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Bikini DayKim Soo Hyun's Speech at International Forum
February 27, 2011 
2011 Bikini Day International Forum 

Yeonpyeong Island Incident, Deepening Reliance on Military Alliances, Intensification of Confrontation between the Two Camps Posing Obstacle to Nuclear Disarmament!
Choice between the Dialogue and the Vicious Circle of North Korean Offensive and Strong Reaction

Kim Soo Hyun 
Policy Committee Member on Peace, The Progressive New Party


In 2010, we made an important step towards a world free of nuclear weapons.  The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) for nuclear disarmament was concluded between the U.S. and Russia.  The 2010 NPT Review Conference, unlike the 2005 Review Conference, adopted a final document.  Although it has not set out the deadline and a roadmap, this document clearly confirmed that the “complete elimination of nuclear weapons” remains the goal for the international community, and made reference to a nuclear weapons convention as a way to reach it.  Taking that opportunity, the U.N. General Secretary Ban Kimoon rightly said, “we believe it is a task and a resolve for us assembled here to quickly enact a nuclear weapons convention so that a world without these weapons is achieved while Hibakusha are still alive”. 

Despite of this, here in Japan, in Korean Peninsula as well as in Northeast Asia, the implementation of this task shows major limits if not going backward instead.  The biggest obstacle in achieving a world without nuclear weapons is the desire of nuclear powers to maintain their hegemony by nuclear weapons.  I think everyone of you assembled here will agree that the doctrine and strategy that lie behind their desire are “nuclear deterrence” and “reliance on nuclear umbrella”.  However, the Prime Minister of Japan, the only country on earth to have suffered atomic bombing, who in addition is the leader of the Democratic Party that has set global denuclearization as one of its important agendas, is insisting “nuclear deterrence continues to be necessary for Japan”.  Besides, North Korea, after having proceeded with two nuclear tests, is boasting itself of its uranium enrichment facilities.  Resumption of the Six-Party Talks on the denuclearization of Korean Peninsula remains unpredictable.  The Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference calls on nuclear weapons states to sign and ratify the treaties on the creation of nuclear weapon-free zones in Central and in Southeast Asia.  It also provides that a conference for a nuclear weapon-free zone in Middle East be convened in 2012.  In contrast, there is no mention about a nuclear weapon-free zone in Northeast Asia.  Unlike the global situation, the denuclearization process is held back or going backward in this part of the world. 

Such a trend is not limited to denuclearization.  On the Korean Peninsula, in addition to the sinking of a South Korean navy vessel “Cheonan” that occurred during the first half of the year 2010, the shelling of Yeonpeyong Island took place in the yearend.  The latter incident was a shocking case because it was the first time that, after the armistice had been signed between the two countries, shells fell on an area lived by civilians.  The South Korean government responded to the shelling by suspending humanitarian aids to North Korea.  And the South Korean and U.S. armed forces conducted joint military exercise with an U.S. nuclear aircraft-carrier participating, first in the East Sea, to the east of the Korean Peninsula (in Japan Sea) after the Cheonan sinking, and then to the west of the peninsula (in the Yellow Sea) after the Yeonpyeong Island Incident.  The South-Korea- U.S. joint military exercise provoked a strong reaction not only from North Korea but also from China which responded with a large-scale drill of its armed forces.  It also presented to the public its J-20 Stealth Fighters and announced that it would soon put an aircraft carrier in commission.  Such confrontation is not limited to between South Korea and the U.S. on one hand and North Korea and China on the other.  For the first time after the WWII, soldiers of Japanese self-defense forces assisted to the U.S.-South Korea joint exercise deployed in the East Sea.  Military agreements have been concluded between Japan and South Korea, on munitions and other areas.  The Japanese Prime Minister declared that Japan would send its self-defense troops to the Korean Peninsula in the event of a crisis. This means that, whether for rescuing abductees or for evacuating Japanese nationals, Japanese troops will intervene in the Korean Peninsula in the event of a war. The announcement of sending Japanese troops abroad on the pretext of protecting Japanese citizens or of national security reminds us of the unhappy past: for Japan, when it was driven recklessly by militarism, and for South Korea, when it had its land and the lives of its people trampled down by Japan and eventually became its colony.

Is it only groundless fears and will it not affect our living?   At least for a group of people, it has direct negative impact on their living conditions.  In Japan, Hatoyama government had to step down after having attempted to use the Cheonan sinking for enforcing the transfer of Okinawa base as it had been agreed between Japan and the U.S.  When a conflict broke out between China and Japan over Senkaku Islands, Russia took a strong position by claiming its possession of the four islands of Kurile.  Such actions do not take into consideration the opinion and the situation of those who live there.  When a conflict breaks out between the states or among their allies and a vicious circle of strong reactions develops, these people will be the very first ones to suffer.  And if we are insensitive to their sufferings and stick to response with violence or deterrence doctrine, we will all suffer.

