[EDITORIALS]A step for Seoul’s diplomacyForeign Minister Yoon Young-kwan’s U.S. visit last week was at least partly successful in repairing the Korea-U.S. alliance that has been precariously strained in recent months. The trip eased awkwardness over differences of approach on North Korea’s nuclear problem and U.S. military realignment in Korea. The decision to send troops to Iraq contributed to some degree.
But the primary purpose of the trip was to discuss North Korea, and Mr. Yoon was reassured that the United States favors a diplomatic approach. He also offered a multi-step proposal, and it was well received by Washington. The fact that the trip appeased concern in Korea that the United States would deal militarily with North Korea once it was done with Iraq is a positive accomplishment.
A question is whether the United States will accept Seoul’s conditional proposal to draw the North into multilateral dialogue. Another is whether the North, with its insistence on direct bilateral negotiations with the United States, will accept it. Seoul is proposing that the international community accept North Korea’s vow to freeze its nuclear program, instead of requiring complete dismantlement. The toned-down demand on the North seemed to gain recognition within the U.S. government as realistic.
The Korean government must now begin explaining its proposal to others ― Russia, China, Japan, Australia, the European Union and the United Nations. At war in Iraq, the United States may not be in the best position to take the lead; it is an opportunity for our diplomacy to take the initiative.
We must also prepare for the possibility that the North may decide to aggravate the situation by starting its nuclear fuel reprocessing facility. Korea’s proposal is conditioned on the North’s willingness to stop its provocations, and it is viable only as long as the North chooses not to worsen the situation. A lot of work remains before the proposal can begin to yield positive results. Tests of the new government’s diplomatic effectiveness are just beginning.