New South Korean President: Steering from the war?

Author : Yulia Kurnyshova

Moon Jae-in is a consistent supporter of dialogue between South and North Korea
13:24, 12 May 2017

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May 9, Moon Jae-in won the presidential elections in South Korea. Worldwide attention was drawn to the Korean elections. They were held against the backdrop of two crises at once.

First crisis, internal, was caused by mass dissatisfaction with corruption level in the country. The peak of the crisis occurred at the time of the impeachment of former president Park Geun-hye.

However, the second crisis, international, is much more important. It was provoked by North Korea’s testing nuclear and missile weapons, which caused fierce reactions of the entire international community, from the US to traditional ally of Pyongyang - China.

Related: Scare with Trump: Japan plays the North Korean crisis in its own interests

The answer to the first crisis have become the elections, while the second one should be resolved by the newly elected president.

The key point is that the new president is a consistent supporter of dialogue between South and North Korea. He was one of the architects of humanitarian and economic cooperation with North Korea in the administration of Park Geun-hye.

During the current election campaign, he called for the restoration of regular contacts between the two Korean states, and at the beginning of the presidential race even said that he would pay the first foreign visit to Pyongyang. 

Related: CIA establishes center to counter threat of North Korea

However, aggressive behavior of North Korea in recent months, deliberate escalation of tension did the trick. Among South Korean politicians and ordinary citizens threat of military conflict with its northern neighbor, also armed with nuclear weapons, was of serious concern.

Although the mood in the country cannot be called panic, the threat of war has become prominent factor in national politics. Talking about the resumption of dialogue on this background is impossible.

After winning the elections, Moon Jae-in in his first speech have said on a visit to the northern neighbor only "under appropriate conditions": DPRK’s rejection of new nuclear and missile tests as well as agreement to resume multilateral talks on the nuclear issue on the peninsula.

Moon Jae-in has faced another challenge in this situation. He considered dialogue with the North as preparation for the unification of Korea. Of course, immediate reunification was not mentioned, but fundamentally consistent solution of two Koreas would be the beginning of a path that would bring the Koreans to a single state.

Related: Moon Jae-in wins presidential elections in South Korea

Related: North Korea calls US bombers maneuvers a push for nuclear war

The key agreement was considered dialogue without outside interference, without pressure from the third countries. Neither the Americans nor the Chinese should not be engaged.

This is the key point of the dialogue today cannot be realized. In the current aggravation of national security make alliance with the Americans, which protects Seoul has been sixty-three years, is particularly important.

Even if Moon Jae-in does not believe in the possibility of attacking the North, he cannot question the allied relations with Washington now, too many people in South Korea perceive it as a guarantee of security. Thus, the US would remain an integral part of Korean political landscape, and any contact with Pyongyang held by hidden, but still tangible involvement of Washington.

But it also means that Pyongyang would negotiate about a reduction of tension with the United States, not with South Korea.

Obviously, the trajectory of Seoul in inter-Korean relations will relate to US policy toward Pyongyang. Today, Trump chose a hard scenario, aiming to press on the North Korean regime and force it to some concessions: the cessation of nuclear testing, denial of development of intercontinental ballistic missiles that can "get" to the US territory, opening its strategic facilities for international inspections.

Related: North Korea threatens to sink US nuclear submarine, - media

However, US is trying to reconcile its pressure on China.

The goal is to reach a compromise on North Korean issues between the US and China, between China and North Korea, between North Korea and the United States. After reaching this compromise, there would be new conditions for the resumption of constructive dialogue between South and North.

Moon Jae-in sees chance of Seoul to become a bridge between all the stakeholders. He recognizes the strategic dependence on the United States, the need for American protection. At the same time, he also understands the strategic vulnerability of the state which has only limited influence on the circumstances that determine its current security.

Related: North Korea fails another ballistic missile launch

Similar to Ukraine and its problems with its northern neighbor, South Korea cannot lead the progress of the dialogue in terms of the conflict, it cannot change the international situation nether.

It is difficult to say whether South Korea has enough strength to reverse the course of the conflict, which involves many big states. Moon Jae-in believes that the state's ability to act independently is an essential success of the country.

Related: United States is ready to take military measures against North Korea

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