Peace on the Korean Peninsula : what can the EU contribute to the six-party process?

Schmidt, Hans-Joachim


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Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: HSFK-Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung
Schriftenreihe: PRIF reports
Bandnummer: 75
Sprache: Englisch
Erstellungsjahr: 2006
Publikationsdatum: 23.01.2008
SWD-Schlagwörter: Nordkorea , Kernwaffe , Nonproliferation , Atomare Abrüstung , Sicherheitspolitik , Europäische Union
DDC-Sachgruppe: Politik
BK - Basisklassifikation: 89.73 (Europapolitik, Europäische Union), 89.79 (Internationale Konflikte: Sonstiges)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.6 Politik und Friedensforschung

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

After the North Korean test of seven medium and long range missiles on July 4, 2006 and the partially successful test of a nuclear explosive on October 9, 2006, the international community acted with unity and strength by way of UN resolutions 1695 and 1718 to prevent further tests of missiles, as well as a second nuclear test of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). On the one hand, the new international sanctions were designed to punish North Korea for its provocative acts; yet on the other, the door should be kept open to bring them back to the Six-party Talks. For this reason, civil goods were excluded from sanctions. The European Union condemned these tests immediately and participated in the sanctions of the UN. The EU is not a major protagonist in countering the proliferation efforts of the leadership in Pyongyang. On the contrary, with the end of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) in May 2006, Brussels had lost its last instrument of influence regarding the nuclear ambitions of North Korea directly. Keeping in mind that the DPRK has become the greatest threat to global proliferation through its retreat from the Non-proliferation Treaty in 2003 and through its declaration to enter the status of a nuclear weapon state in February 2005, the inactivity of the EU comes as a surprise. In 2003 Brussels developed, as an alternative answer to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, its own multilateral strategy to fight the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, mainly by means of diplomacy. In spite of the fact that it has become highly engaged in nuclear nonproliferation efforts in the region, it lacks a comprehensive engagement strategy to counter the nuclear efforts of the North Korean leadership. This report describes Brussels’ relations towards Pyongyang in three areas that were most important for both sides since 1995: 1. Support of American non-proliferation efforts towards North Korea. 2. Humanitarian aid for the North Korean people and 3. Development of economic trade relations with Pyongyang. Compared to other major protagonists in the region, the EU offered only minor financial assistance to the U.S. led KEDO program with a two percent share. Nearly three times higher, the absolute financial value of its humanitarian food assistance for North Korea was also surpassed by several other countries (e.g. USA, Republic of Korea). Trade relations with North Korea are not important for the EU and can be easily replaced because the DPRK has no goods of strategic value, like crude oil in the case of Iran. For Pyongyang, trade relations with the EU are more important, because it shared 12 percent of its total trade with the European Union. Here the EU has some leverage. As a consequence of the nuclear crisis the EU has reduced its financial support and bilateral economic relations since 2004. Because the outcome of the present nuclear crisis is difficult to predict, two different scenarios are discussed: The best outcome would be the “complete nuclear disarmament” of the DPRK. A less optimal but still constructive outcome would be a “constrained nuclear arms race” in the region. An unconstrained arms competition seems unlikely, beII cause North Korea alone, even if nuclear armed, appears too weak to justify such an effort for major protagonists in the region. Europe has some unique advantages for a greater engagement in order to support the regulation of the nuclear crisis. It was not involved in the Korean war from 1950-53 and has no strategic interests at stake. In contrast to major parts of the Bush administration, it rejects a strategy for regime change. Since 2001 the EU and its member states have increased their diplomatic presence in Pyongyang and therefore, compared to other countries like the USA and Japan, have better access to information about the North Korean leadership. This can be used cautiously in order to increase the leverage of Brussels. But a greater engagement of the European Union also faces some serious hurdles. First and foremost, the EU is more interested in U.S. cooperation in order to regulate the nuclear crisis with Iran. Therefore, Brussels has subordinated its non-proliferation policy regarding the DPRK to this goal and has avoided challenging the conservative U.S. government with its alternative non-proliferation strategy. Secondly, the EU members are split about the right strategy to engage North Korea for structural reasons. Some members of the EU (France, UK) possess nuclear weapons; others (Germany, Italy, Greece) are interested in the nuclear commitment of the USA; and others (Sweden, Ireland, Austria) reject the possession of nuclear weapons. Thirdly, the lack of transparency in the North Korean economy and the strong influence of the North Korean military in the economy, which is at present a major obstacle for economic reform in this country, complicates any serious engagement of the European Union. Under these circumstances, the EU can contribute better when multilateral cooperation works between all parties of the Six-party Talks and the DPRK is ready for nuclear disarmament. Political measures to strengthen multilateralism and to support the nonproliferation regime convincingly, can help to create a more conducive environment for negotiations and reduce tensions between the USA and China. EU assistance with economic reforms in the DPRK can increase the political flexibility of the North Korean leadership. In this regard, Brussels can broaden the economic, commercial and social activities of its Chamber of Commerce in Korea; develop a follow-up strategy for its first EU-DPRK country strategy of 2001; negotiate new development programs with Pyongyang; enhance economic transparency for foreign investments in special economic areas; support membership of Pyongyang in the World Bank; and accept negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement with South Korea, including the special North Korean Kaesong area. Furthermore, measures to support the North Korean nuclear disarmament should strengthen the norms of international non-proliferation, help Pyongyang, and reduce the costs for the five members of the Six-party process. In this regard the EU can try to regain a leading role in the follow-up organization of KEDO; contribute to the delivery of energy and/or revival of the light water reactor program; offer financial and technical assistance for the dismantlement of nuclear facilities and equipment; expand these efforts to other categories of WMD (chemical, biological weapons); contribute to a negative security assurance through France and the United Kingdom; and offer seminars on the transfer of European experience with military transparency and confidence building measures. III This list of possible measures shows that the EU has many tools to support the sixparty process. Because the present status of a North Korean uranium enrichment program is uncertain, it does not seem to be an immediate threat to proliferation. There is still time to resolve it. A compromise on the North Korea plutonium program can pave the way and build the necessary confidence to facilitate a regulation afterwards. If the Six-party process fails and North Korea deploys a rudimentary nuclear deterrence force, compensatory security measures are essential to secure the control of these weapons and to reduce the risk of their inadvertent use, and to prevent a ‘use or lose’ position for reasons of stability. Some kind of predictability and accountability together with transparency (although limited), seems necessary to preserve essential cooperation in the region. Here again, the European Union can assist in linking further economic incentives to the DPRK through the fulfillment of certain minimum standards of military confidence and security building measures. It can supplement this with offers by certain member countries to host seminars on military confidence-building. The DPRK has no resources or capabilities for a quick nuclear build-up and, because the option of unification (and then a fast nuclear disarmament) is always possible, Japan and South Korea should not overreact to a nuclear capable North Korea. The European Union should help the international community to convince Tokyo and Seoul that they should further stay in the Non-proliferation Treaty. However, the EU has only limited means to support the six-party process and it lacks the capability to force the main parties back to the negotiating table. It can use persuasion and offer limited incentives, but without a strategic change in its approach to the Sixparty Talks by one or both of the main protagonists, success seems less likely. And without a better outlook for these negotiations, Europe will be unable to develop a new consensus for the necessary engagement measures.

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