2000-07-03 00:08
***** SPECIAL REPORT *****


Discussion of PFO #00-05
June 30, 2000

The NAPSNet contributions to the Nautilus Policy Forum Online are
intended to provide expert analysis of contemporary peace and
security issues in Northeast Asia, and an opportunity to
participate in discussion of the analysis. The Forum is open to
all participants of the Northeast Asia Peace and Security Network

A world wide web version of this report can be found at:

As always, Nautilus invites your responses to this report.
Please see "Nautilus Invites Your Responses," below, and send
your responses to the NAPSNet Coordinator at:

Copyright (c) 1998 Nautilus of America / The Nautilus Institute


I. Introduction
II. Comments on Timothy Savage's Paper
1. Comments by David Brown
2. Comments by Jekuk Chang
III. Comments on Victor Cha's Essay
1. Comments by Robyn Lim
2. Comments by Charles Armstrong
IV. Nautilus Invites Your Responses

I. Introduction

The following comments were contributed regarding the recent
Policy Forum Online articles by Timothy L. Savage and Victor Cha.
PFO #00-05 will continue next week with new essays, following a
break for the US holiday.

Comments on Tim Savage's paper were provide by David Brown, Vice
President of the Stanton Group and former Korea Desk officer for
the US State Department, and Jekuk Chang, a Tokyo based attorney-
at-law and currently a Ph.D. candidate at Keio University in
Tokyo, Japan. Comments on Victor Cha's paper were provided by
Robyn Lim Professor of International Politics, Nanzan University,
Nagoya Japan, and Professor Charles K. Armstrong of the East
Asian Institute, Columbia University, who is currently a
Fulbright Senior Scholar in Seoul.

II. Comments on Timothy Savage's Paper

1. Comments by David Brown

I thought Tim Savage's essay was excellent; right on target, with
one minor quibble. To my certain knowledge, there was no serious
consideration given by the US government to bombing the Yongbyon
reactor complex. Yes, some people may have talked about it.
Someone or other may have even tested Kim Young-sam's attitude on
the subject (I have not seen his remarks). But the idea would
never have survived vetting by the National Security Council or
any other rational forum.

David Brown Vice President, The Stanton Group

2. Comments by Jekuk Chang

In his article, "Koreans Take Steps to Solve Own Problems",
Timothy L. Savage listed three possible reasons why North Korean
leader, Kim Jong Il, decided to invite South Korea's President
Kim Dae Jung to the summit in Pyongyang: first, Pyongyang wanted
to secure sufficient US allies, including Seoul, before its new
administration comes into power next year, in the hope that these
allies will remain supportive of Pyongyang, even if the new
administration's policies take a more hawkish turn; second, Kim
Jong Il decided to put his regime and leadership at risk in order
to avoid "the fate that befell Russia and Eastern Europe"; and
third, realizing that North Korea lacks the capacity to attract
investment, due to its execrable infrastructure, Pyongyang viewed
Seoul as its hope of attracting foreign investment. Based on
these explanations, Savage concluded that "Koreans have finally
made the first steps toward solving their own problems, in their
own way, on their own terms."

None of these explanations, however, justifies his jumping to
such a quick conclusion. As Savage himself admits, the summit
was basically a "tactical maneuver" designed to help Pyongyang
stave off the possible future challenges described above.
Pyongyang has, in fact, already achieved two of its objectives:
it has succeeded in creating a more positive image of Kim Jong
Il, and it has received an assurance of sorts for economic
assistance from Seoul.

What is not clear, however, is whether Kim Jong Il really wants
to launch a reconciliation process with Seoul; and if there is
any likelihood at all that his apparently warm welcome to
President Kim Dae Jung was not based on a sincere desire for a
reconciliation with the South, this one-off peace gesture from
the North must be viewed with a great deal of skepticism and
caution. Unfortunately, however, despite President Kim Dae
Jung's warning that premature hopes on inter-Korea relations are
dangerous, many worrisome phenomena are already occurring in
Seoul and Washington.

First, the South Koreans now seem to be in the state of euphoria
about the summit, and falling over themselves in their haste to
readjust their long-held beliefs about North Korea and Kim Jong-
Il. A so-called "Kim Jong Il syndrome" is rapidly pervading
Seoul, where his particular style of sunglasses now top many
people's shopping lists. Some policy makers in South Korea are
already suggesting amending the Constitution to limit the
territorial boundary to the southern part of the peninsula, and
others are speaking of eliminating the National Security Law, no
less. Intimidated by this sudden change in attitude,
conservatives in Seoul have become very cautious about expressing
their opinions, because they do not want to be viewed as "anti-
unification hawks." Moreover, previous popular perceptions of
North Korea are being abandoned so widely, that even if it were
proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that North Korea's real
intentions do not include a peaceful reunification, it would be
very difficult for conventional wisdom to be restored.

Second, premature policy debates, including what to do with the
US forces in South Korea, have begun to proliferate even before
any serious discussion has taken place concerning Kim Jong Il's
real intentions. Already, Republican Chairman of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jesse Helms, has stated that
the withdrawal of US forces from Korea should be considered
seriously. This kind of suggestion could legitimize the concept
of withdrawing US forces from Korea within some foreign policy
circles in Washington. Indeed, Secretary of State Albright's
visit to Seoul last week, and confirmation that the US army will
stay, indicate that the issue is already on the table.

