[EDITORIALS]At the summit, a let-down

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[EDITORIALS]At the summit, a let-down

The results of the summit between President Roh Moo-hyun and President George W. Bush are disappointing. Nothing concrete was done in regard to important and pending issues, such as North Korea’s nuclear development or South Korea’s exclusive exercise of wartime operational command. North Korea’s nuclear development has become so urgent that reports are even suggesting the country might soon test a bomb, but the issue was dressed up in diplomatic rhetoric.
In regard to wartime operational command, both presidents agreed on Korea having exclusive control and decided to decide the timeline at the Security Consultative Meeting, scheduled for October. The future of the Korea-U.S. alliance, our national security and economy do not seem bright.
In regard to the six-party talks, the two leaders reached an agreement to pursue a “joint comprehensive approach.” There was no stern warning to North Korea over conducting a nuclear test. Mr. Roh believes that the United States should have bilateral talks with North Korea and be flexible in imposing financial sanctions on the country in order to force North Korea to return to the six-nation talks.
However, President Bush believes that persuasion has been tried, but that now increasing pressure on North Korea is more likely to produce a solution. The abstract expression “a joint comprehensive approach” is only a seam that seals the differences between the two leaders’ opinions. This makes us pessimistic about a resolution of the North Korea nuclear problem.
With this summit meeting, Korea’s exclusive exercise of wartime control has become irreversible, despite the worries of most Koreans. As the timeline has not yet been set, there is one thing that the Korean government should keep in mind: It should not approach the issue with political intentions, but should approach it with the question of when Korea’s military will be capable of taking command.
Mr. Bush also said the transfer of wartime control should not be a political issue. That means that the issue has been decided, but it also is a sharp criticism of the Korean government, which has used this issue politically, citing its “sovereignty.”
People have been sharply divided over the transfer of wartime control because the government’s approach to it was unreasonable. Once it decided to pursue command, it should have closely discussed the issue with Washington. The government instead kept giving the vague explanation, “We are ready as long as our medium-term plans to increase our military capacities are completed.” The president mentioned nothing but the timeline of the transfer and he promoted it as if that were the only issue related to our self-reliance. The defense minister ignored good advice from senior military officials, instead playing along with the administration.
The government must not repeat its mistake. It should stop setting a timeline before planning ways to increase the military’s competence. Any timeline should be adjustable according to the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Mr. Roh should not use the issue for political purposes.
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