한국정치 노트 Notes on the Politics of Korea


로라 비커 영국 비비씨 한국담당 기자가 본 김정은, 문재인, 트럼프 

김정은과 트럼프 대화는 21세기 정치 도박이다. 

Trump and North Korea talks: The political gamble of the 21st Century

By Laura Bicker -9 March 2018


(1) 김정은 

문재인, 트럼프, 김정은의 정치 도박이 시작되었다. 이번 장편 영웅담에서 가장 중요한 역할을 맡은 배우는 김정은이다. 김정은이 신년사에서 한국으로  올리브 나무 가지치기를 한다고 발표하고 평창 겨울 올림픽에 특사를 파견했다. 김정은의 기묘한 선전선동술이다. 김정은은 프로파간다의 대가다(maestro)


(2) 김정은과 트럼프의 중재자, 문재인의 역할   


 트럼프와 김정은은 노골적인 증오를 서로 쏟아부었다. 트럼프와 김정은은 말로써 개싸움을 벌이다가 협상 테이블에 앉게 되었다. 왜 이것이 가능했는가? 


트럼프와 문재인 역시 이번 회담에서 위험요소를 안고 있다. 왜냐하면 북한의 ‘비핵화’의 출구전략이 아직도 불투명하기 때문이다. 

그럼에도 문재인의 업적은 김정은이 비핵화를 하겠다는 발언을 이끌어냈다는 점이다. 


또한 트럼프에 대한 문재인의 전략 역시 뛰어났다. 트럼프에 대해서는 신중한 접근과 돌고래 칭찬이라는 두 가지 전술을 들고 나왔다.

트럼프를 김정은과 대화하도록 문재인은 애를 많이 썼고, 트럼프를 대화의 장으로 이끌어내기 위해서 과도하게 보이기까지하는 ‘칭찬’을 트럼프에게 쏟아부었다. 그 칭찬 효력이 나기 시작했다. 


(3) 트럼프와  문재인이 북한 김정은에 놀아난다고? Manipulated by North Korea


트럼프가 이번 김정은과의 회담에 적극적인 이유는, 대통령 취임 이후, 미국인들에게 내세울 눈에 띄이는 치적이 없기 때문에, 북한 카드를 집어들었다. 


비정통적 (기존 대통령과는 다른) 비정통적이고 불안정한 리더십 때문에 김정은과 문재인이 트럼프가 전쟁을 일으킬까봐 걱정했다.

“김정은이 미국에 한반도 비핵화, 핵무기와 미사일 실험의 일시중단 (모라토리엄)을 약속해주고, 그 반대급부로 미국으로부터 얻고자 하는 것은 북한에 대한 경제제재 약화, 미국의 선제공격을 미리 차단하고, 국제 사회에서 북한을 핵보유국으로 인정받는 것이다.” 이것은 국제 사회에 공히 다 알려진 북한의 핵무기 개발 목표와 전략이다. 


트럼프가 만약 북한의 비핵화를 실현시킨다면, 지난 클린턴 조지 부시, 오바마 대통령이 해결하지 못한 북한 문제를 깔끔하게 처리하면서 자신의 위상을 높일 수 있다.


트럼프가 바라보는 현 상황, 트럼프 행정부의 북한에 대한 최대 압박 전략, 미중 협력을 통한 북한 경제 압박이 김정은을 대화의 장으로 불러내게 만들었다.


트럼프 역시 위험부담을 떠안았다. 코뮤니스트 국가 대표인 김정은을  트럼프와 동등한 외교 수반으로 대우해야 하는 것 역시 위험요소다.  


몇 달 전까지만 해도 “조그마한 로켓맨”이라고 비하했던 김정은을 2개월 앞두고 만나서 어떤 외교적 성과를 낼 수 있을까도 트럼프의 과제다.


부산대 로버트 켈리 Kelly 교수 지적대로,  트럼프는 공부도 하지 않고 책도 잘 읽지 않는다. 북한은 미국과의 외교 게임을 수십년 동안 해왔고, 트럼프는 신참내기다. 트럼프의 저서 “협상의 기술 the Art of the Deal”은 이번 김정은 회담에서 안내서로 쓰기에는 적합하지 않을 것이다.