At the South and North Korean business meeting that ended up in failure recently, South Korea adopted a strong rigid position, insisting that the meeting should take up only the apology and prevention of incidents like the sinking of Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.  It is not my intention to defend the bullish attitude of North Korean military who quickly announced the breakdown of the dialogue and discarded the idea of South- North coexistence.  However, I would like to point out that one of the major reasons invoked by South Korea for being so intransigent at a meeting that could make a start of the denuclearization of Korean peninsula and formation of a peaceful regime through dialogue and negotiations was the national sentiment.  Evidently, South Korean public grew more hawkish after the shelling of Yeongpyeong Island.  Until then, a majority of South Koreans had been opposed to military retaliation against North Korea as if it were a kind of taboo.  Even shortly after the Cheonan incident, the support for limited military retaliation against North Korea accounted only for 28.2 percent.  However, after the shelling of Yeongpyeong Island, 68.6% supported military retaliation.  And the anxiety about security grew among the people whether they supported the government or not.  The support rate that was 59.2 percent at the time of the second North Korean nuclear test and 75.4 percent climbed to 81.5 percent when the Cheonan sinking was announced.  The inclination for strong response and the anxiety about security in turn increase the support for the U.S.-South Korea alliance.  According to an opinion survey about desirable future South Korea-U.S. relationship, when comparing the results between January 2010 and right after the Yeongpyeong Island Incident, those in favor of withdrawal from the alliance with the U.S. diminished from 30.8 percent to 18.1 percent while those in favor of the strengthened alliance with the U.S. increased from 34.7 percent to 48.6 percent.

When the people was outraged against North Korea, with many politicians taking advantage of it to give their accord to the adoption of a strong position towards North, the South Korean government committed a series of suicidal actions which led to the cold war confrontation between ROK-USA-Japan on one hand and North Korea-China-Russia on the other.  Concerns about the advent of a new cold war were removed through the US-China summit held in January. And yet, there is no sign of improvement in the South-North relations that is the premise for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks.  Actually, because the majority of the ROK people expect that the possibility of a total war is low, they support reconciliation and cooperation rather than strong action toward North Korea (55.2% against 42.7%).  Even the largest ruling party has urged dialogue.  However, some people still feel that South Korea must revenge on and punish North Korea even by limited mobilization of military means.  This, with those who blindly follow that idea, is used to justify the strong policy towards North the South Korean government has adopted under the pressure of its alliance with the U.S., instead of putting a brake on that policy and imposing a drastic change. 

Of course, public opinion does not have the direct responsibility for this.  The actions taken by North Korean authorities are the main cause that is leading public opinion to a bad direction.  It is these actions that have undermined the efforts for reconciliation, cooperation, peace and unity between North and South. It is evident that they discredited North Korea’s effort to develop a series of dialogues and weakened the basis of agreement on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of a peace community through dialogue and negotiation. 

But we must not abandon the basic principle of achieving peace through peaceful means, on the ground of apparent worsening of public opinion we are witnessing now.  If we throw this principle away, misery will catch the weak first, then spread to everybody.  Even though we can hardly understand or are suspicious about the acts committed by North Korea, we must neither accept any strong response nor stop seeking for negotiation.  If we let ourselves misled by the atmosphere and stray off the right way, it will help the logic that we could not but accept changes in the alliance and its strengthening for the sake of deterrence against North Korea and China.  We will then cause territorial conflict although we have proposed the establishment of an East Asian community and eventually have to return to the policy of dependence on the U.S.   This will necessarily make us justify the use U.S. nuclear weapons for the sake of national security and will weaken the opposition to such use.  Dissolution of military alliance, abolition of “nuclear deterrence strategy” and a world without nuclear weapons cannot become reality unless we have the conviction that while all nuclear weapons are evil, all military means and strong policies are also evil and that we have developed policies reflecting that conviction.

Based upon this principle, the Progressive New Party is proposing a “new package deal” for coping with the new situation where North Korean enriched uranium has emerged as a hot issue.  The difference with the previous package deals is that the new one precisely sets out the timing and the conditions of settling altogether the problems of elimination of nuclear weapons, conclusion of peace agreement and the establishment of the diplomatic relations between North Korea and the U.S. which is the final challenge.  I think it is not appropriate to explain the concrete proposals and discuss them here in this forum.  Still, I hope that participants will resolve never to forget that the exclusion of the “logic of deterrence by force” and concrete policies well adapted to the situation are a logical path not only to a peaceful Korean Peninsula and East Asia, but also towards a world without nuclear weapons.