With Uncertainties Roiling Washington and Seoul, What Next for North Korea?
SEOUL, South Korea — Since October, when the corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-hye of South Korea first erupted, North Korea has been uncharacteristically restrained.
While the North, which had been accelerating the development of its nuclear program, has maintained a steady stream of sarcastic criticism of Ms. Park, it has not conducted ballistic missile or nuclear tests, even as the United Nations has tightened sanctions.
Analysts and officials here say North Korea did not want to give political cover to Ms. Park, who had adopted a hard-line approach to her volatile neighbor. She could have seized on further tests or military provocations to divert attention from her own disaster, they say.
The North’s relative silence underscores the deep uncertainty into which the region has been thrown — not only by South Korea’s political crisis, whose denouement could still be months away after the South Korean National Assembly voted to impeach Ms. Park on Friday, but also by questions about how Donald J. Trump will deal with North Korea as president, given his contradictory remarks on the subject during his campaign.
朝鲜的相对平静，愈发突显了笼罩着该地区的深切的不确定性。引发这种不确定性的不只是韩国的政治危机——其结局在韩国国民议会(South Korean National Assembly)于周五投票通过朴槿惠弹劾案数月以后才会到来；还有关于唐纳德·J·特朗普(Donald J. Trump)入主白宫后将如何处理朝鲜问题的疑问——因为他在竞选期间曾就这一问题发表过自相矛盾的言论。
“I do not think we have ever seen a time when you have had simultaneous uncertainty about governance in both Seoul and Washington,” said Duyeon Kim, a visiting senior fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum, a think tank in Seoul.
“我认为我们以前从未遇到过首尔和华盛顿同时存在治国理政方面的不确定性的情况，”首尔智库朝鲜半岛未来论坛(Korean Peninsula Future Forum)的高级客座研究员金杜妍(Duyeon Kim，音)说。
The profound unpopularity of Ms. Park, a conservative, increases the likelihood that South Korea’s next president will be a liberal who favors more dialogue and economic engagement with the North. But in the United States, with Mr. Trump yet to announce his choice for secretary of state, analysts and officials in the region are left guessing what American policy on North Korea might look like.
“Trump right now looks like he’s running the whole spectrum from opening up talks in a serious way all the way to considering a military strike,” said John Delury, an associate professor of Chinese studies and a North Korea expert at Yonsei University in Seoul. “Either South Korean and U.S. policies could go into a new alignment based on a totally different approach or they could get completely out of whack.”
“目前对特朗普来说似乎一切皆有可能，他可能以严肃的方式开启对话，但也完全有可能把发动军事袭击列入考虑范围，”首尔延世大学(Yonsei University)中国研究副教授及朝鲜问题专家鲁乐汉(John Delury)说。“韩国和美国的政策有可能依据与以往截然不同的方针达成新的步调一致，也有可能完全各行其是。”
Whoever replaces Ms. Park is unlikely to try to overturn United Nations sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, at least right away. But analysts here said the next president was likely to return to a more open diplomatic approach with the North. The new leader might also try to cooperate economically by reopening a jointly run industrial park in the North Korean town of Kaesong, which Ms. Park closed in retaliation against the North’s nuclear test in January.
Moon Jae-in, an opposition leader with the Democratic Party, who polls indicate is the most popular presidential contender, is critical of the current approach to North Korea, saying sanctions alone will not end its nuclear weapons program.
Mr. Moon says he supports his country’s alliance with Washington, but has argued that South Korea needs a more “balanced diplomacy” between the United States, its primary military ally, and China, its biggest trade partner.
When liberals last occupied South Korea’s presidential Blue House, from 1998 to 2008, they strove for engagement with North Korea, in what was known as the Sunshine Policy. But since then, North Korea has moved much further along in its efforts to develop nuclear weapons and missiles able to reach not just South Korea and Japan, but potentially the United States.
That could make it difficult for liberals to simply reinstate past policies of openness.
“If North Korea is pronounced to be capable of hitting the West Coast of the United States, then it’s going to be hard, even for a liberal government, to reopen Kaesong and pursue other cooperation projects,” said Kim Sung-han, a professor of international relations at Korea University who was a vice foreign minister under Ms. Park’s predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, also a conservative.
“如果朝鲜被判定有能力对美国西海岸实施打击，那么即使是自由派政府也将难以重开开城工业区并推进其他合作项目，”高丽大学(Korea University)国际关系教授金圣翰(Kim Sung-han)说。金圣翰曾在朴槿惠的前任、同为保守派的李明博(Lee Myung-bak)政府里担任副外长。
What Mr. Trump will do is even harder to predict. During the campaign, he said he was willing to have direct talks with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. But he also referred to Mr. Kim as “a maniac,” and Mr. Trump’s selection for national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, has described North Korea as a country that harbors “hatred of the West,” suggesting that he would advise a hard-line approach.
更加难以预测的是特朗普将会怎么做。他在竞选期间说过，愿意和朝鲜领导人金正恩(Kim Jong-un)直接会谈。但他也曾把金正恩称为“疯子”，而且他挑选的国家安全顾问、退役中将迈克尔·T·弗林(Michael T. Flynn)曾把朝鲜描绘为一个心怀“对西方的仇恨情绪”的国家，并暗示他会建议采取强硬的对朝方针。
With both the United Nations and the Treasury Department having announced new sanctions this year, analysts suggested that the incoming Trump administration was likely to wait and see if those measures press North Korea into talks to slow or abandon its nuclear program.
“Let it play out and see if it brings them back to the table,” said Victor Cha, who served in President George W. Bush’s administration and is now a North Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
“先等一段时间，看看各方能否重返谈判桌，”曾在乔治·W·布什(George W. Bush)总统任内担任政府职务，现为华盛顿国际战略研究中心(Center for Strategic and International Studies)朝鲜问题专家的车维德(Victor Cha)说。