For peace on the Peninsula
The absence of DPRK leader Kim Jong-il from the country's 60th anniversary celebrations created speculation among many ROK media outlets, which began floating the idea of a "DPRK collapse".
This year has a special meaning for people in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK). With exchanges of fire and the harsh reactions of the two sides, the Korean Peninsula witnessed the deepest crisis this year since guns fell silent 57 years ago.
In a sense, this is a side effect of the policy adopted by ROK President Lee Myung-bak who, after taking office in 2008, assumed that the DPRK would never give up its nuclear program. So his administration began taking measures to worsen the DPRK economy. The absence of DPRK leader Kim Jong-il from the country's 60th anniversary celebrations created speculation among many ROK media outlets, which began floating the idea of a "DPRK collapse". There were even discussions in the media about how to "take over the DPRK" after the "collapse".
Several international experts say the "DPRK collapse" theory betrays the Sept 19 Joint Statement (of the Six-Party Talks in 2005). In a way, it denies that the Korean Peninsula issue, including denuclearization, can be resolved through cooperation and coordination.
That has had an extremely negative effect on efforts to change the situation on the Peninsula, especially on the SixParty Talks.
Some ROK officials even said the term "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" was meaning- less when the DPRK was on the brink of a "collapse".
Even the United States gave the Sept 19 Joint Statement a silent burial, waiting instead for the DPRK to "collapse". For a long time, there was no communication between the DPRK and the US. The US didn't realize its mistake until the DPRK conducted a nuclear test in May 2009. Only after that (in February 2010), did the US send its coordinator to Pyongyang.
But the Cheonan incident put an end to the efforts of resuming dialogues. Because there has been no interaction between the US and the ROK, and the DPRK, it is difficult to say which of three created the misunderstanding.
Honestly speaking, there is no solid evidence to prove that the selection of the next DPRK leader led to the exchange of fire near the western maritime border of the Korean Peninsula on Nov 23. Contrary to what the ROK, the US and their allies believe, many Chinese experts say the DPRK did not hope to gain military points from the exchange of fire, because its most pressing concern now is economic development and improvement of its people's living standards.
Facts show that neither USROK military drills nor economic sanctions have helped ease tensions on the Peninsula. Only dialogues, based on equality, between the opposing sides can do that and help resolve the Korean issue.
Without doubt, direct talks between the DPRK and the ROK would be the most effective way of resolving the issue. But that's not possible today, because the ROK has chosen to exchange opinions with the US and Japan first, while the DPRK is reluctant to hold oneon-one talks with any of the three. So the best choice now is to hold "free talks" among the six sides (which also include China, the US, Japan and Russia) and take measures to resume the Six-Party Talks as soon as possible. And since the ROK has ignored China's suggestion of holding a "free dialogue", it could consider holding "a viceministerial level emergency conference" instead.
But no matter what the DPRK and the ROK do, they should exer- cise utmost self-restraint. Given that there is no interaction between the DPRK and the ROK now, provocative words or actions will create further misunderstandings and deteriorate the situation. That's why it is necessary for the two sides to resume military interaction and exchange key information.
Having lived in military tension for more than half a century, people on the Korean Peninsula need peace and prosperity, which they can be assured of only if the Six-Party Talks are revived soon.
The ROK has to stop believing in the "DPRK collapse" theory. No responsible government can turn a blind eye to the importance of a stable and developing DPRK. It has to give up its imaginary policy of "annexing DPRK", too, and return to the talks for equal dialogue and cooperation.
The DPRK, on its part, should take more active part in the economic activities of East Asia, cooperate more closely with its neighbors and take steps to improve the living standards of its people.