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Looking Ahead for Peaceful Coexistence

posted Oct 17, 2012, 1:15 AM by Golden Knight
By David Yoo

 It has been over eight months since the leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, (North Korea) Kim Jong-il's death. After Kim Jong-il's death, the world was waiting to see his successor Kim Jong-un assume leadership in North Korea. Reactions were mixed, and many did not know whether the new leader would follow his father's footsteps and lead the nation, battered by famine and lack of civil liberties, into another fifty or more years of anti-U.S. And anti-South Korean relations. Indeed, the diplomatic relations between the United States and North Korea as well as between South Korea and North Korea have been very tenuous during the Kim Jong-il regime, as Kim Jong-il was never afraid of boldly challenging the political and diplomatic relations that his nation had with both nations. Many optimists believed that the new leader would thaw the current relationship that the United States and South Korea have with North Korea, while many pessimists, cynics, and realists assert that no such thawing would be possible.

     Taking a look at the eight months timeline of North Korean diplomatic and military exercises reveals evidence and events that seem to satisfy both the optimists and pessimists, ultimately obfuscating Kim Jong-un's motives and political experience. For example, upon Kim Jong-il's death on 17 December 2011, Kim Jong-un announced on 29 February 2012 that “North Korea will freeze nuclear tests, long-range missile launches, and uranium enrichment at its Yongbyon plant. In addition, the new leader invited international nuclear inspectors who were ejected in 2009. The Obama administration responded by offering 240,000 tonnes of food, chiefly in the form of biscuits. This indicated a softening of the erstwhile North Korean insistence that food aid must comprise grains.” The possibility of the new leader allowing nuclear inspectors into the nation can be a crucial step in thawing the cold relationship between the United States/South korea and North Korea. The prospects of such a plan are hopefully still intact, as such a move would mean absolute gains and no losses for the global community.

    On the other hand, many point to the recent and controversial order made by Kim Jong-un that his troops maintain vigilance “during upcoming training exercises between South Korea and the United States, saying they should be ready to lead a 'sacred war,'”. Though Kim Jong-un's orders seem all too ambiguous for any discernible threat to be detected, such words directed to his military still evoke fear in the hearts and minds of many. It has become absolutely necessary in this climate to seek out the new leader's cooperation and to create a more transparent North Korea, even if it takes years. The promises made by the new leader show, at least, some form of concession in terms of the need to cooperate. Such political opportunity would, if rarely, never open itself up when the first chance is spoiled. It is necessary to show the new leader that the old regime can be done away with, such as what happened in the Soviet Union, and to demonstrate that there is hope for both Koreas for peaceful coexistence where nuclear threats and conventional assaults will not occur.