South to Participate in Security Initiative After North's Nuclear Test
Gen. Kim Tae-young, third from right in the background, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), speaks during a meeting of military commanders at the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul, Tuesday. The JCS convened the meeting to assess its readiness against possible North Korean provocations.
/ Korea Times Photo by Ryu Hyo-jin
By Kim Sue-young
After a decade of reconciliation, the two Koreas appear to be heading back to the confrontational Cold War era, with inter-Korean tension escalating to a 10-year peak.
South Korea decided Tuesday to join in a U.S.-led initiative to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), a move that came following North Korea's second nuclear test and a test-firing of three missiles Monday.
Pyongyang had threatened that it would regard South Korea's joining the so-called Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) as a de facto declaration of war.
After conducting its second nuclear test, the North appears ready to be preparing another series of missile tests.
Tension is expected to further escalate as South Korea, the United States and Japan are acting quickly to arrange tougher sanctions on North Korea.
Korea Times columnist Michael Breen said, however, that it is too strong to conclude that the Koreas are revisiting the Cold War era. ``Probably, I must say tension is increasing in inter-Korean relations. We may say that the latest developments indicate the end of the `sunshine policy' of engaging with North Korea,'' he said.
As the South is not resorting to anti-Communism, ``we may not say the Korean Peninsula is going back to the Cold War era. Historically, inter-Korean relations have been warm, cold, warmer and colder,'' he added.
In an unusual move, South Korean military leaders held a meeting in Seoul to assess the latest security situation along the de-militarized zone.
The National Assembly Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee also adopted a resolution to condemn the North's nuclear test and urged the Stalinist state to disable its nuclear weapons program.
At an Assembly meeting, Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said the government ``will coordinate with related countries to stop Pyongyang's additional provocative activities and push for the denuclearization of the North.''
Unification Minister Hyun In-taek promised to do his best to ensure the safety of South Koreans who are staying in a joint industrial complex in the North Korean city of Gaeseong.
Containing North’s WMD Export
``The government has approved participation in the PSI in a bid to curb proliferation of WMDs,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young told reporters.
He noted, however, that an inter-Korean maritime agreement adopted in 2004 would remain valid.
The accord prohibits North Korean ships from weapons trafficking, intelligence-collecting and military activities in the South's territorial waters and the vice versa.
South Korea would become the 95th full member ― from observer ― in the security initiative under which member countries have held joint military drills and shared information on WMD trafficking since 2003.
The program also seeks to intercept ships, which are suspected of delivering WMDs, or weapons materials.
A Seoul official said that the maritime accord is needed to avoid unnecessary conflicts and misunderstanding between the two Koreas.
The official said that ``It is a grave threat to the world as well as the Korean Peninsula that North Korea conducted the nuclear test again in violation of international rules and U.N resolutions. So, we have to think of every single measure to stop this.''
South Korea had postponed joining the PSI, considering inter-Korean relations, but there is no reason to delay any longer, he added.
He also stressed that the global security initiative has shown fruitful results and achievements regarding counter-terrorism and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
According to the official, the government notified the United States of its full participation in the PSI.