[EDITORIALS]Danger and opportunity

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[EDITORIALS]Danger and opportunity

The outcome of the presidential election reflects the public's desire for change. The government's North Korea and foreign affairs policies, thus, must be altered. And yet, the foreign affairs policy, just like domestic governance, will probably be an extension of that of past administrations. President-elect Roh Moo-hyun, who supported this administration's engagement policy toward the North, now has five years to achieve what his predecessor could not do due to the restriction of time.

Mr. Roh, however, will have to succeed under a significantly damaged alliance between South Korea and the United States and the erosion of our allies' confidence incurred by this administration. Without the trust of partner nations, it will be difficult to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue and control the anti-American sentiment, necessary to improve inter-Korean relations and restore the Seoul-Washington alliance.

As we can see from the past, the South Korea-U.S. alliance and inter-Korean relations are largely influenced by the public sentiment. Since the next government was selected by a public desiring change, the Roh administration's policies may be driven largely by public opinion. This election's outcome shows the serious divisions of South Koreans. A North Korea policy that is not endorsed by the public will likely drift; international policy to meet the rapidly changing sentiment will likely be connected to the loss of the international community's trust in our country. Effective North Korea policy and the relations with friendly nations are only possible when the government can channel public opinion into political leadership. For improvement in inter-Korean relations, policy coordination and collaboration with our allies -- the United States and Japan -- are indispensable. Constructive diplomacy toward China, Russia and the European Union will not only be an asset for an effective North Korea policy, but also contribute to balance in the South Korea-U.S. alliance.

Mr. Roh said he would resolve Pyeongyang's nuclear ambition by talking to leaders of North Korea and the United States. Since the international community, including Washington and Tokyo, already has expressed support for a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue, Mr. Roh's approach is key. He must acknowledge the urgency of North Korea's nuclear threats and come up with feasible ways for a peaceful resolution promptly.

Uniting the country, achieving a nuclear-free peninsula and resolving anti-American sentiment are intertwined. Before his inauguration Mr. Roh must consult with the current government to clarify his resolutions. Heightening our country's confidence in North Korea and foreign affairs policies is the top issue that Mr. Roh must confront.
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