Foreign Policy Luncheon

The 266th "Foreign Policy Luncheon" meeting on “On-Site Analysis of the Current Situation in the Korean Peninsula" Held

GFJ and its two sister organizations, The Japan Forum on International Relations and the Council on East Asian Community monthly organizes a "Foreign Policy Luncheon" meeting to provide an occasion for members of the three organizations to meet in an informal and confidential manner with senior officials of the Japanese Government and/or other experts and specialists in fields related to international relations. The 266th "Foreign Policy Luncheon" meeting on the topic of "On-Site Analysis of the Current Situation in the Korean Peninsula" was held on 3 June 2014. The keynote speaker was TAKESADA Hideshi, Professor, Takushoku University. His views are as follows.

(1) Background of the Anti-Japanese Sentiment of the South Korean People
I returned to Japan after having served as guest professor at Yonsei University in South Korea from June 2011 to February 2013. Since this April, there has occurred such a series of accidents as the sinking of the Sewol passenger ferry and the subway trains crash in Seoul. One of the possible culprits behind these accidents is the collusive relationship between the public and private sectors. In an excessive pursuit of a national goal "to catch up to and surpass Japan," the society at large has been inclined to prioritize maximization of economic profit at the sacrifice of safety. In South Korea, nationwide local elections are scheduled on June 4, which are regarded as an interim assessment of President PARK Geun Hye after almost one year since the establishment of her administration. What with the bungled handling of above mentioned accidents and so on, the Park administration has met with severe criticism within South Korea, and this would expectedly affect the outcome of the elections. President PARK is quite notorious for her anti-Japanese stance, and characteristically her anti-Japanese campaign is organized in tandem with China. Behind this background, needless to say, was rise of China, who has become capable of providing South Korea with assistance in terms of both economics and security. Yet another factor was decline of Japan in its standing in the world. Especially in South Korea, there are some circles who are quite off the mark in believing that "Now that Japan is on the verge of foundering due to the damage from the Great East Japan earthquake, if we seize this opportunity to beat up Japan intensively, a rosy future would be promised for South Korea." The people of South Korea, who had no experience of "founding a state through anti-Japanese revolutionary struggle" as advocated by KIM Il-Sung as a founding principle of a state, have been under pressure "to remain anti-Japanese, as long as South Korea exists," or "to surpass Japan not only in economics but in every aspects including security and Olympic Games." However, these are the collective sentiment of the people of South Korea toward a political symbolism called "Japan" and I, as "an individual," have never experienced any harassment let alone hostility during my stay there.

(2) Japan-North Korea Intergovernmental Talks, the present and the Future
North Korea, under the leadership of KIM Jong-un, First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, has expressed its intention to advance bilateral talks with Japan, thereby seeking to improve relations between the two countries. Throughout the process from the Japan-North Korea Red Cross Talks in March to the Japan-North Korea Intergovernmental Talks in May, such agenda items as "investigations into the fate of the abductees," "the return home of the surviving abductees," and "relaxation of the economic sanctions," etc., have been discussed. The latest agreements between Japan and North Korea were concluded as part of the attempt of North Korea to improve its tarnished image as well as to reconstruct its economy. Japan has extended the term of its economic sanctions upon North Korea every two years, and thus trade embargo on any items is being maintained between the two countries. Presumably, North Korea expects that Japan's relaxation of the economic sanctions would trigger further relaxation of sanctions imposed by other countries, which would pave the way out of its financial difficulties. North Korea has agreed to launch a special investigation committee tasked with probing the abduction issue. The committee would be provided "special mandate," which corroborates the presence of top-down endorsement of First Secretary KIM Jong-un. The leader of the country intends to exercise leadership to ensure that the result of the investigation be shared between the two countries. We could be justified to assume that North Korea seriously intends to solve the abduction issue.

(3) North Korea's Development of Nuclear Weapons and Missiles Remain Prioritized
One prevailing opinion has it that, what with the execution of CHANG Song-taek, the China-North Korea relations have been chilled since 2013, but there is no evidence to support it. It is true that the monthly statistics of petroleum export of China to North Korea have been left blank from January to April this year. Within the period between January and March this year, North Korea's export to China has increased by 2.8 percent. While the background check of CHANG Song-taek was initiated in the spring of 2013, total amount of trade between China and North Korea hit an all-time record of 6.5 billion dollars that year. The close relationship between the Workers' Party of Korea and the Chinese Communist Party, or between the Korean People's Army and the Chinese People's Army remain unchanged. Nor has North Korea's strategic line of "carrying out economic construction and building nuclear armed forces simultaneously" been changed. KIM Jong-un lays weight on efficiency and aims at building a "colorful society." In Pyongyang, North Korea's Capital, there are 2.4 million mobile phones in use, which means one in ten people owns a mobile phone in entire North Korea. He also intends to attract foreign investment, to increase the number of tourists, and to encourage acquisition of foreign currency. However, the ultimate goal of North Korea is to achieve North Korea-led unification of the Korean Peninsula. North Korea is firmly attached to developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) with a flight range of 12,000km, and to tipping these missiles with approximately 50 nuclear warheads. North Korea presumes that, if these missiles should become capable of reaching the U.S. mainland including New York or Washington DC, slipping through the U.S. missile defense system in Alaska, the U.S. would abandon military intervention in case military conflicts in the Korean Peninsula should occur. North Korea calculates that, under such circumstances, with the U.S being neutralized, it would be able to absorb South Korea with tactical nuclear weapons in hand. This is North Korea's nuclear strategy based upon the triad of normalization of diplomatic relations between the U.S and North Korea, development of nuclear weapons and North Korea-led unification of the Korean Peninsula. It seems that North Korea is ever more confident of this strategic line, witnessing the U.S. who has abandoned military intervention against Russia over the Crimean crisis. Despite the ongoing development of nuclear weapons and missiles of North Korea, there is no problem with resuming bilateral talks between Japan and North Korea, which are one of the working groups under the umbrella of the six-party talks. Japan now has a clue to resolving the abduction issue.

(GFJ secretariat is responsible for this article)