[EDITORIALS]A successful summitPresident Roh Moo-hyun and U.S. President George W. Bush restored the trust between South Korea and the United States and built a personal friendship. That is what we pay the most attention to in this summit. The two leaders finally established a firm cooperative mechanism, the element that has been lacking to resolve the serious North Korea nuclear situation. The two leaders’ conciliatory attitudes cleared up misunderstanding and confusion over the North Korean issues and broadened the two presidents’ consensus. That is noteworthy.
The two presidents made a clear agreement on their goals and methods of resolving the North Korean nuclear issues, creating an environment favorable to the two countries in negotiating with the North. Making clear their goal, “both leaders reiterated their strong commitment to work for the complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.” They would seek peaceful means, but they also did not rule out the possible consideration of “further steps.” Mr. Roh and Mr. Bush put their goal and means for nuclear resolution in order and strengthen the solidarity between South Korea and the United States, putting strong pressure on the North. “Future inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation will be conducted in light of developments on the North Korean nuclear issue,” Mr. Roh said, and that is also a warning to Pyeongyang.
Mr. Bush reassured Mr. Roh of the U.S. commitment to cooperate in maintaining the security of the Korean Peninsula, including the continuing presence of U.S. troops. The two leaders pledged to work together to update the South Korea-U.S. alliance, largely removing the uncertainties surrounding our security. The two leaders agreed to work on relocating the U.S. 2d Infantry Division to the area south of the Han River, “taking careful account of the political, economic and security situation of the peninsula and in Northeast Asia.” That ambiguous agreement is interpreted to mean that we still have time to defer the relocation. The two presidents’ agreements, in general, will greatly ease foreign investors’ uneasiness and skepticism about the Korean economy.
Mr. Roh deserves the praise of his country for such a successful summit. There were concerns that the meeting would reproduce the nightmare of the 2001 Kim Dae-jung-Bush meeting. But Mr. Roh did more than enough to erase the U.S. concerns about his anti-American tendencies through this visit.
Mr. Roh was aware of the security crisis and the trends of international politics, and he took a positive attitude to resolve American skepticism about him. Mr. Bush did not mention sanctions against the North, replying to Mr. Roh’s efforts to keep things smooth. As long as the two leaders continue to build their trust and friendship, the South Korea-U.S. alliance and cooperative partnership will stand rock-solid.
Mr. Roh’s supporters further to the left will be disappointed with Mr. Roh’s conciliatory attitude; North Korea will complain about the two leaders’ agreement. If Mr. Roh shows a wavering attitude to those predictable backlashes, our security stability will collapse again despite all his efforts. Nothing can be done when states lose their trust, similar to the case of a personal relationship. Even if there is a domestic political dilemma, Mr. Roh must overcome it.
He must exercise caution against the temptation to backtrack and damage South Korea-U.S. agreements for fear of losing votes in next year’s general election. Implementing the agreements is our mission, and we must support Mr. Roh in that mission.
That is the only way to solidify South Korea-U.S. relations and end the North Korean nuclear crisis.
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