Scholars around the World Express Concerns about Current Crisis in Northeast Asia

Despite some hopeful signs in the last two years, the Korean peninsula is again teetering toward crisis.  The Six Party Talks are stymied.  Progress toward normalizing relations between the United States and North Korea has stalled.  Relations between the two Koreas have deteriorated.

In this context, North Korea’s rocket launch this week and the overreaction to it threaten to trigger another round of escalation.

We urge all the governments in the region to remain calm and turn to dialogue and diplomacy to stop the peninsula from degenerating into a conflict.  We believe that this crisis is a reminder of the absolute imperative of achieving permanent peace in the region.

Frustrated by the lack of progress in the Six Party Talks and genuinely interested in advancing its space program, Pyongyang is making its second attempt to put a satellite into orbit.  This time, North Korea has signed the appropriate international protocols governing satellites and given the proper notification.  The UN resolution sanctioning North Korea after its 2006 nuclear test does not explicitly forbid satellite launches.  That North Korea is attempting to abide by this resolution suggests that Pyongyang still wants to engage with the international community.

We are concerned about the growing militarism in Northeast Asia, including increased military spending, destabilizing U.S. military exercises around the peninsula, and the bellicose rhetoric from North Korea.  Japan has taken the current crisis as an opportunity to accelerate its missile defense programs; South Korea is solidifying its uncompromising position.  We believe that an overreaction to North Korea’s rocket launch would only fuel North Korea’s suspicions and make further negotiations difficult.  Talk of sanctions would only help end dialogue in the region.

We call on the region’s governments to reaffirm the principles declared in the September 19 Joint Statement of the Six Party talks as well as the roadmap identified in the February 13 agreement.  The six countries should abide by their commitments and move forward not only on denuclearization but also with the larger engagement package, which includes a peace treaty to replace the Korean War armistice, concrete steps toward normalization, and a roadmap that Pyongyang can follow to become integrated in the global economy and a peace structure.  A narrow focus on non-proliferation is a recipe for prolonged, fitful, and probably fruitless negotiations.  Only by expanding the number of options on the table can the Six Party Talks make headway.

All avenues of communication and exchange, including bilateral ones, must be pursued.  A bold move to open dialogue must begin now.

Signatories (institutional affiliation for the purpose of identification):*

Charles K. Armstrong (Columbia University)

Donald Baker (University of British Columbia)

Edward J. Baker, Hanyang University

Tim Beal (Victoria University of Wellington)

Herbert P. Bix (Binghamton University)

Mark Caprio (Rikkyo University)

Koen De Ceuster (Leiden University)

Hyo-Je Cho (SungKongHoe University)

Hyaeweol Choi, Arizona State University

Kyeong-Hee Choi (University of Chicago)

Bruce Cumings (University of Chicago)

John P. DiMoia (National University of Singapore)

Myoun-hoi Do (Daejeon University)

Alexis Dudden (University of Connecticut)

Henry Em (New York University)

Stephen J Epstein (Victoria University of Wellington)

Peter Erlinder (Wm. Mitchell College of Law)

John Feffer (Foreign Policy in Focus)

W. Chad Futrell (Cornell University)

John Gittings (School of Oriental and African Studies)

Mel Gurtov (Portland State University)

Suk-Jung Han (Dong-A University)

Marty Hart-Landsberg (Lewis and Clark College)

Milan Hejtmanek (Seoul National University)

Larry G. Hepinstall (University of Maryland University College)

Theodore Hughes (Columbia University)

Roger L. Janelli (Indiana University)

Kelly Y. Jeong(UC Riverside)

Jin-Heon Jung (University of Illinois)

Jennifer Jung-Kim (UCLA)

Jungmin Kang (Stanford University)

Laurel Kendall (American Museum of Natural History and Columbia University)

John Kim (Veterans For Peace — Korea Peace Campaign)

Joy S. Kim (Princeton University)

Monica Kim (University of Michigan)

Nan Kim (University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee)

Samuel S. Kim (Columbia University)

Sun Joo Kim (Harvard University)

Suzy Kim (Boston College)

Thomas P. Kim, Korea Policy Institute

Yong Hyun Kim (Dongguk University)

Kab Woo Koo (University of North Korean Studies)

Tae Yang Kwak (Ramapo College)

Heajeong Lee (Chung-Ang University)

Jin-kyung Lee (University of California, San Diego)

Keun Lee (Seoul National University)

Namhee Lee (UCLA)

Seung-joon Lee (National University of Singapore)

Ramsay Liem (Boston College)

Gavan McCormack (Australian National University)

Chung-in Moon (Yonsei University)

Robert Oppenheim (University of Texas at Austin)

Haksoon Paik (Sejong Institute)

Albert L. Park (Claremont McKenna College)

Katherine Park (nodutdol)

Samuel Perry (Brown University)

Andre Schmid (University of Toronto)

Mark Selden (Cornell University)

James D. Seymour (Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Matthew A. Shapiro (Illinois Institute of Technology)

Eric Sirotkin (Korean Peace Project — National Lawyers Guild)

H.K. Suh (Korea Report)

Jae-Jung Suh (Johns Hopkins University)

Seung Hye Suh (Scripps College)

Vladimir Tikhonov [Pak Noja] (Oslo University)

Jun Yu (University of Hawaii)

Ji-Yeon Yuh (Northwestern University)

Haruki Wada (University of Tokyo)

Boudewijn Walraven (Leiden University)

*  Signatures are collected by Alliance of Scholars Concerned about Korea (