Expert: U.S. should shift Korea policy focus from nuclear problem to unification

September 18, 2014
A North Korean soldier takes picture of an American soldier and a Korean military police officer at Panmujeom. (Newsis)

A North Korean soldier takes pictures of an American soldier, left, and a Korean military police officer at Panmujeom. (Newsis)

By Chang Jae-soon

(Yonhap) — The United States should render full support for South Korea’s efforts for unification with North Korea because unification is the only long-term solution to the North’s nuclear and other problems, a U.S. expert said Thursday.

David Maxwell, associate director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University, made the point during a security forum in Washington, stressing that the United States should shift the focus of its Korea policy from the nuclear problem to unification.

“The only long-term solution to the North Korean nuclear problem and human rights atrocities that are being perpetrated on a daily basis by the Kim family regime is the unification of the Korean Peninsula,” the professor said.

“It is time for the United States to embrace Korean unification and offer full support to the Republic of Korea to achieve unification,” he said during the Seventh Seoul-Washington Forum co-hosted by the Brookings Institution and the Korea Foundation.

Talk of unification has gained traction in South Korea after President Park Geun-hye made a strong case for the cause in her New Year’s news conference, saying the event would be a “bonanza” for Korean people and she would try to lay groundwork for it.

Maxwell said that the United States should first make a visible effort to support Park and her unification plans, and then have its “national security apparatus that deals with Korea to be focused on unification, not just the nuclear problem.”

“Under the context of focusing on unification, we will be able to at least [keep] the nuclear problem managed until unification occurs. And the third focus has to be on that U.S. national security apparatus assisting South Korea in developing and carrying out its unification strategy,” he said.

Maxwell said that South Korea and the United States should look beyond “deterrence, defense and the nuclear program,” which they have focused on for decades in dealing with North Korea, and work together toward unification.

“Through active preparations in supporting unification policy, I think there is a better possibility of bringing about change (in North Korea), rather than the current strategic paralysis,” he said.