[EDITORIAL] Tripping Over the Missile Shield

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[EDITORIAL] Tripping Over the Missile Shield

The recent imbroglio over the National Missile Defense system, which surged abruptly between Korea and the United States exposed our lack of diplomatic skills. It is fortunate that the diplomatic corps has managed, for the time being, to mitigate the situation that ambushed them only a few days before the upcoming summit between Korea and the United States, during which President Kim Dae-jung will be faced with the difficult task of coordinating North Korea policy with the new Bush administration.

It is diplomatic common sense to keep our position on the missile shield strategically vague until an international framework forms, given our relations with the North and the objective of the shield as outlined by the United States. The South Korean government made the foolish mistake of consenting to a call by Russia, made during President Putin's visit to Korea that the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which conflicts with the missile shield system embraced by the United States, be adhered to and strengthened. As a result, the government found itself in the position of having to elucidate its intentions.

We would like to demand the following of the heads of state of both nations. First, Mr. Kim should squarely realize the reason behind the suspicion with which the United States views Korea as revealed during the recent incident. It is only natural that peace took precedence in our policies during the initial stages of improving our relations with the North. The United States gives priority to military issues from an international standpoint. A conflict of interest between the two countries is unavoidable. It is also the stark reality that Mr. Kim's conciliation and cooperation with the North can roll smoothly only when South Korea's biggest ally, the United States, concurs. It is therefore advisable that Mr. Kim clear up any misunderstandings and specifically clarify to the United States that peace and the resolution of the military problem are the two pillars on which our North Korea policy will stand.

President Bush should accept our clarification and avoid making the issue a key point at the summit. Striking a joint strategy is most important; the Bush administration should also acknowledge that South Korea has to put greater weight on peace in its efforts to bring the North into the international community.
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