[OUTLOOK]Roh and Bush must work togetherAs if to prove his talent as a movie director, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has scored a minor success in grabbing the world’s attention with his missile show.
In accordance with his plan, the international community and participating nations of the six-party talks are now in a position which requires them to decide upon a concrete position regarding North Korea. For South Korea, which shares an identical fate with its neighbor north of the border, the time has come to make a cool-headed analysis and a determined resolution about the future of North-South relations.
The upcoming summit meeting between Presidents Roh Moo-hyun and George W. Bush planned for September will probably be the most important meeting in history between the leaders of the two countries, something that the two leaders understood during their phone call right after North Korea’s missile launches.
Frank dialogue between the presidents on important issues which drifted from a lack of shared interests and directions, such as North Korea’s missile and nuclear development, the adjustment of the security alliance and the free trade agreement, will not only provide a first step in finding a solution but also establish a new foundation for the developing relations between the United States and Republic of Korea for the next ten to 20 years.
For the upcoming meeting, South Korea must reorganize its position and establish a proactive negotiation strategy to come up with future directions and plans for Seoul and Washington.
We must point out the distinctiveness of U.S.-Korea relations, compared to America’s relations with China or Japan.
From the beginning of the 60 year history of the division of the Korean Peninsula, the United States has played a special part. And with the support of its alliance with the United States, Korea has reached a level which allows it to play a “balancer role” for the peace and prosperity of Asia, along with the United States.
The ongoing trade talks between the two nations are initially important for economic development through free trade, but can also act as a trigger towards contributing to the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region. This is why Mr. Roh should explain his intentions in pushing for the signing of the agreement, despite the vague political situation in Korea, to the United States, and suggest Mr. Bush respond by persuading the Congress and various interest groups to make concessions in order to strengthen not only U.S. relations with Korea but the nation’s position within the Asia-Pacific region.
The most urgent agenda on the table for Seoul and Washington after the missile launches on July 5 is surely North Korea.
There is no doubt that Kim Jong-il’s missile and nuclear development programs are threatening the safety of the Korean Peninsula and posing a threat to the peace and stability of Northeast Asia in general.
That is why the North must not neglect the Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula that their late leader Kim Il Sung agreed to back in 1992.
It has been our consistent position that North Korea’s missile and nuclear development must be prevented because it is used as a method of maintaining the power of the current leaders and ruling system at the expense of the peoples’ safety or welfare.
But it is also our stance that the use of force to resolve North Korea’s plans will not be tolerated, as we have already experienced a gruesome war.
On the other hand, a majority of South Koreans also support continued efforts towards economic cooperation with the North in accordance with humanitarianism and the spirit of Korean national community.
It is a very positive sign that both presidents agreed to seek a diplomatic solution for the recent missile crisis. The breakthrough of the diplomatic efforts will probably be located around direct talks between Pyongyang and Washington. South Korea does not oppose the talks, but believes that it must participate in the process of solving the issues as it is the nation which is most directly affected by the situation and is deferring any type of decisive influence on any final decision.
In order to ensure the success of U.S.-North Korea talks and for South Korea’s interest, close cooperation between Seoul and Washington is essential. If the summit meeting between Mr. Roh and Mr. Bush manages to come up with a clue towards solving the North Korean crisis and is recorded in history as a beginning toward establishing historical achievements, it will be remembered as a meaningful moment in history.
* The writer, a former prime minister, is an advisor to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by JoongAng Daily staff.
by Lee Hong-koo