[EDITORIALS]The proof's in the summit

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[EDITORIALS]The proof's in the summit

Since U.S. President George W. Bush's State of the Union address, in which he called North Korea part of an "axis of evil," relations among Pyeongyang, Washington and Seoul have been thrown into confusion. Senior U.S. government officials warned repeatedly about the North and an irritated Pyeongyang snapped back at Washington. South Koreans are worried about a serious rupture between Seoul and Washington because of differing policies toward the North. But diplomatic sources here are assuring us that Seoul and Washington see no differences in their North Korea policies.

We hope the government's assessment is correct, but we don't buy it. Different perceptions of the North have led to deep policy differences, triggering public concern that Seoul-Washington coordination over North Korea policy will break down.

On the same day that Mr. Bush spoke, the U.S. government said it had found more North Korean missile exports. That seemed to explain the background of Mr. Bush's "axis of evil" remark. Then other news reports said North Korea and Iran are jointly developing long-range missiles. If those reports are true, why did not Seoul and Washington share their information and collaborate on new policies? How dare the government say that the Seoul-Washington coalition is intact?

If the two capitals have problems in sharing information and coordinating policies, Seoul's foreign affairs team is to blame. The chaos in leadership appointments is part of the problem. Pro-engagement thinkers and those with regional ties to the administration filled the senior positions. Ministers, deputy ministers and ambassadors to major diplomatic partners were appointed without considering their ability and expertise. So how, under those circumstances, can we keep good diplomatic relations with our international partners intact?

Not all ministers and ambassadors have to be expert diplomats. We would not have to criticize the government's appointments if relations with Washington had been kept on an even keel. There must be a thorough examination of the higher strata of our diplomats dealing with the United States. Empty words of assurance about the strength of our alliance with Washington mean nothing; the evidence should be revealed at the Kim-Bush summit.
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