Failed Hanoi summit strengthened N. Korea’s resolve for nukes, but dialogue is answer, argue experts

Posted on : 2022-10-28 14:54 KST Modified on : 2022-10-28 14:54 KST
The second day of the 2022 Hankyoreh-Busan International Symposium kicked off with a roundtable on achieving peace on the Korean Peninsula
Ha Tae-keung, a People Power Party lawmaker, speaks at a roundtable on peace on the Korean Peninsula at the 2022 Hankyoreh-Busan International Symposium held in Busan’s Nurimaru APEC House on Oct. 27. (Kim Jung-hyo/The Hankyoreh)
Ha Tae-keung, a People Power Party lawmaker, speaks at a roundtable on peace on the Korean Peninsula at the 2022 Hankyoreh-Busan International Symposium held in Busan’s Nurimaru APEC House on Oct. 27. (Kim Jung-hyo/The Hankyoreh)

“The ultimate method for reaching peace on the Korean Peninsula is through dialogue between the two Koreas.”

On Thursday, the second day of the 2022 Hankyoreh-Busan International Symposium, a roundtable was held with the theme of “In the Age of Crisis, How Do We Achieve Peace?” Participants cited the 2019 North Korea-United States Hanoi summit as the turning point for the souring relationship between the two Koreas, and all agreed that the only way to resolve this strained relationship is through dialogue.

Kim Sung-kyung, professor at the University of North Korean Studies, Cheong Wook-sik, director of the Hankyoreh Peace Institute, Ha Tae-keung, member of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, and Lee Jae-jung of the Democratic Party participated in the roundtable.

Ha pointed out that inter-Korean relations become strained as North Korea’s insistence on keeping its nuclear weapons became stronger after the Hanoi summit. Cheong also agreed that the peace process (spearheaded by the prior administration) was ineffective not because there was a change in government, but due to the failure of the Hanoi summit. In order for North Korea to get what it wants — economic sanctions to be lifted — it needs the US to be on board. However, the breakdown of the Hanoi summit made it evident that the US would not comply.

Instead of trying to repair its relationship with South Korea, North Korea seems to be intent on developing nuclear weapons in order to negotiate with the US. Kim also stated that inter-Korean relationships are “inherently tied into North Korea-US relations.”

Lee stated that heightening anti-North Korean sentiments in this sort of situation will only lead to confrontation between the two Koreas. “A channel of dialogue should be made, in whatever way and under whatever pretense,” he argued.

The participants did disagree on how to approach the issue of talks with North Korea.

“We cannot continue to do what we’ve always done and expect North Korea to react differently,” argued Cheong. For example, why would North Korea be open to talks if South Korea continues to hold joint drills with the US — drills that Pyongyang has strongly condemned as “war exercises for invading the North”? Cheong argued that the joint training scheduled between South Korea and the US for next March should be postponed and be used as an opportunity to initiate dialogue with North Korea.

Ha responded by saying that if military training between South Korea and the US is postponed for a long period, that could hurt the alliance between the two countries. “Doing so could deal a fatal blow to our national interest,” he said. “We should wring North Korea’s arm so that they ask us to join them for talks.”

Ha stated that one of the methods of doing so would be to feed information about the outer world to the North. The conservative lawmaker suggested that the South Korean government provide funds to create an environment where North Koreans can freely access the Internet. He stated that by doing so, North Korea “may ask the South Korean government to talk in order to try to stop” the influx of information.

During the debate, the recent argument for South Korea arming itself with its own nuclear weapons being pushed by some conservatives was criticized as unfeasible. Lee, the Democratic lawmaker, argued that nuclear armament, relocation of tactical nuclear weapons, and sharing of nuclear weapons “will only be possible if the South Korea-US alliance is broken.”

“Before we decide to agree on whether South Korea should develop nuclear weapons independently,” said Cheong, “we should recognize that developing such weapons independently is impossible.”

Ha did state that “scrapping existing inter-Korean agreements due to administration change is not a good idea,” in response to some opinions being floated by conservatives about doing away with the Sept. 19 comprehensive military agreement and the declaration on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. He did state that a temporary suspension could be put in effect for the sake of peace and argued that doing so would not violate the law.

Unification Minister Kwon Young-se said earlier in a parliamentary audit on Oct. 4 that the government “is not considering canceling or suspending inter-Korean agreements made by the prior administration.”

By Kim Hae-jeong, staff reporter

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