Security and Peace Settlement in North East Asia by Victor Hsu

[At a conference on Common Prosperity in the 21st Century, North East Asia held in Kwangju, South Korea on 7 July 2011, CanKor Brain Trust member Victor Hsu (Professor at the KDI School of Public Policy and Management in Seoul) made a number of points as a discussant. Some excerpts from his intervention are reprinted below. The full text can be accessed by clicking this link: Security and Peace Settlement in Northeast Asia. –CanKor]

The one dimension that should elicit more analysis in depth is the Inter-Korean conflict resulting from the post WWII division of the peninsula. Perhaps the speakers simply assumed that it is unnecessary given that we are meeting in Korea. Nevertheless, I would like to emphasize that our geopolitical analysis must not be limited to the DPRK’s nuclear program in the 6-Party Talks, important as it is. There are several equally urgent issues that require our collective attention.

  • The peace and prosperity of North East Asia will remain elusive as long as Korea remains divided. Should there be any doubt let’s remind ourselves of the military tensions created by the sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of Yeongypong Island.
  • The division of Korea represents a dangerous tripwire for a major military conflagration. Political miscalculation, misperception of the other’s intentions, posturing or brinksmanship, however you call it, can easily ignite the peninsula with unimaginable consequences. The world’s top four armies may be pulled in, unleashing fire power hitherto unseen in any war theatre.
  • The instability of the peninsula will always be a deterrent to full blown economic and business investment or activity on either side of the DMZ. I hope this assumption can be examined in full in the afternoon session and that a proper recommendation can be made for follow-up.
  • N E Asia cannot be fully at peace or enjoy the fruits of hard work and prosperity as long as the DPRK languishes in poverty and isolation. Having a pocket of instability surrounded by the world’s top economic and military powers is not a sustainable situation.
  • Consequently, the agenda of the 6-Party talks should be expanded or amended to include all issues on the basis of mutual respect, mutual interest and in a spirit of international cooperation. This should be feasible given the proper political leadership. Two sets of new actors should be invited to the table: the EU and the UN.
  • Reengagement with the DPRK is urgent for two reasons: in the DPRK, the humanitarian crisis is worsening with dire consequences for the most vulnerable: children and the elderly. The second is that the peninsula cannot risk another skirmish between South and North.
  • Of course, a scenario of constructive engagement with the DPRK can be greatly facilitated by dynamic Inter-Korean cooperation. After all, the future of the Korean peninsula should, first and foremost, be in the hands of Korean people. The areas for cooperation are almost limitless. 

To read the complete intervention by Victor Hsu, click here: Security and Peace Settlement in Northeast Asia  

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