There are some interesting updates on the last post on the Godfather offer for Korean reunification. Shortly after the Korean wrote the post, Lee Myeong-bak, the outgoing South Korean president, made a number of remarks that are quite relevant to the premises in the Korean's cockamamie plan to reunify Korean peninsula. To wit:
"We cannot make North Korea give up their nuclear weapon through dialogue and negotiation. We cannot expect them [North Korea] to give up their nuclear weapon before the regime changes and collapses."
-- President Lee in a preliminary address in a breakfast meeting held on Feb. 15. This is the first time any democratically-elected South Korean president openly discussed the possibility of regime change in North Korea.
"Beginning in the middle of Hu Jintao's time in the office, China has told us: 'Please don't think we are only on the side of North Korea.' This is what China thinks, in its heart of hearts . . . There is a lot of talk about how a peaceful reunification led by South Korea does not go against China's interest. Although the Chinese government would not official make these statements, there are a lot of scholarly papers and research projects along these lines. This is the beginning of a very important change."
-- President Lee in an interview with Dong-A Ilbo, his last interview as the president. If this trend continues, it is hardly a pipe dream to think that China may join in the effort to induce a regime change in North Korea, or at least would not stand in the way of South Korea-led efforts to reunify that is short of a military conflict.
"We have been letting them [China] know that the U.S. military base will never be moved to North Korea after the reunification, that U.S.-Korea alliance would not affect the U.S.-China relationship, and that Korea can play the role of a peacekeeper when the interests of U.S. and China conflict with each other's. We began discussing this at the summit level. . . . At this point, China tells us what they do with North Korea. If they visit North Korea, they let us know that they did."
-- From the same interview. This is a huge statement on multiple levels. First, South Korea has been engaged in a summit-level conversation with China as the the contingency of North Korean collapse. Second, such conversation has covered such specific points as where the USFK will be after the reunification. In a different part of the interview, President Lee also mentioned that South Korea and China began discussing what to do with North Korea's nuclear weapon in case of North Korean collapse. Apparently, the tentative proposal is to have the United Nations inspectors seal and control the weaponry.
"There are people who hypothesize that (in case of an exigency) North Korea would call upon the Chinese military, and the military would not leave once it occupies North Korea. But the ethnic minority issue is the biggest headache for China. Just think about Tibet, Xinjiang... Turning North Korea into another ethnic minority territory is not something that China can do haphazardly."
-- Again, from the same interview. Unlike other statements here, this statement is based more on President Lee's own opinion rather than on his interaction with China. To me, the argument seems reasonable, although a little on the speculative side. Regardless, it is highly interesting.
Another development that has been interesting is that South Korea's progressives, traditionally in favor of dialogue and cooperation with North Korea, have been quietly nodding at these statements rather than objecting to the idea of regime change in North Korea. It appears that, after 15 years of debate about what to do with North Korea, a loose consensus has emerged in South Korean politics. The next decade will be an interesting time to watch.
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