By Kim Kyu-won, staff reporter
One of the key words from the Oct. 2007 inter-Korean summit is “autonomy.” At the beginning of the talks, former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il strongly urged the South to assume autonomy in its handling of inter-Korean affairs. Roh Moo-hyun responded by informing Pyongyang that the South had already embarked on a gradual transition to autonomy that was informed by its relations with the US. In light of this, he called for Pyongyang to work with the South.
In viewing the full summit transcript, it is clear that it was Kim who began this discussion. “Currently, we’re not even able to hold minister-level talks properly. They are held or not held, depending on to the political conditions. Don’t you think the South should be a little more autonomous?” Kim said, putting pressure on the South. “All we have to do is define the problem as something that Koreans should settle among themselves. But there are a lot of other parties whose opinions you have to consider, aren’t there. Are you not able to speak for yourself?” In brief, Kim was telling Roh to stop worrying about what the US thinks and to handle inter-Korean relations according to his own principles.
Next, Kim proposed making a declaration of peace with the US and changing the armistice agreement to a peace treaty. “If three or four parties from the Korean War were to gather at some place close to the border such as Kaesong or Mt. Keumgang and jointly declare that the war is over, it would be a basis for discussing peace,” Kim said. “Why don’t you try convincing Bush of this? And after that, perhaps we could try changing the armistice agreement to a regular peace treaty.”
When Kim Kye-kwan, North Korea’s First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, finished his report on the North Korea-US talks, Roh launched into his counterattack. “There are a couple of things I need to say in response,” Roh began. “Historically speaking, the South has depended on the US. We are a pro-American state. It is impossible to all of a sudden cut off our relations with the US and adopt North Korea’s level of autonomy. We need time. We should gradually move toward autonomy.”
To provide some examples of this gradual move toward autonomy, Roh told Kim about changes in the areas of national defense and diplomacy. “Today, our military has begun using the phrase ‘independent defense,’” he said. “We have stopped referring to the North as our ‘main enemy.’ As of 2012, we will be transferred control of wartime operational control. Our government is openly using the phrase ‘balanced diplomacy.’ The Korean peninsula must become a balancer state in Northeast Asia. Basically, we’re gradually moving in that direction.”
Roh also emphasized that the US had drafted operational plan 5029, but the South had objected to it and that they had ultimately compromised on a conceptual plan. He wrapped the discussion up by saying that “ensuring that these trends cannot be reversed represents meaningful progress in inter-Korean relations.” Roh was making the counter-proposal that since the South was already working to become autonomous, the North should cooperate with the South, too.
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