[EDITORIAL] Protect National Interests Wisely

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[EDITORIAL] Protect National Interests Wisely

International politics are taking an odd turn. The United States and Russia are enmeshed in a tangle over the expulsion of envoys and the United States is clashing with China over its contemplated sale of destroyers equipped with Aegis radars to Taiwan. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld submitted a report to U.S. President George W. Bush delineating core defense strategies that designate China as a hypothetical enemy instead of Russia and transfer the main stage for its military strategies from Europe to the Pacific. The heightened tensions between the United States on the one hand and Russia and China on the other over the establishment of a U.S. National Missile Defense system seem to have the makings of a new cold war.

The new Korean diplomatic and security team named Monday bears the task of averting any damage to either North-South relations or Korea-U.S. relations in the midst of these developments. As a country sandwiched between the United States and Russia, our difficult situation was illustrated by the spat over communique language on missile defense. Although the Bush administration claims that its North Korea policy has not yet been settled, it is clear that it will be more hard-line than the Clinton administration's. How can we maintain the spirit of reconciliation and cooperation between the Koreas which was kindled after great effort?

We would like to emphasize "realistic diplomacy" to the new diplomatic and security team. We must start by repairing the cooperative framework with the United States and concentrating our diplomatic energy on convincing Washington that engaging the North is the only realistic policy. Drawing Russia or the European Union into the Korean Peninsula will only complicate matters with no practical effect.

At the same time, we ask the team to guard against making hasty decisions. It shouldn't be fettered by the timing of the return visit by National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il. It should instead pursue its North Korea policy by moving in tempo with the cooperative framework between Korea and the United States.

Self-respect is important in diplomacy, but self-respect is maintained silently, not by making a fuss. More important than self-respect is national interest, which should be protected wisely.
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