[The following is a revised and updated version of an introductory lecture presented on 26 April 2011 at a Conference entitled “Collapse or blossoming landscapes? Scenarios for the future of the Korean Peninsula,” which took place at the Evangelical Academy Thuringia in Neudietendorf, Germany. The author, Dr. Hans-Joachim Schmidt, is Senior Research Fellow at the Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung (HSFK) – also known in English as Peace Research Institute Frankfurt/M (PRIF) – and an expert on the Six-Party Talks. We thank the author for making the full German version of this paper available to CanKor. An abbreviated version is also being published in Korea Forum, a publication of Korea Verband. –CanKor.]
The following are a few excerpts from the paper’s Introduction, translated into English by Erich Weingartner. For the full version of the German paper, please follow this link: Schmidt: Von der Sonnenscheinpolitik zum Säbelrasslen und zurück
The situation on the Korean Peninsula has clearly worsened since our last conference in 2008. The relationship between the two Koreas has become problematic for the region, with their increasingly confrontational and irreconcilable stance toward each other. China and the USA press North and South toward rapprochement, because they have no interest in further sharpening the confrontation. They don’t want a worsening North-South relationship negatively to affect their bilateral relationship. (…)
The new South Korean President put an end to the policy of detente toward North Korea and stopped the annual delivery of food and fertilizer to the North. Instead, he makes continued assistance to North Korea dependent on their tangible renunciation of nuclear weapons. (…)
Aside from China and Russia, only South Korean and international NGOs are currently delivering food aid to the suffering population in the North. The South Korean government seems interested in regulating assistance of its own NGOs more so than before. (…)
Kim Jong Un, third son of Leader Kim Jong Il was designated as successor last year, and around him a number of personnel changes were implemented, in order to secure an orderly transition after Kim Jong Il’s death. Nevertheless there remain questions as to whether the succession will proceed smoothly, and most of all, how long it will take. This contributes to heightened insecurities in the region. It appears as though the acute food crisis in North Korea, and the impending 100th anniversary of the birth of the founding leader Kim Il Sung next year, at which the achievements of the country’s leadership are to be celebrated, have recently given the North a new impetus toward greater cooperation. (…)
The Korean Penninsula bundles together all of the above problems like a burning glass. Here is decided whether the US-China relationship evolves in a cooperative or confrontational way. Both Koreas take on an important responsibility in this regard. The multilateral Six-Party Talks between USA, China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas for the prevention or limitation of a nuclear-armed North Korea are a test case not only for the future bilateral relationship between the two Koreas but also for the relationship between China and the USA, and indeed for the future viability of a regional mechanism for multilateral security cooperation in Northeast Asia as a whole. (…)
To read the complete 14-page paper in German, click here.