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PSPD    People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

  • Peace/Disarmament
  • 2011.08.22
  • 2951

International meeting

2011 World Conference against against A & H Bombs

 

Lee Tae Ho(General Secretary),

Park Jung Eun (Director, Team of Peace and International Solidarity)

People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)

Republic of Korea

 

 

 

 

New approach toward eliminating threat of nuclear weapons and military tension in Northeast Asia:

Necessity of a preemptive action of peace

 

 

 

1. North-South military conflict and another cold war structure in northeast Asia

 

The sinking of South Korea’s warship “Cheonan” and a North-South exchange of gunfire on Yeonpyeongdo island have helped increase a new Cold War structure in Northeast Asia, including North and South Korea. After these incidents, the Lee Myung-bak government adopted the so-called “proactive deterrence strategy and raised the level of military retaliation against North Korea beyond “proportionality”. While fortifying five islands in northwest waters, the Lee Myung-bak government drew up concrete operational plans to occupy North Korea to dismantle facilities of weapons of mass destruction in response to a sudden and contingent political change there.

 

The ROK and the United States have strengthened their military cooperation more than ever.  At the 42nd Security Consultative Council meeting(SCM) in October 2010, the defense ministers of both governments promised to 1) officially specify an “unstable state” of the North in joint statement and strengthen readiness to respond to regional provocation by North Korea and a contingent situation there; 2) create an “extended deterrence policy committee” to strengthen the nuclear umbrella and increase the missile defense capability, and 3) promote “ROK-US cooperation in dealing with challenges to large-scale global security.” Immediately after the regular Security Consultative Council Meeting(SCM), Korean National Defense Minister Kim Tae-young made controversial remarks in the face of national policy audit in the National Assembly that would regard participation in the MD program as an accomplished fact.

 

The crisis of the Korean Peninsula is, in particular, offers an important turning point that will help the ROK and the United States resolve their old differences. The ROK is requesting that the United States defer the returning to the ROK of its right of wartime control until 2015. In exchange for accepting this ROK request, the United States could receive ROK guarantee in many ways such as diversion of defense burden sharing costs, the readjustment of ROK-US FTA negotiations, dispatches of troops to Afghanistan, and sanctions against Iran.

 

The crisis on the Korean Peninsula and the strengthened ROK-US alliance is leading to promoting defense cooperation between Japan, ROK and the United States.   After the sinking of the “Cheonan,” the US government succeeded in having Japan’s ruling Democratic Party change its public promises in regard to the relocation of the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station. An atmosphere is being created to put emphasis on military cooperation also between South Korea and Japan.  When the ROK-US joint military exercises took place on the East Sea in July last year, four Japanese Self-Defense personnel attended as observers. It was also learned that the South Korean forces observed Japan-US joint exercises. The South Korean government in 2011 agreed with Japan to promote bilateral military cooperation by considering an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) and a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).  However, both South Korea and Japan still keep silent about the possibility of concluding a Japan-ROK military agreement.

 

In the meantime, ROK-China relations are worsening. They could become the worst since they were normalized. While the Lee Myung-bak government has made efforts to upgrade its relation with the United States as a strategic alliance, it has done little to develop partnerships with China. Unlike in the past, China directly expressed its unpleasant sentiment about the stronger ROK-US military alliance. China reacted strongly to the ROK-US joint exercises involving the USS George Washington, which took place immediately after the Yeonpyeongdo incident. The USS George Washington was operating within an area of 1,000 km, which covers the whole of North Korea as well as key Chinese regions like Beijing and Shanghai. This aircraft carrier was initially supposed to participate in the ROK-US joint exercises conducted just after the “Cheonan” incident. However, in the face of Chinese opposition, the vessel could not enter the West Sea.

 

The conflict has been expanded to the Southeast Asia. With naval ships of the US Pacific Fleet being deployed in the region, potential factors for conflict are becoming real.

