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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on July 25)

All News 07:03 July 25, 2022

'Bold plan' on North
Question is how to lure Pyongyang back to dialogue

The Yoon Suk-yeol administration's North Korea policy is taking shape, as the new president on Friday instructed the Ministry of Unification to work out details for his "bold plan" to revive the North's moribund economy in return for denuclearization. The ministry and other government agencies need to devise a new strategy to encourage the Kim Jong-un regime to return to dialogue and scrap its nuclear weapons program.

The "bold plan" is Yoon's catchphrase that appeared for the first time in his May 10 inaugural address. It implies that if Pyongyang takes a big step toward a complete denuclearization, Seoul will offer a big reward to North Korea. The plan, which needs to take concrete shape, is emerging as Yoon's roadmap for realizing the denuclearization of the North.

The Yoon administration has floated the idea of offering generous economic assistance and security guarantees to the North in exchange for bold action to abandon its nuclear arsenal. In a policy briefing to Yoon last Friday, Unification Minister Kwon Young-se said that the government will present a plan that could make the North feel no need to develop nuclear weapons. He said the plan is to take phased and simultaneous steps corresponding to the North's moves toward denuclearization. He made it clear that it is different from a "big deal" solution or a "denuclearization first and compensation later" formula.

The key point of the plan is to help the North resuscitate its devastated economy and improve the living standards of its people. Additionally, Seoul is set to include measures to address Pyongyang's security concerns in case of denuclearization. The government seems determined to render the proposal enticing enough to make the North accept it readily.

Yet, the question is whether the Kim regime will respond positively to such a proposal as the Yoon administration hopes. Given the long-stalled denuclearization talks and the North's continued test-firing of ICBMs and other ballistic missiles, it is hard to expect Pyongyang to accommodate any offer from Seoul. More seriously, the North is ready to conduct a seventh nuclear test anytime soon.

In this situation, Yoon's plan may end up as wishful thinking. His administration needs to learn lessons from its predecessors' failures. The plan is reminiscent of the previous Lee Myung-bak government's failed initiative that promised to increase the North's per capita GDP to $3,000 if Pyongyang gives up its nuclear ambitions. Former President Moon Jae-in's active engagement policy went up in smoke despite inter-Korean detente and summits between the U.S. and North Korea.

That's why the Yoon government should map out a new strategy that can better deal with the recalcitrant North. It also needs to make more thorough preparations and devise detailed action plans to resume dialogue with the North and improve soured inter-Korean ties. First it must figure out whether Pyongyang has the real intention of denuclearization. Then it is necessary to restore mutual trust with the North before discussing the nuclear issue. The Kim regime, for its part, should realize that nuclear weapons cannot guarantee the North's survival and security.
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