With tension rising within the Korean Peninsula, South Korea has a policy that also augments that of the international community with regards to the nuclear program underway in North Korea. Increasingly, North Korea has become unpredictable with the current leadership, which has necessitated the enactment and formulation of policies aimed at managing the uncertain situation within the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, the South Korean government has remains consistent in engaging North Korea with an aim of encouraging it to stop its nuclear program.
One policy that South Korea has pursued is to encourage inter-Korean relations between the North and the South with the aim of achieving mutual benefits and prosperity for both nations. However, the major part of the policy is to act proactively to the changing acts of North Korea that has increasingly become aggressive and driven by the nuclear program. The main point of this policy by the Republic of Korea is the demand that North Korea must abandon its nuclear weapons program. This is premised on the fact that the attainment of the envisaged inter-Korean relations is unattainable unless the nuclear weapons program issue is addressed.
South Korea’s policy is that the nuclear weapon program that is being implemented by North Korea must be addressed with abandonment the only viable option for a peaceful region. As stated, the peace between the two nations will only be viable and applicable if the North stops the nuclear program, which would enhance mutual respect, reciprocity for the inter-Korean relations as well as the respect for human rights.
It is worth noting that while South Korea has always embraced policies aimed at encouraging North Korea to stop its nuclear development, the latter has continued to conduct nuclear tests even close to areas that are considered to be close and dangerous to the existence of South Korea.
From the foregoing, it is evident that the main aim and position of South Korea is that North Korea must be denuclearized through the abandonment of the nuclear weapons program. Resolving the nuclear issue is significant for attaining inter-Korean relations, peace and security of the Korean Peninsula. As part of this position, there have been multiple proposals ranging from “Vision 3000: Denuclearization and Openness” initiative and “the Grand Bargain” amongst others that South Korea have proposed as pathways through which the belligerent nation can be denuclearized.
Through the above initiatives and others, South Korea continues to coordinate and cooperate with other nations such as the United States and China in efforts aimed at encouraging North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. The strong consensus amongst the concerned nations as encouraged by South Korea has helped in regulating the nuclear program in North Korea. Therefore, South Korea supports the position that there is a strong and sincere agreement amongst international players that North Korea must take appropriate and open measures that show its commitment towards denuclearization.
Even though North Korea has continued to test its nuclear missiles and with the absence of tangible indications that North Korea has been implementing denuclearization, South Korea continues to stick to the position that the nation should initiate sincere efforts to denuclearize. These are based on robust international consensus amongst nations within the international community including those involved in the Six Party Talks that consist of South Korea, North Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China. Therefore, it is reaffirmed that the South Korean policy and the pressure from the international community have been effective in regulating the nuclear activities of North Korea; hence the maintenance of stability within the Korean Peninsula.
President Kim Dae Jung’s Sunshine Policy
President Kim Dae Jung came up with the Sunshine Policy, which was believed to be a viable solution to the nuclear weapons program in North Korea. Under the Sunshine Policy, the most important step towards denuclearizing North Korea was to build trust between the two Koreas through establishing inter-Korea relations.
South Korea’s Cooperation with the United States and China
The success of South Korea’s policies towards North Korea depends majorly on the role that the United States and China plays in diffusing tension within the Korean Peninsula. Initially, this cooperation was carried out under the Six-Party Talks that involved the two Koreas as well as China, Japan and Russia and the United States to resolve the fundamental issue of the nuclear program that North Korea has been pursuing. While a Joint Statement was issued in 2005 whereby the North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for aid the parties have reneged on the terms of the agreement.
Further, the Six-Party Talks spearheaded by the United States were successful in calling for the freezing and disablement of North Korea’s nuclear facilities in exchange for the lifting of the economic and diplomatic sanctions that were biting it. This also called for the plans to implement this program through disabling of nuclear facilities in exchange for lifting of economic sanctions as contained in the US Trading with Enemy Act (TWEA).
However, the expulsion of nuclear inspectors from North Korea in 2009 as well as the subsequent tests that the nation has carried from 2009 up to 2016 has underscored the important role that the United States and China have to play to ensure that peace prevails within the Korean Peninsula. The United States under President Obama has continued to exercise the “Strategic Patience” policy towards North Korea that puts pressure on the regime to stop its nuclear program while at the same time imploring it to return to the Six Party Talks. South Korea should take advantage of this policy that aims at denuclearization of North Korea while at the same time leveraging on China to adopt a tough stance against the nation through sanctions and arms interdictions.
South Korea can help in coordinating the US policy of complete denuclearization of North Korea in exchange of the normalization of relations and provision of aid. Further, South Korea is better placed to participate in the large-scale military exercises that it conducts with the United States under the US-South Korean alliance to show that their cooperation is better placed to deal with any nuclear threat that North Korea may impose. In addition, the United States has been an important player in this aspect in that it helps in enforcing the United Nations Security Council resolutions that have ordered for sanctions against North Korea whenever they engage in nuclear launches and enrichment programs.
Similarly, it is noted that South Korea must continue cooperating with China which is a regional powerhouse and encourage it to show greater willingness to put pressure on North Korea to stop the nuclear weapons program. The success of the South Korean and United States policies to encourage North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapon program depend heavily on the influence that China can exert on the nation. China is the largest trading partner of North Korea and supports the nation with food and energy which are essential necessities to the existent of a nation.
However, it is also noted that China is keen on the existence of North Korea as in the event that any crisis that may destabilize the nation may lead to the United States asserting their authority within the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, China views North Korea as a buffer zone that separates it from South Korea which is a great ally to the United States. Despite this, China now considers the denuclearization of North Korea as good for the nation as it already loses markets or destroys the reputation of most Chinese businesses.
While China remains an obstacle to the denuclearization of North Korea especially when this initiative is driven by the United States, South Korea can leverage on its influence to derive support for the abandonment of the nuclear weapons program. China can still use its permanent seat in the UN Security Council to ensure that sanctions and any other action that may be taken against North Korea with regard to the nuclear program is fully implemented. If China were to support the denuclearization of North Korea, it stands to greatly benefit from increased volume of trade that may occur within the Korean Peninsula. From the foregoing, it is evident that South Korea must diplomatically engage China together with the United States to help in averting the threat that North Korea poses through its nuclear weapons program.
Chanlett-Avery, E. (2012). North Korea: US Relations, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Internal Situation. Current Politics and Economics of Northern and Western Asia, 21(2), 151.