 

 

2. Six-Party Talks in a stalemate

 

The Six Party Talks have been suspended since North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in 2009. Diplomatic discussions recently began cautiously to resume talks between the North and the South Korea as well as the Six Party Talks. However, the mistrust and conflict that arose between the South Korea-US side and the China-North Korea side in the wake of the sinking of a South Korean warship appears to remain deep.

 

In the US view, there is still a room for considering that maintaining close relationship with South Korea would be more beneficial in geopolitical terms than holding uncertain and difficult negotiations with North Korea. Furthermore, even if the US and other countries in the region might want to have bilateral talks with North Korea or to hold the Six Party Talks, they will not be able to sit at negotiating table anytime soon because the South Korean government maintains its position that North Korea’s apology over the sinking of the naval ship and the attacks on Yeonpyeong Island must come first.

 

In May, South Korean government secretly met with the North and proposed resuming the North-South summit on condition that the North shows its regret over Cheonan-sinking incident by using words that can be taken by the South and not by the North, as an apology.  However, North Korea disclosed the fact of negotiation and rejected the South Korean proposal.

 

Since then, there has been dim chance for the two sides to build bilateral cooperation in order to resume their summit meeting and break the deadlock. Recently the Korean government allowed civilian aid of wheat flour and diagnosis equipments for prevention of malaria to North Korea. It’s first allowance for civilian aid to North Korea, which has been prohibited by sanction measures from 24th May 2010. But it is not clear if the South Korean government, which has stressed the instability of North Korea and maintained hostile attitude to North Korea, can easily get away from its own trick.

 

North Korea, which twice conducted nuclear tests, has continuously calling on relevant states to “recognize North Korea as a nuclear weapons nation and to negotiate.”  This call is a heavy burden on member states of the Six-Party Talks.  There is a high possibility that North Korea continues taking this position until 2012, the year defined as the “First year as a strong and prosperous country.”  Because of this, some people are skeptic of North Korea because it has no willingness to abandon nuclear weapons from the beginning and in the future.

 

However, whether neighboring countries consider North Korea as nuclear weapons state or not, in order to have North Korea sit at the negotiating table, totally new conditions should be presented.

 

Since facing UN sanctions in 2009, North Korea made public its uranium enrichment work and in 2010, it invited Dr. Siegfried Hecker and opened its uranium enrichment facility, which has an estimated 2,000 centrifugal machines, to the press.  Later, the issue of North Korea’s nuclear program moved to a stage where themes regarding plutonium extraction, uranium enrichment, nuclear weapons, and energy problems need to be dealt with comprehensively.  Until recently, the ROK government has maintained a position that “the Six-Party Talks should be held after a report on the uranium enrichment program is adopted by the UN.” At the end of February this year, the U.N. Security Council discussed the question whether to adopt the UEP report made by the expert panel on sanction against North Korea. However, the discussion was unsuccessful because China proclaimed that the issue should be discussed at the Six-party talks. This shows that hostile situation, which looks like a new cold war era, formed in North East Asia. Such phenomenon has been foreseen when the South Korean and the US government took the matter of sunken warship Cheonan to U.N. Security Council meetings, although the question has not yet examined thoroughly.

 

Finally, double standards held by the ROK government and by Japan and the United States in regard to the “the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes” or the “safety of nuclear materials” are also making the situation difficult.

 

While urging North Korea to nullify its nuclear reprocessing facilities, the ROK government is enabling itself to possess such facilities and calling for the completion of the South Korean nuclear cycle program. To this end, the ROK government of President Lee Myung-bak is seeking to revise the ROK-US nuclear agreement.  With India, it already reached an agreement for bilateral nuclear trade. Worse still, India is not a member state to the NPT and is a country that possesses nuclear weapons.  Such double standards towards nukes are making the North Korean nuclear issue more difficult to be solved.

 

Surprisingly, this attempt continues even after disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Still south Korean government seeks export of NPP abroad, new construction of NPP and reoperating old nuclear power plant in Korea, which outlived its life and suspended operation for various reasons. The Lee Myung-bak government announced that it will use the Nuclear Security Summit scheduled for March 2012 in Seoul as a forum for sale of South Korean NPPs.

