On January 16 of this year, the National Defense Commission issued a short proposal to South Korea that was designed as a conciliatory gesture. The NDC is now back with a more lengthy version of the same proposal, call it NDC Mark 2.0. The opportunistic timing—in anticipation of Xi Jinping’s visit to the South—the mixed message sent by the near-simultaneous missile tests of the last week, and substantive features of the proposal itself suggest it will meet a similar fate. In particular, Seoul immediately made clear that North Korea’s unyielding commitment to its nuclear program cannot be separated from the course of North-South relations, a message directed as much to Beijing as Pyongyang.
The February proposal had three components; Bob Carlin made the case for seizing on them at 38North:
- Halting “all acts of provoking and slandering the other side”;
- Halting all hostile military acts;
- Stopping the introduction of “nuclear strike means” onto the peninsula in the form of nuclear capable aircraft.
In our analysis of the proposal (which included the full text), we argued that any positive signaling effects were largely negated by the asymmetric nature of the ask. “Halting all hostile military acts” included canceling long-scheduled joint exercises at the last minute in return for North Korean restraint along the Northern Limit Line. The third component of the proposal specifically defended North Korean nuclear weapons as a necessary deterrent against the US, but asked the US and South Korea to forego components of their extended deterrence relationship. The initiative did lead to high-level talks on February 12 and 14 that appeared at the time to reflect a breakthrough (our analysis here; John DeLury’s more bullish assessment at 38North here) and ultimately led to a round of family reunions despite the fact that joint exercises were not canceled. Yet this one-off event was not enough to maintain momentum, particularly in the context of the Park administration’s preoccupation with unification and her Dresden speech of March 28 (analyzed here and here).
The new proposal again has three components, but with some even less auspicious twists:
- The modest “halting slander” proposal is retained, but subordinated to the demand that North and South solve all problems independently, without “outside interference.” A similar concept was included as the first principle in the North-South Joint Statement of July 4, 1972, and repeated in the June 15 declaration of 2000. Conservatives in the South have decried these references because of concerns about their implications for the alliance.
- The new proposal rolls together a series of North Korean requests with respect to both South Korean and joint ROK-US exercises, including that exercises scheduled for August be canceled. Pyongyang offers restraint, including with respect to joint exercises it might conduct with unnamed other states. At the same time, however, the proposal asks that South Korea desist in making any demands with respect to North Korea’s nuclear program, which is described as a “valuable common asset of the nation.”
- The third proposal is a more general call for reconciliation, but without references to any path that suggests absorption of the North by the South; the entire third section of the proposal is clearly a response to the Dresden speech. Unlike the February effort, however, no similar small step such as family reunions in on the table; the proposal does not really offer anything.
Because the proposal comes from the NDC, it has the imprimatur of the leadership and has to be considered. But the messages are mixed and complex, and are aimed as much at China as the US and the South. Beijing continues to press its case for a resumption of the Six Party Talks and might see some progress in North-South relations as a deliverable to that end; this will no doubt be an important component of the forthcoming summit. Yet North Korea is simultaneously signaling that it will continue to test missiles and pursue its byungjin line and nuclear program, in short a course of action that runs counter to Chinese diplomatic objectives. It is hard to see anything coming from this initiative.
NDC of DPRK Sends Special Proposal to S. Korean Authorities
Pyongyang, June 30 (KCNA) — The National Defence Commission (NDC) of the DPRK sent the following special proposal to the south Korean authorities on Monday:
The continued state of frozen north-south relations is making the wounds of the territorial division ever deeper and the nation’s cherished desire for reunification has reached such a phase that can no longer be overlooked.
The three principles of national reunification which the north and the south agreed upon to adhere to before the nation and even the ennobling spirit of By Our Nation Itself have been ruthlessly violated. This is the present tragic reality.
True to the noble intention of the peerless patriot to set right this painful situation, the DPRK side sent a crucial proposal and an open letter to the south Korean authorities, political parties and social organizations only to receive a cool response.
The valuable agreement reached at the north-south high-level contact, which was arranged with much effort in February, is being reduced to a dead document.
The blame for this rests with all members of the nation responsible for setting right this painful reality as they are responsible for their own destiny.
But greater responsibility rests with the south Korean authorities who have mocked at the reunification issue by making far-fetched assertions and making public sham declarations, keen on confrontation only, in utter disregard of the north-south relations that have turned more serious.
The people of different social standings are becoming more vocal demanding the improvement of the north-south relations against this backdrop and their desire to open up a fresh phase of reconciliation, cooperation and peaceful reunification has become an irresistible trend of the times.
This enthusiasm is growing stronger across the 3 000-ri land of Korea with the approach of the 42nd anniversary of the July 4 joint statement and July 7, the 20th anniversary of the event in which President Kim Il Sung, the lodestar of the nation and the great political elder, signed a historical document on the north-south summit in the last moments of his great life.
This enthusiasm is becoming unquenchable as diverse political and technical contacts on reconciliation and cooperation expected between the north and the south from July, in particular, draw public attention.
The NDC of the DPRK makes the following special proposal to the south Korean authorities, prompted by its firm resolution to bring about a fresh phase in the improvement of the north-south relations on the three principles of independence, peace and the great national unity and in the spirit of By Our Nation Itself, in reflection of the desire of the nation and the wishes of all Koreans:
1. Let us promise the nation once again to invariably adhere to the principle of independence and solve all pending issues, big or small, between the north and the south on the principle.
The principle of independence is one of the basic principles for national reunification which was agreed upon before the nation in reflection of the nation’s desire and wish.
This principle calls for settling all issues, big or small, arising in relations between the north and the south including the reunification issue with their concerted efforts from the stand of attaching importance to the nation and giving priority to it without relying on foreign forces or allowing their interference.
