[EDITORIAL] President Kim's TaskPresident Kim Dae-jung must have arrived in Washington with a heavy heart and mixed feelings. The issues at stake between South Korea and the United States are too complicated and grave to find comfort in the fact that he is the first Asian leader to have summit talks with President George W. Bush or that he stays three nights at Blair House, the president's guest house, where the norm is a two-night stay.
Since the launch of the Bush administration, emphasizing strict verification and reciprocity in North Korea policy, policy frictions between South Korea and the United States have been detected here and there. In particular, as the Bush administration is showing a will to press ahead with a National Missile Defense system despite objections by Russia and China, a new cold war structure seems to be taking shape around the Korean Peninsula. While it is difficult to be optimistic about smooth U.S.-China relations, Russian President Vladimir Putin is spurring on a new competition for hegemony. In order to promote inter-Korean rapprochement and cooperation without compromising the Korea-U.S. alliance, the pillar of Korea's security, highly developed diplomatic acumen is needed.
The top priority is the Korea-U.S. alliance. President Kim should make it clear during his talks that the South and the North are not trying to persuade the United States in concert; rather, South Korea and the United States will lead North Korea's change through cooperation based on their alliance. The recent signs of friction between the two nations derive from a reversal of priorities. In a situation where North Korea's threat has not disappeared, if the North and South approach each other first, it is bound to cause conflict between South Korea and the United States as well as within South Korea.
We recognize the necessity of balanced diplomacy, but it should be built on a firm Korea-U.S. alliance. The government should keep in mind that if this alliance were ruptured, South Korea's relations with Russia and China would break down immediately. If President Bush is reassured through the summit that the two nations' alliance comes first, we will evaluate President Kim's U.S. diplomacy as a success.