Third, anti-US feelings are running high in Seoul at present,
fueled by revelations that the US Army killed South Korean
civilians during the Korean War, as well as the dispute about the
terms of the SOFA [Status of Forces Agreement], although it is
still too early to tell how these will influence future policy
decisions. These reactions to a one-off friendly gesture from
the North are all the more alarming because few people seem to
have seriously questioned the real significance of the summit.
If there is the slightest likelihood that the North called the
summit with the intention of provoking friction between Seoul
and Washington, or of raising an anti-American reaction in South
Korea, or of merely creating a more positive image of Kim Jong
Il, there is no way we can view it as a first step towards a
peaceful reunification, even though you may argue that it was a
first step towards solving North Korea's own problems, in its own
way, on its own terms. And while there is any ambiguity and
uncertainty about North Korea's motives, we would be very unwise
to jump to conclusions. On the contrary, a more careful analysis
and a wait-and-see attitude is highly recommended, because there
will be plenty of time for us to relax our guard and change our
views on North Korea when we know their real intentions and
understand the real reason for their recent friendly gesture.

III. Comments on Victor Cha's Essay

1. Comments by Robyn Lim

Victor Cha's paper is a most welcome dose of realism after all
the hype on the summit.

It seems to me that Kim Jong Il has gained much, while offering
almost nothing in return. His objective of course is to preserve
his odious regime at all costs, and thus to avoid the fate of the
Romanian dictator Ceaucescu. As soon as they got the chance,
Romanians showed what they really thought of their Dear Leader.

Dr Cha's paper is also a warning of the disadvantages that
democracies face in trying to negotiate with dictatorships. But
it seems that the lesson must constantly be re-learned.

Kim Dae Jung has also raised expectations in the South,
especially over family reunions, that he may not be able to

Robyn Lim Professor of International Politics, Nanzan University,
Nagoya, Japan

2. Comments by Charles Armstrong

As we all shiver under the cold water Professor Cha has thrown on
the enthusiasm for the North-South summit, I would like to
challenge a few points Professor Cha has made in his forum.
First, what Cha dismisses as "atmospherics" (or what the Koreans
call "punuigi") is a crucial part of negotiations regarding
Korea, especially for North Korea. The atmosphere surrounding
the talks was far more positive, cordial, and open than any
previous inter-Korean talks. Atmosphere is not substance, but
its symbolic importance cannot be overestimated. The atmosphere
of the summit augers well for future progress in inter-Korean

Second, was the summit "bound to be a success?" Hardly.
Virtually up to the last minute there was speculation that Kim
Jong Il would not even show up and that Kim Dae Jung would be
dealing with SPA Chairman Kim Yong-nam. Kim Jong Il's appearance
and behavior at the summit far exceeded everyone's expectations.
Perhaps that is because expectations were so low, but experience
has taught us to expect little out of these sorts of meetings.
Was Kim Jong Il using the talks to cultivate a better image of
himself to the outside world? Of course he was, but he never
seemed to have the inclination to do so before. Whether his
change of style represents a change of policy remains to be seen.

Third, the substantive and difficult work of improving inter-
Korean relations is beginning. This includes institutionalizing
inter-Korean relations through creating channels for economic and
military communication and cooperation, and more immediate issues
such as family visits later this summer. It also includes
important gestures such as toning down public rhetoric against
the other side and, this year for the first time ever, canceling
major events surrounding the anniversary of the Korean War in
both Seoul and Pyongyang. This may be "atmosphere," but one
cannot imagine progress in inter-Korean relations without the
improved atmosphere such symbolic moves create.

Finally, my impression from Seoul is that the Koreans as a whole
are not as giddy with the summit success as Cha suggests. Yes,
people are enormously pleased with the positive atmosphere and
the show of camaraderie (or "Kim-radarie," as the Far Eastern
Economic Review called it) between the two leaders. But, unlike
previous breakthroughs in inter-Korean relations (1972, 1985,
1992) there is very little talk of imminent unification. In the
mass media, in academic forums, and on the street, Koreans
express their wish for unification and their hope that this
summit is a major step toward that goal. After fifty years of
the bitterest, most arbitrary and most tragic national division
produced by the Cold War, we can hardly begrudge them that wish.
But the general understanding is that this is the first step in a
long process of mutual recognition and reconciliation that will
lead to unification at some as yet unforeseeable point in the
future. Nor is there widespread expectation that the US-ROK
military alliance will soon be dismantled. Even the North
Koreans themselves have hinted that US troops may need to remain
in a post-unification Korea. No one on either side of the
Pacific can doubt that a substantial change in inter-Korean
relations will necessitate a re-thinking of the US military
presence on the Korean peninsula, and in East Asia as a whole.
This hasn't happened yet, and may not happen in the immediate
future, but the summit has rightly triggered a frank discussion
on the meaning and future of the US-Korean alliance.

Professor Charles K. Armstrong East Asian Institute, Columbia
Currently Fulbright Senior Scholar, Seoul

IV. Nautilus Invites Your Responses

The Northeast Asia Peace and Security Network invites your
Responses. Please send responses to:
napsnet@nautilus.org (preferably using "response to forum #00-05"
as the subject). Responses will be considered for redistribution
to the network only if they include the author's name,
affiliation, and explicit consent.


Produced by:

The Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable Development

Timothy L. Savage, NAPSNet Coordinator
Wade L. Huntley, Asia/Pacific Security Program Director
Gee Gee Wong, Security Program Assistant