Reasons for North Korean Cancellation of The Crossborder Railways

[imText1]As North Korea announced the cancellation of the Kyungee and Donghae lines on the 25th, raising some obvious questions.

On the surface, it was announced that the cancellation was due to North Korean military opposition. Although specifics of the plan were discussed at the working-level meeting, at the subsequent ministerial-level meeting, the North unilaterally cancelled all plans.

Military opposition has arisen as an obstacle in the past, specifically when test runs were scheduled in 2004 and 2005. The North Korean military is apparently concerned over the safety of their military secrets, which may be a moot point as material and manpower have already been put to use.

In South Korea, some have pointed out that these conflicts illustrate that the North Korean military does not really welcome the cooperation between the North and South. What is obvious, however, is the contradictory opinions between the hard liners, including the military and National Security Agency, and soft liners, including economic workers.

However, although the military and the National Security Agency have a tendency to be seen as hard liners, it is not the actual voice of North Korea. In North Korea, Kim Jong Il is the only true authority.

The military is run by the Chairman of the National Defense Commission, and any opinion other than his cannot possibly change the national policy. It is naive to think that the military could unilaterally oppose the test run and alter national policy.

Whether it was politically, militarily or monetarily driven, the entire decision to cancel the trial run rests on Kim Jong Il. General Kim Young Chul, representative of North Korea at the ministrial meeting, merely acted as messenger.

North Korea has been very critical of the South Korean regime, particularly regarding GNP. It seems like North Korea may be attacking the present regime in order to gain concessions on the railway issue.

North Korea has continued to demand construction material, equipment and extra funding for other expenses, even after the South had put 7 hundred million dollars into construction of the crossborder railway, highlighting the regimes’ need for money.

Upon completion of the construction, North Korea would be unable to demand money for the construction, but would be able to request money due to the visitation to North Korea by former South Korean president Kim Dae Jung.

North Korea has made neighboring countries nervous with tests of Daepodong missiles, and have insisted that they will not return to the six party talks without the abolishment of US sanctions, and have recently brought up the issue of the NLL in the West Sea.

Such a hard line strategy will worsen the relationship between the North and South and the North and the US in the short run. However, according to experts, it will increase the amount of compensation that North Korea will receive in the long run. North Korea has recently managed to increase the amount of concessions they receive through aggressive negotiations and threats.

North Korea has revealed its intentions to gain concessions by creating conflict and threatening peace in the region. The North is likely to be follow the “peace first, abandonment of nuclear weapons later” policy which Mr. Han Sung Yeol, Deputy Ambassador of North Korea, highlighted.

They could be aiming to maximize the effect by shifting the relationship between the North and South. North Korea has much to gain from a change in ruling party in the South, as projects involving the North are expected to expand.

The North may be aiming to dramatically agree to the test run when Kim Dae Jung visits North Korea, or at the Summit between the North and South, rather than going through with the test run, opening ceremony and delivery of manpower. This is an entirely possible scenario when the strategies that Kim Jong Il has been using are examined.

Just because the train doesn’t run right now, doesn’t mean that it will not sometime in the future. We shouldn’t be in a hurry when North Korea does not want it. When North and South are both pushing for the railway development, then the test runs can begin. We should not give in to the strategy of Kim Jong Il.

It should be a grave concern that South Korean government might be considereing appeasing the North Korean military.