[OUTLOOK]What to look forward to in Washington

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[OUTLOOK]What to look forward to in Washington

Is autumn the season for summit meetings? Following the Asia-Europe summit meeting that is being held in Helsinki, the Korea-U.S. summit meeting will take place in Washington. In the meantime, there are speculations that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has left for Beijing for a yet-unannounced summit meeting. This busy migration of world leaders is a sign of the recent unrest in international politics. A wave of insecurity and instability is spreading rapidly throughout the world.
Two months ago, I stated in this very column that September’s summit meeting between Seoul and Washington could be the most important meeting in the history of Korea-U.S. relations.
There are several ongoing issues that could decide the future of the two countries’ relationship, such as the proposal for Korea to retrieve wartime command and the FTA negotiations. That is why the two presidents must recognize at what point in history we are currently standing. Instead of being bogged down by the seriousness of the present situation, they must exercise their wisdom to tap into the great flow of history.
The two presidents of Korea and the United States share the common task of being the commanders-in-chief of democratic states.
As presidents voted into office by their peoples, their duty is not to put forward their personal beliefs and convictions but to follow the will of the people, to unite the people and to serve the country.
In as much as the president has a fixed term of office, the president should especially take care to uphold consistency in the national administration regardless of changes in the presidential office. The Korea-U.S. summit meeting will only be a success if the two presidents avoid unnecessary stubbornness and impromptu decisions while pursuing the common goals of security and prosperity for both allies.
Today is the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks that occurred in New York and Washington. These attacks targeted the United States, which is still the world’s only superpower in terms of political, economic and military prowess.
It is my sincere hope that President Bush puts the nightmare of the horrific attacks behind him as he attends the summit meeting with Korea and that he views the future of the Korea-U.S. alliance with a balanced perspective. Above all, I hope that the president accurately assesses the importance of the East Asian region, which will grow even larger in the 21st century.
That is, President Bush should not let the difficulties that the United States is experiencing in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East distort his judgment on the importance of Asia. The United States, too, is a Pacific state, and it should be emphasized through the Korea-U.S. summit meeting that the future of the United States cannot be separate from the future of the Pacific era.
Ever since his inauguration, President Bush has focused on spreading democracy as a universal value and political system throughout the world. His efforts have brought mixed results ― some quite successful, others less so.
Korea is an exceptional case, a state that achieved democracy and a market economy in the face of great adversity.
There is no denying that the U.S. contribution was decisive to Korea’s success. In other words, the United States has all the right to feel proud of its role in Korea’s development and of its contribution’s to the Korea-U.S. alliance. Now, Korea has come forth to take an active role in upholding the values of democracy and maintaining peace amidst the dynamics of the neighboring powers such as China, Japan and Russia in this Pacific era.
The transformation of the Korea-U.S. alliance could decide the future of not only Korea, but also of the United States.
The biggest mistake to beware of in Korea-U.S. relations is making impromptu decisions about important issues concerning the alliance based on the prevailing public opinion of the moment.
For example, both Seoul and Washington should have a consistent evaluation of the threat that North Korea poses. If an ally’s position on the North Korean threat is seen as expedient and fickle, it will compromise the trust between the two allies and between the two peoples.
There is an old Asian saying that you should be all the more polite to those closest to you. This is a very appropriate guideline for Korea-U.S. relations. Of course, we cannot expect all of our problems to be solved in the September summit meeting. However, what we would like to see is a scene of the two presidents sitting down and working together in true partnership for the future of the alliance.

* The writer, a former prime minister, is an advisor to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by JoongAng Daily staff.


by Lee Hong-koo
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