The National Security Office published a new booklet on national security strategy on August 13. In the book, the South Korean government proposed a conversion from an armistice regime to peace regime, arms control oriented toward disarmament, increased investment in the Kaesong Industrial Complex, and permission for commercial investment in economic cooperation projects.
Foreign affairs experts interpret the announcement of these national security measures prior to Pope Francis’ visit to Korea on August 14 as a paradigm shift in inter-Korean relations for a substantially positive outcome and the expression of a strong desire for reconciliation and economic cooperation between the two countries. Still, the plans have their own limits, in that they could be feasible only when Pyongyang gives up on its two-track policy for simultaneous nuclear and economic development.
One of the most noteworthy points in the new scheme is the forward-looking proposal to establish a peace regime and initiation of discussions on arms control. This is the first time that the South clarified its intent to discuss the regime conversion and arms control issues with North Korea. President Park Geun-hye identified reunification as a jackpot during her New Years’ press conference, and has come up with her “Trust-building Process in the Korean Peninsula,” “Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative,” and “Dresden Declaration” in March one after another in order to encourage the North to change its stance. However, Pyongyang has responded to the requests by launching missiles and threatening nuclear tests.
“What we are planning to do is have inter-Korean dialogues field by field so that the North can sympathize and cooperate with us on the Trust-building Process and the Dresden Declaration, while humanitarian issues are properly dealt with and trust is built on the military side,” said the NSO, adding, “The first humanitarian projects in line include regular meetings between separate families, confirmation of life and death, and exchange of video mails and gene information. We will work with international and civic organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross to seek practical solutions.” It is expected that the plans will be officially suggested to Pyongyang during President Park’s speech marking National Liberation Day on August 15.
Cheongwadae brought up various incentives on condition of amelioration in bilateral relations, too. Depending on how the North changes its attitude, it is going to lift the May 24 economic sanctions, which were put in place after the sinking of the Cheonan in 2010, so that more investment can flow into the Kaesong Industrial Complex and business investment for economic cooperation be allowed.
“As trust is built between both Koreas and the North moves ahead with denuclearization, we will proceed with the Vision Korea Project, which covers the construction of power, transport, and telecoms infrastructure, participation in special economic zone development, and assistance for cooperation with international financial organizations, so as to complete the establishment of an inter-Korean economic community,” the government mentioned, continuing, “Collaboration projects among both Koreas and China as well as those of the South, the North, and Russia, such as the Rajin-Khasan project, will lead to the joint prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia as a whole, while contributing to the materialization of the Eurasia Initiative.”
According to Cheongwadae, lifting of the May 24 economic sanctions and participation by not just the two Koreas but also China and Russia are essential factors for the Eurasia Initiative, one of the key national policy goals of the South Korean government. In the meantime, President Park is expected to mention the comfort women issue and specific measures for economic cooperation with the North as well in her speech for Liberation Day.