‘Don’t punish innocent people for NK regime’s bad behavior‘
A former envoy to North Korea, who met the country’s late leader Kim Il-sung in the early 1990s, said punishing Pyongyang for its rocket launch last week shouldn’t come at the expense of the livelihoods of hungry people there.
“Food aid for the children and other vulnerable people there needs to be continued under any circumstance,” said Park Chul-un, who used to be an insiders’ insider of the former Roh Tae-woo government (1988-1993), in a phone interview with The Korea Times Monday.
He made the remarks days after the U.S. government announced it would stop humanitarian assistance to the North as it violated U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolutions with the launch.
Experts here said the reclusive nation wasted enough money to feed almost 20 million people there for a year with the rocket failure.
Park, who had secret contact 42 times with North Korea while with the Roh government, advised the Lee Myung-bak administration to draw up a dos-and-don’ts list to counter the northern neighbor’s belligerent acts and faithfully follow it.
As a do, he suggests Seoul needs to seek policy coordination with the international community to counter North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs.
On the don’t side, the government needs to be careful not to humiliate or stir the North Korean regime, despite the threat, because the current uncertainty is associated with the leadership change there.
Park said Seoul needs to stand firm against any North Korean provocation, such as the 2010 artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island near the maritime boundary in the West Sea, by sending an unmistakable message to prevent a recurrence of such a hostile act.
But, he emphasized, its role in such global issues as North Korea’s missile or nuclear weapons programs should remain supportive of the international community, calling for a calm and coordinated reaction.
“North Korea’s missile or nuclear weapons require power states, including the United States and China, to coordinate a policy response to them. South Korea is one of the partners of the international community as it lives under the threat,” he said. “But South Korea needs to be careful not to steal the show as this could put it at risk. All it needs to do is team up with the international community to counter North Korea’s provocations and actions based on agreement.”
The rationale behind his recommendations is that the South’s seeking of an active role in North Korean missile or nuclear issues could prompt its neighbor to retaliate against as it could make a miscalculation.
During a congressional panel in Washington, D.C., on March 29, Army Gen. James Thurman, commander of U.S. Forces Korea said North Korea remained the greatest security threat in Northeast Asia.
“I believe we are in a very uncertain period… with the possibility of unexpected events leading to miscalculation,” Thurman said. The commander said the transition of Kim Jong-un to the North’s leader appears to be “proceeding without discernible internal challenges and with significant Chinese political and economic support.”
Park said the reaction from China and Russia over the North Korean rocket launch came against this backdrop. The two nations called for calm and restrained reactions to the event, saying imposing fresh sanctions on the communist state would be of no help to fix its bad behavior.
Park said Seoul policymakers need to pay extra attention not to irritate the North Korean regime, despite the launch, as the high degree of uncertainty is associated with the leadership change in North Korea.
North Korea called it the launch an attempt to put a satellite into space, whereas the international community says it was to test long-range missile technology and therefore constitutes a violation of UNSC resolutions.