Rep. Moon Hee-sang of main opposition Democratic United Party on Friday proposed on dispatching a special envoy to North Korea to attempt to defuse mounting tensions. Moon recommended former U.S. president Bill Clinton and DUP lawmakers Park Jie-won or Moon Sung-keun as possible candidates. Even a small minority in the ruling Saenuri Party backed the proposal.
But one thing that is clear is that North Korea is solely responsible for the "crisis" that has gripped the Korean Peninsula. It has mounted one provocation after another, starting with the launch of a long-range rocket, followed by a nuclear test and daily threats of a nuclear attack.
It is a standard tactic for a regime that cannot survive without outside help to try and grab the attention of the international community by any means possible. But the tactic is liable to produce diminishing returns and requires constant raising of the stakes. Pyongyang is now trying to scare South Korean workers out of the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex and has warned foreign diplomatic missions to evacuate by Wednesday.
By now South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia all know what Pyongyang is aiming for. It offered "assistance" for diplomatic missions in evacuating their personnel out of Pyongyang, but the U.K. dismissed it as "rhetoric" and the Russian and Brazilian embassies said there are no signs of an impending emergency.
The South Korean public is also aware of what North Korea is after. The South Korean public may be a little too jaded by the repeated threats from Pyongyang, but it is probably the distinct lack of panic among South Koreans what worries North Korea the most.
This is an opportunity to make the North realize that its outdated brinkmanship no longer works. Only when it understands that will negotiations to ensure peace and reconciliation have any hope of success. Dispatching a special envoy at a time like this would send exactly the wrong message and lead to the South being dragged around by the nose for another interminable period.
And if such an envoy was sent, it would only encourage North Korea to seek ridiculous rewards by acting as if it made a huge concession while the fundamental problem of its nuclear weapons remains unaddressed.
The main concern is that the regime has boxed itself into a corner by giving massive internal publicity to its threats. It could end up having to do something stupid because it sees no other way out. That is why the U.S. and China must both play a decisive role in reining Pyongyang in.
Kim Jang-soo, the chief presidential security advisor, said North Korea considers South Korean public sentiment the "core of its strength" and is seeking to prod Seoul or Washington to send special envoys by raising tensions. Kim added that Seoul has no intention of avoiding talks with Pyongyang but is in no hurry to resume negotiations either. He said it is up to North Korea to create the conditions for talks. Even China is against the idea of sending a special envoy to North Korea at this point.
The military believes North Korea could launch another missile around Wednesday. As long as Seoul remains calm and maintains its steadfast position, North Korea will eventually have to take another look at its strategy. What is needed right now is to prepare for any North Korean provocation and get ready for the North to return in time to the negotiating table.