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UPDATED: March 19, 2014 NO. 30 JULY 25, 2013
A New Approach to Nuclear Politics
North Korea could learn from countries that voluntarily abandoned their nuclear programs
By Chen Fengjun

Though all four countries faced pressure from the international community, they chose to denuclearize voluntarily through political dialogue on the basis of mutual trust. After rounds of negotiations and consultations, they agreed to give up nuclear weapons completely and dealt with follow-up issues properly. In the meantime, the four countries all improved their diplomatic relations with the United States. They also received considerable compensation and assistance for economic development.

The experience of the four countries can serve as positive examples for North Korean leaders should they seek the path of denuclearization.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said when meeting with North Korean special envoy Choe Ryong Hae in May that denuclearization and long-lasting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula are common aspirations shared by all people in the region. North Korean should pay close attention.

The United States and South Korea should also draw upon the lessons mentioned above. The external security environment of North Korea is different from the four previously denuclearized countries. As North Korea faces a grim external security situation, persuading Pyongyang to pursue denuclearization will require Washington and Seoul to take major steps for cooperation.

New steps

Washington ought to take the initiative in easing military confrontation on the Korean Peninsula. U.S. troops on the peninsula and military exercises targeting North Korea are certainly not helpful for Pyongyang's denuclearization. Military deterrence can only increase Pyongyang's sense of insecurity and enhance its determination to pursue nuclear arms. The United States and South Korea are far superior to North Korea in terms of military might; therefore, it is reasonable for the former two to make conciliatory gestures first. In the meantime, Washington should coordinate actively with Moscow and Beijing, making concrete steps to guarantee the security of Pyongyang after its denuclearization. Once Pyongyang feels confident in its own security, the denuclearization of the Northeast Asian country should not be far behind.

Washington should also give up its double standards. The United States' tacit consent to the nuclear development of India, Pakistan and Israel has not been good for denuclearization. Washington should adjust its nuclear policies and temper its accusations against North Korea.

In addition, South Korea should play its unique role in the denuclearization of the peninsula. Mutual trust between Pyongyang and Seoul is the political premise for settlement of the issue. New South Korean President Park Geun Hye called for North Korea's denuclearization and enhanced mutual trust between the two countries when she was sworn in. South Korea needs to have consideration for North Korea's security situation and refrain from attempts to demonize the latter. Though the behavior of Pyongyang is unstable, it has made much progress. Therefore, Seoul should offer more tolerance to its brother in the north for the sake of improving relations.

On the denuclearization of the peninsula, South Korea should not blindly follow in the footsteps of the United States because Washington's East Asia strategy has other focuses apart from curbing North Korea. Seoul should become an independent new force in promoting the stability of Northeast Asia. It ought not to pursue security at the cost of the insecurity of Pyongyang. During her latest visit to China, President Park took a positive step toward the settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue when she reiterated Seoul's commitment to a denuclearized peninsula. In the final analysis, the future of the peninsula is in the hands of South and North Korea.

The author is a professor with the School of International Studies, Peking University

Email us at: yanwei@bjreview.com

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