Lee-Obama summit gets mixed reactions
News that the South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President Barack Obama have agreed to break the pattern of awarding concessions to North Korea after it creates nuclear crises drew mixed responses in Seoul.
In Washington, Lee and Obama also agreed to extend nuclear deterrence on the Korean Peninsula, with Obama pledging the United States would “pursue denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula vigorously.”
South Korea’s political parties were divided in their assessment. The ruling Grand National Party hailed the summit for leading to “concrete and specific achievements” on nuclear deterrence on the Korean Peninsula. The opposition Democratic Party, however, said Lee and Obama failed to reach solutions to the nuclear problem.
GNP Chairman Park Hee-tae said the summit wasn’t only about diplomatic rhetoric. “The meeting presented a perfect example for the practical and specific summit diplomacy,” Park said. “In particular, the leaders came up with definitive measures on nuclear problems on the Korean Peninsula, and helped alleviate people’s concerns.”
Chung Sye-kyun, chairman for the Democratic Party, was less impressed. “South Koreans expected a more specific outcome but the summit stopped at only generic discussions,” he said. “It’s regrettable that the summit had no substance.”
Analysts were also torn. Korea University professor Kim Sung-han said the summit “demonstrated an airtight alliance between the two nations on the North Korean nuclear issue.” Kim Yong-hyun, professor at Dongguk University, said South Korea and the United States “put a lot of pressure on North Korea” by getting on the same page.
Nicholas Szechenyi of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, was more skeptical. He told Reuters that the message from the summit is “very powerful” in the short run but when a pendulum eventually swings from pressure to dialogue, “there aren’t too many other options.”
North Korea had yet to release an official statement by press time last night. But its state newspaper Minju Joson warned, “If the U.S. and its followers infringe upon our republic’s sovereignty even a bit, our military and people will launch a 100- or 1,000-fold retaliation with a merciless military strike,” it said.
By Yoo Jee-ho [email@example.com]