Conditions for the Fertilizers – Pyongyang to Resume the South-Korea Talks

[imText1]The inter-Korean talks started yesterday, May 16. The talk resumed in ten months since it stopped after the “opposition of Kim Il Sung call of condolence” and “North Korean defectors group entrance” incidents. The attention and expectation from the government and the poeple are higher for the present talks since it started in the midst of ever heightening tension due to the North Korean nuclear problem.

On May 15 the government of South Korea announced that the talk will address the nuclear problem, South-North normalization and fertilizer aid to North Korea. The Blue House revealed its full hope by statements such as, “We have secured a path to persuade North Korea to return to the six party talks” and “It will contribute to stability of the Northeast Asia.”

There is nothing wrong with setting expectations. However, we must evaluate why the North came back to the negotiation table with the South at this moment.

North Korea Will Likely Use South Korea as a Shield

The foremost reason for North Korea to return to the talks seems to be its urgent need of fertilizes. North Korea’s farms have recently entered seeding period. If they miss the timing for putting fertilizers the shortage of food will worsen this year.

This past January North Korea requested 50tons of fertilizers to South Korea but the government refused until now saying, “We will only give fertilizers if the government level talks (between the two Korea) open.” Recently there has been an anecdote that North Korea had asked China for 40tons of fertilizers only to be refused.

If North Korea returns to the talks with South Korea, it will be able to use South Korea as a shield for the general mood for the international pressure and isolation recently created due to the North Korean nuclear problem. North Korea had declared its nuclear possession and the six party talks are pended indefinitely. Recently some unpleasant words were exchanged between North Korea and the US, and the US is paying a special attention on North Korea’s nuclear testing.

Unless North Korea decides to abandon its nuclear, it will be difficult for it to evade the international pressure and isolation. The best North Korea can do at this point is to earn time by holding South Korea as a hostage while it does some “national business” with the South.

The inter Korean talks must Persuade North to Return to the Six Party Talks

If that is the reason for return to the talks, there is a need of a strategy to respond adequately. There must be conditions attached to sending fertilizers to North Korea.

There must be two conditions. First one is North Korea’s participation in the (high level) inter-Korean talks and the second is its return to the six part talks. Of course, the main focus must be the latter. If North Korea does not comply with such conditions, the government of South Korea must carefully reconsider sending the aid to North Korea.

We have already learned from out experience that only through our firm decision and out voice that we have pulled out North Korea’s decision to participate in the inter-Korean talks.

Unless we are not firmly decided to not yield more, then the result of the talks is too obvious. North Korea will earn both time and fertilizers and our government will only disappoint the people and the international society.