[EDITORIALS]An ugly new reputationSouth Korea has been much less cooperative than China in implementing sanctions on North Korea, according to Western media after the recent trip by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.
Reuters reported, “China was expected to be the biggest challenge for the U.S. secretary of state on her tour of Asia, but it was South Korea that voiced most caution over imposing tough measures against the North.” She was also reported as saying that China’s attitudes toward North Korea were evolving. The New York Times wrote, “South Korea, not China, was the odd man out. America’s military ally on the lower half of the tense Korean Peninsula was reluctant in its public endorsement of the positions urged by Washington.”
Now the global society’s assessment of the South Korean government, which has repeatedly been at odds over North Korean policies since the North conducted a nuclear test two weeks ago, seems to have fixed a direction: defining it as the “odd man out,” desperately sticking to its engagement policy. That assessment comes only about a week after the United Nations decided to enforce sanctions on North Korea. South Korea has put off decision-making by making the excuse that imposing hard-line restrictions may cause a war. If South Korea’s new reputation takes root, our global stance will narrow.
It means South Korea will have a weakened voice at international organizations, such as the UN sanctions committee.
North Korea’s nuclear test is the biggest security threat that has arisen against us. If we fail to move against this threat, we will probably be held hostage forever. However, the majority of Koreans do not want such a future.
This is why our alliance with the United States is crucial. Independent national security is just empty talk in the face of a nuclear threat. And this is the very reason Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung pleaded for the U.S. to guarantee it will provide a “nuclear umbrella.”
The incumbent Korean government has repeatedly declared its principle of “never allowing North Korea to retain nuclear weapons.” However, its actual behavior is going against the principle ― mainly because it has not given up the already-ruined engagement policy.
The government is expected, at least, to take wise and prudent action. Otherwise, it will end up losing the confidence of international society, not to mention influence over North Korea, and getting ignored.