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작성자 편집국 작성일17-12-02 11:07 댓글0건

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Peace in the Korean peninsula:

=An achievement possible only by Koreans=

 

By Moon J. Pak

 

 

The year 2016 was epic for both North and South Korea.  In South Korea, there was a people’s uprising called the Candlelight Vigil (also known as the November Revolution), a peaceful daily protest that went on for many weeks against the corruption of the conservative regimes of past-presidents, Lee, Myung-bak, and Park, Geun-hye.

 

Hundreds of hours and millions of candles later, in April, Park was impeached, resigned and South Koreans voted in a liberal regime, and a new president, Moon, Jae-in.  Among many other aspirations of a new age with this new government, Koreans hope that the Moon regime will end the long period of hatred and enmity against the North (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK).

 

Also during this same time period, North Korea has developed a long-range missile delivery system for its nuclear warhead. Starting some years ago, North Korea conducted fission and fusion nuclear explosion tests.  More recently, it also conducted multiple medium-range and long-range missile tests over international waters.

 

The appearance of U.S. President Donald Trump has had a significant effect on U.S.-Korean peninsula relations, mainly due to his unusual personality, as well as the unique relationship between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea (ROK, or South Korea).

 

The division of Korea, at the end of the World War II in 1945 was forced upon it.  The allied forces, headed up the U.S. made an agreement with Soviet Russia, that it would control a southern zone of Korea, while the Soviets controlled a northern zone.  Each imposed its own form of government in the area of its influence.  Subsequently, the Korean people endured the Korean War (1950-53), a war of proxy, where a civil war in Korea stood in for an ideological struggle between capitalism and socialism.

 

In 1953, the U.S. and DPRK signed an armistice treaty to end the fighting, which was not a full peace treaty.  At the time, there was an agreement to convene in Geneva, Switzerland in three months to hammer out the full peace treaty. However, the promise of a treaty was never kept, due to the reluctance of the U.S.

 

Thus, the international relationship between the U.S. and North Korea can be characterized as a state of arrested war. This temporary status has persisted over 65 years, despite many requests by North Korea to normalize the relationship and restore diplomatic relations.  North Korean leaders have frequently said normalizing relations and signing a peace treaty would allow it to reduce its defense spending and concentrate on building its economy.

 

 From the perspective of the U.S., a continued status of arrested war with the DPRK enables it to maintain military domination of a broad region of Northeast Asia, rationalizing that a large military presence is justified due to the threat of war.  Past presidents have made statements such as “the Pacific is the Anglo-Saxon lake” (Ronald Reagan), and “North Kore is part of an Axis of Evil” (George W. Bush) to strengthen their claim that the U.S. belongs in the Northeast Asia region.  Barack Obama famously began an “Asia Pivot policy” and claimed that his stance toward North Korea was to be one of “Strategic Patience.”

 

For 65 years, the U.S. has attempted to further isolate North Korea, with a total of nine sanctions and embargoes.  The U.S. has made multiple nuclear threats, by having strategic nuclear weapons stationed in South Korea and by having nuclear-armed bombers fly near North Korean air space from its base located in the island of Guam.  It has also conducted multiple annual joint military drills with the South Korean military near the North Korean border.  These drills have included mobilization of aircraft carriers, missile-carrying submarines and other naval ships. The joint maneuvers have included landing exercises, and more recently, an outrageous drill called the “Decapitation Project,” practice run of an assassination attempt of the North Korean leader, a person who is revered by the people of the country with almost a religious fervor .

 

Looking at it from this perspective, it is understandable how the DPRK has become a tightly-knit, highly defense-oriented country. With only 25 million people, 1.2 million North Koreans are armed military personnel. A quarter of its GDP ($30 billion) is spent on defense. Percentage-wise, it is the highest defense-spending in the world.

 

This year, it took a big step in becoming a nuclear power when it managed, after years of effort, to miniaturize a nuclear bomb that can be sent on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) warhead. For North Koreans, this step represents better deterrence of the U.S. and a guarantee that its regime’s legitimacy will be recognized.  Hopefully, it is also a step which could lead to a more normalized and peaceful relationship with all of its neighbors, especially the U.S. and South Korea.

