[OUTLOOK]A summit to give peace a chanceUnlike the disastrous U.S.-Korean summit in March 2001 in Washington, Wednesday's meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and President Kim Dae-jung is taking shape, even after Mr. Bush's recent assertion about an "axis of evil."
But President Kim must pay special attention to a few details in order to prevent this summit from being recorded in history as another failed effort.
First, this summit is different in nature from meetings in the past. The Korean government posted North Korea as its main foe during the Cold War while the United States saw the Soviet Union as its main threat and North Korea as a regional supporter of the Soviets. But the U.S. government listed North Korea as one of its foes after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack because Pyeongyang continued producing and selling missiles. Conversely, South Korea has tried not to perceive its neighbor as an enemy since June 15, 2000 when the Northern and Southern leaders met for the first time.
Although Mr. Bush has mitigated his harsh rhetoric against the North by saying he will meet them "anytime, anywhere" and says he supports Mr. Kim's sunshine policy, there is little likelihood that the U.S. government will show any real flexibility toward the North.
That hard-line policy toward North Korea will change only when Pyeongyang demonstrates its desire for peace in actions rather than words; Seoul has little room to persuade the United States to change its position.
So the principle of the summit is not to tone down Mr. Bush's "axis of evil" rhetoric or to gain U.S. government support for the sunshine policy, but to lay out agreed terms for judging whether North Korea is serious about peace or not. The issue ?North Korean cooperation in moves toward peace ?was raised in the North-South Joint Communique of July 4, 1972, and again on Dec. 13, 1991, when the Koreas signed a basic agreement on reconciliation, nonaggression, and cooperation and exchange. In 1992, North Korea signed the Joint Declaration of Denuclearization but rebuffed its implementation later. The issue was also raised during the discussions that led to the South-North Joint Declaration on June 15, 2000. North Korean participation in moves toward peace were also discussed by the North and the United States during the 1994 Geneva framework agreement negotiations.
The Seoul-Washington summit this year is different from those in the past. Since Sept. 11, the U.S. government sees Pyeongyang's missiles and weapons of mass destruction as a direct threat to the soil of the United States, while in the past they were an indirect threat to world order under U.S. leadership.
So in order to forestall the danger of weapons of mass destruction pointed toward U.S. territory, President Bush's diplomatic team will try to settle the issue promptly. Additionally, if a diplomatic approach toward North Korea bogs down, there is a possibility that the U.S. government would take military action.
Other than the threat of weapons of mass destruction, Mr. Bush will also argue strongly that North Korea should remove its conventional weapons from the Demilitarized Zone to promote peace on the peninsula, where 40,000 U.S. troops are stationed.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, North Korea has been more observant than we have of U.S. maneuvering. Pyeongyang has called the United States an "evil empire" and criticized Mr. Bush's visit to Seoul as a pro-war, anti-reunification effort.
Thus, the conflict between the U.S. policy against terrorism and North Korea's policy for safeguarding peace on the peninsula, which demands the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the South, cannot easily be resolved. It is difficult to see how the two sides can find any common ground because of their present positions. Perversely, negotiations could even result in more tension between North and South.
The two leaders must, at the upcoming summit, discuss prudently how to establish a framework for peace on the peninsula but also prepare measures for handling worst-case scenarios.
Finally, President Kim must keep in mind that he has no time to procrastinate if he wants his sunshine policy to endure. That policy could be abandoned by both the United States and North Korea if it does not adapt to changes in the world. The Korean government has to participate actively in the U.S. war against terrorists while staying within the limits that will keep peace hopes alive on the peninsula.
Seoul must come up with a strategy that allows the North Koreans to take advantage of the opportunity to reconstruct their country in the 21st century with the help of the United States and South Korea.
The writer is a professor of international relations at Seoul National University.
by Ha Young-sun