 

 

3. Necessity of new approach

 

Looking back on nuclear talks negotiations with North Korea, we cannot deny that the one-sided and hypocritical nuclear policy of South Korea, Japan, and the United States have served North Korea justify its “nuclear deterrence”. Not only North Korea but also South Korea and the United States are to blame for the agreements on denuclearization of Korean Peninsula and normalization relationship with North Korea becoming powerless. As to North Korea’s exacerbating nuclear issue in the last several years, the governments of Japan, the United States, and South Korea have not accepted earnestly the existing mutual agreement, on the basis of subjective judgment about North Korea’s instability or its possible collapse.

 

Citizens of South Korea, Japan, and the United States must be the first to take a step forward by overcoming suspicions and fears. Now we need to take action for preemptive peace for denuclearization of every country, and of the whole East Asia, not for preemptive attacks. We can start a series of peaceful preemptive action, regardless of condition that North Korea must firstly give up its nuclear weapons.  This is the feasible and effective strategy to dissolve nuclear threats in East Asia.  This is because countries with massive conventional force can easily make such a decision.

 

In February 2010, Japanese and South Korean parliamentarians network for nuclear disarmament(PNND) published a joint statement calling for establishing a nuclear-free zone in North East Asia. In the civil society forum for nuclear weapon free zones held in New York on April 29, 2010 just before the year’s NPT Review Conference, a proposal by citizen calling for a nuclear-free zone in Northeast Asia was adopted. It was a modest fruit borne by non-governmental organizations (NGO) of Japan and South Korea and Japan, municipalities, as well as cooperation of parliamentarians for denuclearization.

 

As stressed in the joint statement, policy depending on nuclear deterrence will bring about nuclear threat again. Countries that are dependent on nuclear deterrence are not limited to North Korea alone but include neighboring countries such as Japan, the United States, and South Korea, all with excellent military force. However, the governments of South Korea, the United States, and Japan still think that the nuclear umbrella and North Korea’s abandonment of nuclear weapons must not be traded for.  They think that military threats from North Korea and China exist, but completely ignore the military threat, which the buildup of conventional armament by the United States, Japan, and China poses to others.

 

Let me stress again that distrust and fear of North Korea or groundless expectations of North Korea’s fall have justified the argument about North Korea as a threat spread among citizens of three countries, excessive military spending, dependence on nuclear deterrence, and hypocritical nuclear policy. In return, what we had were new cold era in NEA and two nuclear tests made by North Korea.

 

We must never repeat the failed strategy. We must adopt a more positive and reciprocal measures, which we have not chosen before. The Six-Party Talks must not be limited to North Korea’s giving up of nuclear weapons but must be closely linked to efforts to remove nuclear threat in Northeast Asia. The talks must also be closely linked to efforts to increase exchanges and cooperation among governments and citizens of the Korean Peninsula and of the North East Asia for removing military threat and consolidate peace. Discussion for a peaceful system in the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia and for a nuclear-free zone in the region must start at once.   

 

Lastly, We PSPD is going to suggest peace and environmental groups of the world to pay attention and start discussion of joint response for 2012 Nuclear Security Summit which will be held in Seoul next March. The nuclear powers which had heavy responsibility of nuclear proliferation and exporting race of nuclear power plants only want to emphasis on the safety of nuclear plants and joint response against nuclear terror. They make nukes as not only means for security but also object to be secured. They don’t want to say the abolition or disarmament of nuclear weapons and nuclear plants. They don’t learn the lesson from Fukushima disaster.

 

That’s the reason why we peace and environmental movements should gear up the voice of ‘no nukes’ and respond jointly for the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit. Let’s start and organize for No Nukes Civil Forum internationally now.



* This speech was done at 2011 World Conference against against A & H Bombs of Gensuikyo in Hiroshima on 3th August, 2011.

 

 

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