(4) 다시 문재인, 성공하면 노벨 평화상 수상 가능성도 있다. 실패하면 다시 북한과 미국은 긴장관계로 되돌아갈 것이다.


문재인 역시 이번 회담이 실패로 돌아가면 치명타를 입을 것이다. 문재인 개인사 입장에서도 비극이다. 북한 실향민인 문재인 어머니 (90세)도 마지막 소원이 고향 방문이기 때문이다.


정치적으로 실패하면, 북한과 미국 사이 군사적인 긴장은 과거 ‘벼랑끝 전술’로 회귀할 것이다.

그러나 이번 북미 회담이 성공하면, 문재인도 노벨 평화상을 수상할 수 있다.  


(문재인, 바보인가 아니면 천재인가?) 










Trump and North Korea talks: The political gamble of the 21st Century

S Korean President Moon Jae-inImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionSouth Korean President Moon Jae-in - dupe or genius?



South Korean leader Moon Jae-in is either a diplomatic genius or a communist set on destroying his country and US President Donald Trump is either a master of brinkmanship or a pawn in a more devious game - depending on who you speak to.


But it is the other actor in this saga, Kim Jong-un, the only one who has yet to make a direct statement, who may just be the most significant player in this most extraordinary of political gambles.


From the moment he extended an apparent olive branch to the South in his new year message to the cordial delegations to Pyeongchang for the Winter Olympics, it became clear that Kim Jong-un had mastered the most sophisticated crafts of propaganda.


Some will view his personal invitation to Mr Trump to hold talks with him - as well as the commitment to freeze further nuclear tests - as the real diplomatic masterstroke after a year that was unprecedented for the level of naked hostility the US and the North bared toward one another.


But the risk here belongs to both Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump. In a situation where neither can claim sole mastery of the narrative, without a clear exit strategy, and when there are so many definitions for both success and failure, a lot is at stake.


Whose charm offensive?


Mr Moon is viewed by his supporters as the negotiator-in-chief who has now skilfully managed to get Mr Kim to at least talk about getting rid of nuclear weapons.


He is the one who spotted the opportunity during the North Korean leader's speech in January - which offered a glimmer of hope that the reclusive state was willing to engage with the South - and grabbed it with both hands.


Media captionThe unlikely triangle: Trump, Rodman and Kim Jong-un



The dizzying level of diplomacy and a frenzy of visits between North and South has now delivered - it seems.


"People are calling this the North Korean charm offensive, I actually think this is a South Korean charm offensive. This is something President Moon Jae-in clearly wanted," John Delury from Yonsei University said to me even before the talks were announced.


Mr Moon knew his envoys would have to extract the word "denuclearisation" from Mr Kim when they visited Pyongyang. He also knew having two of his top level government ministers looking cosy with the North Korean leader would not go down well in Washington or Tokyo.


But it was worth the risk. The US would not have considered talking to the communist state without that meeting. His chosen delegates got what they needed.


The South Korean leader is also attempting the role of honest broker, handling Mr Trump and Mr Kim at the same time. He is choosing his words carefully and keeping his cards close to his chest while flattering those who respond to the spotlight.


In his New Year's address he said Mr Trump deserved "huge credit" for talks between the two Koreas, knowing it would please him. He is also using language that will reassure a concerned Republican administration. The language of the South Korean statement announcing the talks was also fulsome in its admiration for Trump's handling of the situation leading up to this moment.


Sanctions will stay in place, Mr Moon had said earlier, and Mr Trump has now confirmed that.


Manipulated by North Korea?


But everybody knows it wasn't always like that. Just six months ago Mr Trump was promising to rain down "fire and fury like the world has never seen" on North Korea if it dare threaten the US. Prof Haksoon Paik, lead researcher at the Sejong Institute, said that threat level felt "totally unprecedented".


"President Moon was very much concerned about nuclear threat of war. Kim Jong-un was in the same situation. We were hearing from the likes of the US Senator Lindsay Graham that lives will be lost over here. Donald Trump's unorthodox and unstable leadership had both Korean leaders worried about the potential of military options."


The US has always maintained that the permanent denuclearisation of North Korea is the endgame. Even with all the surprises up to this point, few believe Mr Kim would agree to that so if they don't achieve that what options does Trump have?


