[EDITORIALS]More needed on NorthA senior government official has made it known that South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and U.S. President George W. Bush intend to reaffirm the principles that North Korea must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons and that the issue should be resolved peacefully. They are also expected to agree that the U.S.-South Korea alliance is healthy and evolving.
This is significant, in that the two leaders are offering reassurance that their cooperation is solid as the nuclear crisis enters a very urgent stage.
But what is important is how these agreements will be implemented in reality. Such agreements have been announced after three past summits. In May of 2003, Mr. Roh and Mr. Bush agreed that both sides would consider “additional measures” to pressure Pyongyang, should the threat to peace and stability on the peninsula increase.
The two countries have had different interpretations of this. Washington believes that the situation since February, when the North announced that it had nuclear weapons, calls for discussing “additional measures.” But our government has argued that such statements from the North were mere assertions, and that it’s still too early to discuss putting on additional pressure.
Seoul has also been inconsistent with its pledge to take developments in the nuclear crisis into account when deciding how to proceed with inter-Korean cooperation. The fertilizer recently provided to the North is one example.
Under such circumstances, effective responses to Pyongyang will be difficult, regardless of what agreements might be reached about not allowing nuclear weapons or reaching a peaceful solution.
We hope that things will be different in the wake of this summit. For Pyongyang to be dealt with effectively, trust between Mr. Roh and Mr. Bush will have to be maintained. This summit took place because Mr. Bush wanted to hear Mr. Roh’s thoughts on the nuclear crisis, and on the alliance.
Let’s hope that the two leaders have built upon their trust in their discussions behind closed doors. In particular, let’s hope that there has been agreement as to the exact point at which Mr. Roh would agree that all diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis have been exhausted.
If the United States and South Korea argue back and forth about that issue while the crisis worsens, it will be impossible to solve it.