 

However, with Donald Trump in the White House, the calculus of international dynamics between the two countries has been altered.  With extremely undiplomatic rhetoric, to say the least, Trump has threatened North Korea, and the situation is now at the verge of a full-blown military conflict. This rhetoric could endanger the lives of the 70 million Koreans in the peninsula under an unthinkable nuclear catastrophe.

 

Indeed, in addition to his irresponsible handling of the Korean issue, Trump’s treatment of nearly every other issue of domestic and international diplomacy has been disastrous. There seems to be no connection between his brain and vocal cords. As a politician, he seems to have no modicum of philosophical conviction about love of his country. His election to the White House is truly an American tragedy. He could make the America great again, by removing himself from the White House!

 

What to do about Trump is on the minds of many serious diplomats and elected officials right now. What is the best we can hope for?  It is obvious that the U.S.-DPRK relationship during the Trump administration has no chance of improvement.  We cannot hope that any Trump initiatives will lead to peace on the Korean peninsula.

 

The Korea has nearly 5,000 years of written history. In its heyday, its territory included a significant part of Manchuria and current mainland China. However, due to its strategic geopolitical location, and being surrounded by many large countries, the country was invaded frequently, some historians have said it was attacked once every other year, when one includes minor invasions like attacks by Japanese pirates. In the sweep of history, the division of Korea since 1953 is a very recent and very short event.

 

South Korea’s GDP is now the 11th in the world. It is fifth largest automobile producer, second largest ship builder, and among an elite few countries leading the information technology and electronics industry.  Between the two Koreas, they have the fourth largest military, after India, China and the U.S., and of course, it is also one of nine nations with nuclear weapons. 

 

The time has come for the two halves of Korea to unify and establish peace and normal relations.  It is critically important to realize that such peace can only be achieved by Koreans themselves, with no outside influence. It is a given that none of its four neighbors, China, Japan, Russia or U.S., would welcome the emergence of a strong, unified and independent Korea in the peninsula. A strong Korea would be good for Korea, but not necessarily good for ambitious neighboring countries wishing to wield political and economic influence in that area.

 

The basic tenets for peace and unification of the peninsula were laid down between the two Koreas more than 17 years ago, on June 15, 2000, when South Korean President Kim, Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim, Jong-il  signed the “6-15 Joint Declaration.” The agreement was re-affirmed in a second document on October 4, 2007, the “10-4 Joint Agreement,” by South Korean President Roh, Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim, Jong-il.

 

It is time for a new summit meeting between the two new heads of state, with an ongoing regular meeting schedule set for the future. The first agenda of the new summit meeting, should be the nullification of the 65-year hostility with a reaffirmation of the non-aggression pact, one of the key agreements of the original “6-15 Joint Declaration.”

 

Now that the DPRK is a nuclear state, it is important that it declare that its nuclear arms are not aimed at other Koreans in the South. Furthermore, as the process of unification reaches its final stage, its nuclear weapons system, along with its delivery technology, will be placed under the joint control and ownership of the two Koreas.

 

It is also critical that the ROK take the necessary actions to become independent from the U.S. influence; militarily, politically, diplomatically and economically. It must abolish the so-called UN Command, which gives control of the U.S. military to a U.S. general in the event of war.  It must also eliminate U.S. bases, which number more than 80 scattered all over the country including the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Base, and Gangjung Naval Base in Jeju Island.

 

There are now more than 28,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in South Korea and also many of their direct families numbering over 30,000. Most of them are stationed at a base located in Pyongtaek, safely away from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

 

Nonetheless, plenty of U.S. military would be deployed in the event of military action in Korea. It is apparent how little Trump knows about the situation, when he blustered out recently that if and when a war breaks out in Korea between the U.S. and North Korea, most of the casualty would be in “across the Pacific not in our States” thus, there is nothing to worry about! He should have known that the war death will not be just the “poor and insignificant Korean people” only!

 

As part of a new, exclusively Korean agreement for peace, the South Korean military will not continue to be a part of the multiple annual joint military maneuvers conducted by the U.S. near the North Korean shores, and furthermore the privilege of receiving the U.S. nuclear umbrella will no longer be necessary since it will be provided by its North Korean partner.

 

The End

 

 

(Korean Quarterly, Vol.20, NUM 04, Fall, 2017)

Moon J. Pak, M.D., Ph.D.

Senior VP Korean American National Coordinating Council (KANCC)

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