reasons, including the contradictory geopolitical interests of the great systemic powers, that played an essential role.

Last week, on Monday, March 16, 2015, the Hotel Intercontinental in Bucharest hosted a meeting of a South-Korean high official with experts and representatives of the civil society in Romania, that initiated a lively and highly interesting dialogue on the latest evolutions in this region of North-Eastern Asia. Yonghyon Kim,  Deputy Director-General for North Korean Nuclear Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea held, before this highly animated session of questions and answers, a conference dedicated to present issues in the Korean Peninsula. He mentioned that the security in the area presents increasing volatility indexes due to the nuclear threat represented by the North Korean Communist State, the Democratic People’s Republic in Korea (DPRK), a fact that affects inter-Korean relations, combined with Pyongyang’s attempt to break the isolation they are presently under, which increases the manipulation potential by great powers interested in this part of the world. As for Seoul’s politics, Mr. Kim outlined that it was based fundamentally on trust building in the Peninsula, understood as a comprehensive process defined by consistency, robust deterrence and political trust. This process reveals the vectors of improved relations between the North and the South, long-lasting peace and setting solid bases of reunification for the two Korean states. This politics is destined to assure strong deterrence and an adequate response to military and political challenges from the North; as it is open both to dialogue and agreements required to preserve peace and develop the process of reunification for the Korean nation. In his speech of March 28, 2014, held during a visit to Germany, ROK President Park Geun-hye launched during the so-called “Dresden Initiative” a proposal to reunite the two Korean states, which includes several agendas. Intended to be developed within a reasonable deadline, the process is intended to reach a common goal of the entire Korean nation, reunification, and includes “the agenda for humanity” (building connections between the citizens of the two states, destined to reunify families), “the agenda for co-prosperity”, that includes measures destined to enhance economical development, especially in the field of peninsular infrastructure; the “agenda for integration”, focused on cultural, sports and arts exchanges; the “agenda for peace”, consecrating the transformation of the demilitarized area into an Eco-Peace World Park and including inter-Korean circulation corridors for reconciliation and peace. The completion of this initiative by common peninsular efforts may complete a plan named “a new kind of Korean Peninsula”. The South-Korean diplomat endowed with tremendous experience gained in the world’s greatest capitals and in other hot spots around the world showed that this conception of peace, reconciliation and reunification in the Korean Peninsula is intensified by already implemented foreign projects, such as “North East Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative” or “Eurasian Initiative”, conceived in order to create a favourable regional frame for a peaceful Korean Peninsula, leaving in stability and unity. Another topic of interest was the analysis made by the diplomat to the internal situation of DPRK, where he identified the inclination to an increasing marketization of economy, increasing potential to induce social changes (the use of mobile phones, foreign cultural inflows , etc., based on a politics that simultaneously focuses on economical development and building a nuclear arsenal, which deepens international isolation. This tendency is even more visible once China, a cautioner of the security of the Northern Korean state, has gained a positive attitude towards the denuclearization of the North Korean state, but is also based on an attempt by DPRK to promote a politics of geopolitical balancing by warming relations with Russia). The fact that DRPK is seeking to acquire the status of “nuclear state” is a threat that needs to be overcome by dialogue combined with pressure, close cooperation with the international community and restarting negotiations in “6 plus 1” format. Achieving peace in the Peninsula and reunification would be notable contributions to the international peace and security, and also a landmark of wide implications in the future evolution of Korean nation.

The questions raised by the Romanian audience of diplomats, experts, members of think tanks, and professors of political sciences and international relations in Bucharest Universities, as well as journalists of the top central magazines, and the answers they received, as well as the comments to the ideas presented by the speaker showed the keen interest showed by Romanian public opinion to the situation in the Korean Peninsula. A special mention must be made about the  brilliant interventions made by the host of the event, ROK Ambassador to Bucharest, Mr. Park Hyo –Sung, which emphasised the fact that the policies intended by Seoul in implementing the politics of relaxation in the Korean Peninsula target to assure a peaceful and unified future of the Korean nation. All these political processes are based on the principle of ownership and multiplied efforts to create a favourable international environment, excluding any other solution than peaceful ones, simultaneously with the rejection of any challenges or attempts to use nuclear blackmail.

A remarkable fact, lately, is the energetic attitude of South-Korean diplomacy. It shows a noteworthy openness lately, defined by visionary strategies and transparency of purposes and means used to reach them. Reunification may only be accomplished peacefully, the denuclearization of the peninsula is a compulsory requirement, by clear and firm presentation of consequences determined by wrong or destabilizing potential politics, by generous “win-win” initiatives and by deep understanding of a difficult reunification process that may only be completed along with “the other side”. Also, the South-Korean diplomacy shows firmness in stating its decisions to reject challenges, but also in advancing ideas and propositions destined to remove blockages and to create a regional environment that would favour the common purposes of the Korean nation, now divided in two states.

A final appreciation: it was a successful meeting, excellently organized, with a highly experienced and genuinely memorable speaker, and a fertile dialogue on a topic of great international interest.

 

 

 

 

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