[EDITORIALS]Koreas Must Prepare for U.S. Strategy

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[EDITORIALS]Koreas Must Prepare for U.S. Strategy

The Bush administration seems headed toward a carrot and stick strategy on North Korea, obscuring an optimistic forecast on North-South Korean relations. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, in Seoul from May 9-10, to explain the Bush administration's approach to North Korea and the proposed missile defense program, strongly suggested that Washington is inclined to employ this strategy. It is required that the government devises well thought-out counter measures to deal with two-pronged approach of Washington in order to develop our relations with the North smoothly. In light of what has been learned during Mr. Armitage's visit, North Korea also should try its best finding out Washington's true intentions, and take more flexible negotiation tactics in dealing with the United States.

The United States has yet to make its North Korea approach formal. But Mr. Armitage clearly presented the general goals Washington might be seeking through its dual strategy and had discussions with Seoul side. In connection with the Bush administration's plan to wrap up its North Korea policy in a few weeks, he suggested that the new administration will largely accept the Clinton administration's framework of North Korea policy, and Washington will resume dialogue with Pyongyang in the near future. It implies that the Bush administration's hardline policy toward the North has somewhat relaxed and it is sending a green signal to the resumption of inter-Korean relations currently in lull.

However, the U.S. missile defense program, which rests on the premise that "rogue states," could prove detrimental to South Korea. Washington should forsake the plan all together, listening to its domestic critics and the opinions of its allies and concerned nations. But Washington seems bent on pursuing the plan, which will surely prompt strong protests not only from North Korea but also from China and Russia, casting a long pall on the security of the peninsula. In addition, Mr. Armitage neither confirmed nor denied media reports that the United States is considering deploying Aegis-class destroyers equipped with interceptor missiles within the next two years as part of the Missile Defense program in the East Sea. Should the plan materialize, the North would be enraged, and consequently inter-Korean relations would be affected negatively. Of course, we cannot rule out the possibility that United States and North Korea, will reach a pact in the upcoming bilateral missile dialogue. The government should aggressively look for ways to persuade and mediate Pyongyang and Washington so that an agreement can be reached.

During his visit, Mr. Armitage stuck with the explanation of America's new national security concept, the "new strategic framework," which the missile shield program falls under. But if the United States should ask us, as its allies, to partake in the framework, we would be facing a hard decision. Included in the "new strategic framework" is a controversial concept of counter-proliferation of mass-destructive weapons, which surmises preemptive strikes against ballistic missiles, chemical and nuclear weapons. Should the United States employ concepts of counterproliferation and nonproliferation -- which bars production of nuclear weapons, and development and export of anti-ballistic missiles -- as principles for dealing with North Korea, Seoul's position with Pyongyang may well be compromised. Thus, what Mr. Armitage's visit has brought for us, is a looming task to find measures that will work for us. North Korea should also be prepared to deal with the new U.S. administration.
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