[EDITORIALS]Experienced envoys crucialAfter the president-elect's envoys to the United States returned from their trip to promote the new administration's U.S. policy, criticism of the delegation is snowballing. The delegates gave contradictory answers on whether Washington mentioned the withdrawal of U.S. Forces Korea from the Korean Peninsula. Then, the criticism reached new heights after one of the delegates reportedly told U.S. officials that the new government prefers a nuclear-armed North Korea rather than the collapse of Pyeongyang.
The problems were destined to arise even before the delegation was formed. If the delegation was to explain the incoming administration's foreign affairs policy, the delegates should at least be capable of accurate communication. Experts in U.S. policy who were properly trained diplomatically, culturally and linguistically should have been sent. Although one member of the delegation later clarified that the remark about preferring a nuclear North Korea was a product of miscommunication, it is nothing but the product of inexperienced diplomacy. U.S. officials were already skeptical about Seoul's ambiguous attitude; the delegation just fueled the distrust.
We now have serious worries about how the new government's foreign affairs team will be formed. President-elect Roh Moo-hyun is internationally inexperienced; he has never been to the United States. If his aides are as poorly prepared as the delegation, the problems will be critical. Until now, 90 percent of our diplomacy was focused on the United States. The importance of dealing with Washington is undeniable, particularly with anti-American sentiment, North Korean nuclear issues and debates about the U.S. Forces Korea. Since the half-century alliance between Seoul and Washington has never been shaken as it is now, diplomacy toward Washington can't be stressed enough. Thus, the next few years may be a crucial period in Korea's future.
Foreign affairs officials should be people who understand the United States thoroughly and are capable of making the best use of that knowledge. When such figures mend the U.S.-South Korea relations, the government will be able to resolve unrest here.