We reached the agreement on north-south reconciliation, cooperation and non-aggression and adopted the historic June 15 joint declaration and the October 4 declaration on this principle.
Hence, we propose promising once again all fellow countrymen to preserve and thoroughly implement all statements, declarations and agreements concluded between the north and the south on the principle of independence on the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of the July 4 joint statement.
At the same time, we urge the south Korean authorities to completely withdraw all their far-fetched “assertions” and sham “declarations” contrary to the principle of independence and totally abolish all cooperation mechanisms violating the interests of the fellow countrymen.
We courteously advise them not to resort any longer to such harmful acts as taking issue with the DPRK’s nuclear deterrence, a valuable common asset of the nation, and slandering its line of simultaneously developing the two fronts by toeing outside forces’ line.
For the present, we call on them to make a policy decision to completely stop all sorts of mud-slinging at the other side and totally cease all psychological and conspiratorial acts from 00:00 of July 4, as was agreed upon between the north and the south at their high-level contact in February from the stand of giving importance to the nation and giving priority to it on the principle of independence.
We are ready to implement the February agreement at once as we have already clarified.
2. Let’s show all Koreans and the world a resolute decision to completely stop all military hostile acts of pushing the north-south relations to the brink of a war and to create a peaceful atmosphere on the principle of peaceful reunification.
The principle of peaceful reunification is the basic principle for the country’s reunification reflecting the desire of all peace-loving Koreans opposed to a war.
It also fully reflects the patriotic spirit to protect the cradle of the compatriots from a war disaster and ensure the prosperity common to the nation.
On this principle, we have consistently maintained the stand to settle all issues arising in the north-south relations in a peaceful way, not by military hostile acts.
This is because all these matters are internal issues of the nation under any circumstances however complicated they are. They should be, therefore, settled by the Koreans themselves any time as they are to live in harmony in a reunified land.
Availing of this opportunity, we once again propose the south Korean authorities to clarify their true and candid stand to ensure the peace of the country by totally stopping all ceaseless military hostile acts in all areas along the line of confrontation including the hotspot waters in the West Sea of Korea from 00:00 of July 4.
This proposal includes the issue of stopping the intrusions into waters being escalated by south Korean navy warships recently and the frequent firing of bullets and shells in the waters around the five islands.
We, at the same time, demand an end to the acts of blackmailing and threatening the fellow countrymen by introducing U.S. nuclear strike means such as nuclear-capable strategic bombers and super-large nuclear-powered carriers into south Korea and its vicinity and immediately cancel its plan for the joint military exercise Ulji Freedom Guardian to be staged with the U.S. in August this year so as to create in advance the atmosphere of various exchanges and contacts to be brisk between the north and the south including the Inchon Asian Games.
This is because the said joint military exercise pushes the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a war as it is a drill for a war of aggression targeting the DPRK under the pretext of “annual and defensive drill.”
The war drills staged by the south Korean authorities together with the U.S. are the most undisguised and wanton violation of the principle of national reunification which calls for settling all the issues arising between the north and the south in a peaceful way without recourse to the use of force of arms.
If they consider the joint drills with the U.S. as indispensable, they had better stage them in the area and waters beyond the territory of the Korean peninsula as already clarified by the DPRK.
Many neighboring countries desire joint exercises with the Korean People’s Army recently, but it will never move with foreign armies in the air, waters and land of the DPRK, complying with their requests.
3. Let’s take practical steps for bringing about a new turning phase of reconciliation, cooperation and national prosperity in the spirit of By Our Nation Itself and on the principle of the great national unity.
Unity is the nation’s mode of existence and an engine for improving the inter-Korean relations.
The nation should be placed above ideology, ism and social system.
When both sides pool efforts on the principle of the great national unity in the above-said spirit irrespective of all differences, the national reunification will come earlier than expected.
It is the destiny of the Korean nation that if it remains divided, it is bound to go to ruin and if it becomes one, it will grow strong.
The DPRK proposes taking practical steps for bringing about a new turning phase of reconciliation and cooperation on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the signing of the historic document of the north-south summit by President Kim Il Sung, the lodestar of the Korean nation, on July 7, 1994, the last period of his great life.
The south Korean authorities should declare， first of all, they will not seek any sinister political aim in reconciliation and cooperation.
The reconciliation and cooperation between compatriots should be guaranteed by the sincere practical actions for them from A to Z.
Nothing is a more foolish behavior than abusing reconciliation and cooperation reflecting sincere compatriotism as fig-leaf for covering up the attempt to bring down the other’s social system and the scenario for achieving “unification through absorption”.
If the south Korean authorities refuse to accept the sincere offer for reconciliation and cooperation or block the way of achieving them, away from the compatriotic approach and stand based on the principle of great national unity, this will amount to the most hideous treason.
One should not scheme to use the order of passage, customs clearance and communication for sinister purpose in the Kaesong Industrial Zone, too.
An epochal phase of improving the inter-Korean relations lies in preserving the spirit of By Our Nation Itself and the principle of the great national unity.
The south Korean authorities should come to their senses.
They should approach neither the fellow countrymen through tinted classes given by foreign forces nor the inter-Korean relations with heads engrossed by sycophancy and submission.
They should bear in mind that if they give priority to the nation before outsiders and attach importance to fellow countrymen before international cooperation, they can pave a wide avenue for national reunification, peace and prosperity.
It is our stand that all the Koreans in the north, the south and abroad should give vent to their indignation and turn out with the will not to make the nation’s history of division of disgrace and tragedy last any longer.
The rise and fall of the country and the life and death of the nation hinge on the will of the north and the south.
In response to our special proposal, the south Korean authorities should make a bold policy decision and take a great stride towards new future with the will to resolutely break with the inglorious past.
They should not forget that the crucial July is watching their movement.