Seoul Perspective; New Regional Order

Article excerpt

In 1975, then U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, proposed ``cross recognition'' of South and North Korea by major powers of the Eastern and Western camps, respectively, as a means of mitigating tensions on the Korean peninsula. The proposal, made three years after the United States and China had agreed on a detente and the two Koreas had reached a short-lived accord for reconciliation, was snubbed by Pyongyang and argued that it would only perpetuate Korea's territorial division.

Over the passage of a quarter century, the idea has been partially materialized as South Korea, employing an aggressive ``northern diplomacy,'' established full diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union in 1990 and with China two years later. U til recently, North Korea, long isolated from the world community since the disintegration of the communist bloc, has become active in its pursuit of rapprochement with its longtime enemies, mainly the United States, Japan and other Western nations.

Such efforts by North Korea blossomed this week in Bangkok where its foreign minister took the limelight. He engaged in a round of unprecedented meetings with his counterparts from Japan, the United States, South Korea and several ot er countries on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), a ministerial pan l of Asian and Pacific nations for regional security in which North Korea was inv ted to become its 23rd member.

The diplomatic strides in Bangkok was a result of the historic summit between the two Koreas in Pyongyang last month, in which President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il dramatically worked out a wide-ranging accord for reconciliation and cooperation, thus raising hopes for tension reduction on the peninsula and an amicable coexistence between the two Koreas. Following up the summit, a North-South ministerial meeting is planned to take place this weekend in Seoul to discuss specifics on improving inter-Korean relations.

The summit also created an impact on the ``power games'' among the leading powers. In particular, Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a visit to North Korea last week, the first ever made by a Soviet or Russian head of state. The rip, following his visit to Beijing on his way to the G-8 summit in Okinawa, was originally aimed at mending Pyongyang-Moscow ties that had soured in the 1990s following Moscow's establishment of formal relations with Seoul.

Unexpectedly, Putin scored a diplomatic feat as he managed to obtain an offer y Kim Jong-il that North Korea would abandon its long-range missile program in exchange for an international arrangement in which one or two of its satellites could be launched each year in other countries. The offer is dubious in that on y a week earlier Pyongyang stalled a missile talk with Washington by insisting that its missile program was a nonnegotiable part of its national self-defense. …