Kim Jong-un shakes hand with Chung Eui-yong head of South Korea's presidential National Security Office in Pyongyang (5 March 2018)Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionSouth Korean officials held a landmark meeting with Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang this week


So is Moon Jae-in - and indeed Donald Trump - being manipulated by a North Korea which has fooled the world before?


"By dangling before the US once again 'denuclearization of the Korean peninsula' and 'moratorium on nuclear and missile tests', Kim seeks to weaken sanctions, pre-empt US military pre-emption, and condition the world into accepting North Korea as a legitimate nuclear state," says Prof Lee Sung-yoon from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.


For Mr Trump this could be about one of the boldest and most historic moves a US leader has made in foreign relations.


If this gamble works out, Mr Trump could credit himself as the president who sorted out North Korea. His administration has had very few victories, despite promising his voters there would "so much winning."


He believes his "maximum pressure" strategy and his work to get China on side and help squeeze Pyongyang economically is working.



Demonstrators dressed as North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) and US President Donald Trump (L) embrace during a peace rally in Seoul on November 5, 2017Image copyrightED JONES/GETTY
Image captionProtesters in Seoul called for peace talks between the US and North Korea in November


Reporters say he casually mentioned in the White House briefing room that he hoped they would give him credit for Kim Jong-un's offer. His voters certainly will.


But meeting Mr Kim risks treating the communist leader as an equal. It could be a PR disaster. The date set is also only a few months away - a short time frame to achieve diplomatic goals with a leader he mocked as "little rocket man" just a few months ago.


Prof Robert E Kelly at Busan University in South Korea tweeted: "Trump doesn't study or even read. He tends to fly wildly off script. And May means there's almost no time for all the staff prep necessary."


Pyongyang has been playing this game for decades. Mr Trump is new to it. He may see a big win on the horizon, but his Art of the Deal book will not be the guide he needs to deal with Kim Jong-un.


Politics is personal


For Mr Moon this is about history and it is also personal.


He played a part in previous attempts to negotiate with North Korea as chief of staff to President Roh Moo-hyun when he met Mr Kim's father, Kim Jong-il, in 2007. That was the last time the leaders of the two Koreas held a summit. A satellite launch by Pyongyang ended the talks.


By then around $4.5bn of aid had been sent North during the policy of engagement. Critics believe that money helped to accelerate the weapons programme.


Having failed once before, Mr Moon is trying to complete the work he started, says Duyeon Kim, a senior fellow at the Korean Peninsula Forum.


"He's basically following the same playbook as his two liberal predecessors. It's exactly the kind of thing he would want to pick up and continue."


South Korean soldiers stand guard at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea on February 7, 2018 in PanmunjomImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe border between the North and South is demarcated at the truce village of Panmunjom


As a son of refugees from the North, Mr Moon is also aware of the effects of conflict on the peninsula. His parents fled North Korea aboard a UN supply ship in 1950 at the start of the Korean War alongside thousands of other refugees.


He told reporters during his election campaign: "My father fled from the North, hating communism. I myself hate the communist North Korean system. That doesn't mean I should let the people in the North suffer under an oppressive regime."


President Moon has acknowledged there are obstacles ahead. He is managing expectations and so much can go wrong.


Duyeon Kim believes there is a high probability that at the end of this negotiating process, all parties will fail, and North Korea will decide it wants to keep its nuclear weapons. And yet...


"You just don't know. I don't think it's ever a lost cause, in spite of all the doubts and scepticism all parties should go in with clear eyes, but negotiate hard."


Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionNorth Korea says its long-range missiles protect all of Korea from "US aggressors"


President Moon's approval ratings took a hit during the Winter Olympics after he integrated the women's hockey team with players from the North and met a general from Pyongyang who had been accused of masterminding deadly attacks on South Koreans, though they have since rebounded.


He may suffer politically if this fails but maybe for him, this is not about scoring political points. This is what he told Time magazine last year when he was presidential candidate: "My mother is the only one [of her family] who fled to the South. [She] is 90 years old. Her younger sister is still in the North alive. My mother's last wish is to see her again."


These talks are a huge gamble with a communist state which is hard to read.


But if, just if, he helps pull it off it may reduce the threat of nuclear war and he could win himself a Nobel peace prize.

If all fails, it is back to brinkmanship.


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