What should be done by the Lee administration now?

26 11 2010

Leonid Petrov has answered the questions of <This Morning> program at the TBS eFM 101.3 Mhz http://tbsefm.seoul.kr

1. How did you view the Yeonpyeongdo  shelling incident? In your view, is this even more serious act by North Korea than the Cheonan incident?

LP – Both incidents, the Cheonan sinking and Yeonpyeongdo  shelling resulted from the ROK-US military drills. The former happened  in the middle of the “Key Resolve/Foal Eagle” joint exercise, and the latter  at the beginning of the “Safeguarding the Nation/Hoguk” joint exercise.  Both were staged on disputed waters, near the Northern Limit Line.  This time, in November 2010, South Korea mobilised some 70,000 troops to  participate in the military drill scheduled for nine days. Above all,  the purpose of this joint exercise was “to send a strong message to  North Korea”. It’s no surprise then that on both occasions the North has got the  message and overreacted. 

2. What is the intention of North Korea after the revelation of uranium enrichment plant? How do you view the timing of this incident?

LP – The incident comes at the time of DPRK’s revelations about an  active uranium-enrichment program, which can be understood as a  good-will gesture inviting the US to negotiations. Just before the  Yeonpyeongdo incident, the DPRK had proposed a  resumption of the 6-party talks and sent a list of delegates to Seoul for Red Cross talks  with South Korea, originally set for the 25th November.

However, after the Yeonpyeongdo  shelling, this round of Red Cross talks has already been cancelled by South Korea. In other words, the timing  of the shelling incident seems to contradict the major actions currently under way in inter-Korean and DPRK-US relations. It appears that some forces inside the North and the South are both interested in sabotaging the resumption of the 6-party talks as much as they are against the improvement of Inter-Korean reconciliation.

3. How do you view the reaction of major countries, especially close allies of North Korea, Russia and China? Russian Foreign Minister  Sergei Lavrov told reporters that “It is necessary to immediately end  all strikes,” and “There is a colossal danger which must be avoided. Tensions in the region are growing.” How do you view his remarks and  what can we expect from Russia?

LP – Russia is preoccupied by its self-serving interest of selling natural resources and energy to neighbouring countries and is vitally interested in preserving peace and stability in the region. But Russia lost any leverage in relations with impoverished North Korea long time ago and cannot exert any pressure (soft or hard). China is  irritated by North Korea’s brinkmanship of the recent years but  continues to support Pyongyang out of the fear that in the case the DPRK regime’s  collapses, a unified Korea will stay within the orbit of the US security alliance. Otherwise, China would have stopped supporting North Korea a long time ago. Only the end of strategic confrontation between China on one side and the US on the other can ease tensions on the Korean peninsula.

4. Some experts view that it was well calculated tactic by the North  to boost its leverage in international talks or reinforcing the status  of the young heir, Kim Jong-un. What is your take on this?

LP –  The image and reputation of the young general Kim Jong-un would benefit from the improved relations with South Korea and  the US in the  long run, but to make this improvement obvious an initial crisis must be engineered. This would allow the Kim clan to increase domestic control over it’s population and to divert people’s interest  from  market-oriented reforms. If this policy was successful, it would be  attributed to the genius of Kim Jong-un. If not, it would be easy to find  scapegoats to be punished later. 

Alternatively, one can assume that in the backdrop of the ongoing leadership transition in the DPRK something has irritated the military and resulted in the Yeonpyeongdo incident. It could be the result of  miscommunication within the structure of the DPRK’s military command or a  disagreement between the local military and the top political  leadership.

5. What should be done by the Lee administration now?

LP – A military retaliation is out of the question because Seoul is too close to the DMZ and vulnerable to the North’s counter-attack. Tightening sanctions further would likewise lead to a dead end and undermine the effectiveness of president Lee’s “pragmatic policy” towards North Korea, in the eyes of the South Korean citizens. Given the advances made in the DPRK’s nuclear program and economic  improvements, it is clear that sanctions simply don’t work. The only  hope appears to be engagement and cooperation in the same vein as it was done during the years of “Sunshine Policy” (1998-2007).

Both the ROK and the US should respond positively to the recent nuclear revelations of North Korea as a sign of good will and encourage Pyongyang to pursue a peaceful nuclear energy program instead of  nuclear bomb-making. This would require South Korea and the US to acknowledge North Korea’s security concerns and stop the joint demonstration of military force near the DMZ and NLL. In fact there are  two guiding documents which could lead president Lee out of the current crisis: the Joint DPRK-ROK Declaration of June 2000, signed by Kim  Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, and the Joint DPRK-US Communiqué endorsed by the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in October 2000.

US, South Korea go to war games

(The Australian  25 Nov. 2010) Korea scholar Leonid Petrov, from the University of Sydney, said it was “difficult to imagine” a more dangerous situation and the risk of a war that could pit the US and Chinese forces against one another could not be discounted. Dr Petrov said the attack was clearly orchestrated by Kim Jong-il and his son, adding that he believed reports that the pair had visited the artillery batteries used in the shelling last weekend.

“It looks like it was carefully staged and engineered and prepared. I believe the North Korean artillery was given orders to respond to any kind of assumed provocation,” he said. “It was a strong message to the South; it’s also a strong message to their own population that the young general Kim Jong-un is in control and he’s going to defend the fatherland by all means.” Dr Petrov said the Korean Peninsula was on a knife edge and one slip from either side could trigger a major catastrophe in which “North Korea pushes the button and sends missiles at Seoul”.

“In that case, the Americans would get involved and probably launch missiles at North Korean territory,” he said. “Then North Korea might respond with the one or two nuclear devices that they have. Kim Jong-il’s underground palaces would be targeted and the Chinese response would be probably sending troops”…

Вечер на Би-Би-Си “На границе двух Корей все опаснее”

 Министр обороны Южной Кореи Ким Дэ Ён подал в отставку после критики в свой адрес за “нескоординированный ответ” южнокорейских военных на артиллерийский обстрел острова Йонпхендо. Перед программой “Вечер на Би-би-си” мы позвонили Леониду Петрову, известному эксперту по Корее. Он только что вернулся с совещания в южнокорейском посольстве в Австралии. Там как раз обсуждали эту ситуацию. Мы спросили эксперта, что, по его мнению может означать отставка министра обороны Южной Кореи? http://www.bbc.co.uk/russian/radio/radio_vecher/2010/11/101125_vecher_korea_petrov.shtml




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