[VIEWPOINT]What’s next for President Roh

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[VIEWPOINT]What’s next for President Roh

The Korea-U.S. summit has ended. Will it open a new chapter of the international politics on the Korean Peninsula?
Let’s begin with the North Korean nuclear issue. As expected, the two heads of state emphasized their un-willingness to tolerate North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons and their commitment to a peaceful and diplomatic resolution. They also reconfirmed that the two nations are prepared to offer substantial aid to North Korea if Pyongyang decides to give up its nuclear weapons.
Will the long-awaited fourth round of the six-way talks be held in the near future? Since Washington referred to North Korea as an “outpost of tyranny,” Pyongyang has demanded that the United States stop insulting North Korea before it returns to the negotiation table.
We need to pay attention to Pyongyang’s passive response to U.S. President George W. Bush’s suggestive speech on May 27 that the technological developments in the 21st century has enabled the United States to target terrorists and tyrants hiding behind civilians while protecting the innocent.
Pyongyang appreciated President Bush’s use of the courtesy title “Mister” when referring to Kim Jong-il at his press conference on May 31 and his reassurance that Washington did not intend to strike North Korea. Pyongyang emphasized that the comment would contribute to creating a conducive atmosphere for resuming the six-party talks and said it would watch his future comments. As a result, the series of careful comments by President Bush reiterated at the summit should positively affect the chances of resuming the six-party talks earlier rather than later.
By saying that it is Pyongyang’s turn to provide an answer to Washington’s proposal from the third meeting in June 2004, President Bush made it clear that Washington would not make a new offer. However, North Korea has redefined the nature of the six-way talks since it proclaimed it had nuclear weapons in February.
It has stressed that the key point of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was to change the hostile relationship between North Korea and the United States into one of peace and coexistence. To attain the change, it urged the United States to stop its attempt to “overthrow the system.”
In North Korea’s view, the six-party talks should also address the nuclear arms the United States possesses as well. It’s extremely unlikely that there will be any resolution on this point.
The heads of South Korea and the United States have reconfirmed that a multilateral guarantee of security, substantial aid including fuel and normalized relations between the North and the United States, are possible if North Korea decides to give up its nuclear program.
The answer from the North is simple: It says that Washington asserts that it has no intention of striking the North, so if that is true, there is nothing to stop the United States from changing its hostile policy toward North Korea to a policy of peaceful coexistence between the two countries. North Korea demands that Washington first end its “nuclear threat” and give up its attempts to oust the regime. As the last step, it wants the withdrawal of the U.S. forces in South Korea and the dissolution of the South Korea-U.S. military alliance. These are difficult demands to meet.
At the summit in Washington, President Bush and President Roh Moo-hyun confirmed the alliance between South Korea and the United States and discussed the direction of the alliance.
They also agreed to maintain a low profile on the controversial issues, such as the strategic flexibility of U.S. forces in Korea, South Korea’s desired role as a balancer in Northeast Asia and the operational plan in case of a sudden change in North Korea.
However, the problems with the alliance are deeper than one might think. The United States has been faithfully promoting the reorganization of the free world into three concentric circles, an idea that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice advocates. The structure of the U.S. alliance in Northeast Asia in the 21st century becomes clear when we look at the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative committee meeting on Feb. 19, the June 7 Senate testimony of Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, on the emergence of China, and Ms. Rice’s “outposts of tyranny” address.
At the same time, the U.S. Department of Defense is pursuing a military conversion of East Asia to correspond to the new order of the alliance. The Bush administration viewed the significance of the meeting with Mr. Roh in the context of the new composition.
Meanwhile, the South Korean government has been working hard to modify the Korea-U.S. alliance to promote a collaborative self-reliance at this juncture in the post-cold war era. However, it is impossible to be at the center of East Asia in the 21st century with only this sort of viewpoint, which deviates little from conventional concepts.
We need to correctly read the composition of the new East Asian alliance, which centers on the United States and Japan and the emergence of China, and use these changes to aid South Korea’s strategic thinking and creativity. This is the most urgent task for President Roh after the Korea-U.S. summit.

* The writer is a professor of international relations at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Ha Young-sun
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