Pragmatic diplomacyPresident-elect Lee Myung-bak’s special envoys to four regional powers have either returned home or are due back soon.
Representative Chung Mong-joon from the Grand National Party, Lee’s envoy to the United States, met with U.S. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Park Geun-hye, the former GNP head, met with Chinese President Hu Jintao.
Lee Jae-oh, a GNP lawmaker sent to Russia, could not meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, but his visit has showed a positive start to foreign relations with Moscow.
The fact that President Bush met directly with Chung demonstrates President-elect Lee’s political will and the U.S. expectations for future Korea-U.S. relations.
When the president-elect visits the U.S. in either March or April, he should declare a vision for the two countries’ alliance that shares common and strategic values.
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda warmly greeted Lee’s envoy to Japan, sending a strong signal that he wants to improve Korea-Japan relations. Therefore the president-elect should remember that pragmatism, rather than the need to straighten out the distorted relationship between Korea and Japan, should characterize diplomacy. By doing so, it is likely that the mutual-assistance system among the three nations -- Korea, the U.S. and Japan -- will be restored.
Efforts are needed to quell Chinese and Russian concerns that might arise as Korea mends its relations with Japan and the U.S. China is Korea’s biggest trade partner and it is playing a decisive role in solving the North Korean nuclear problem. In terms of resource diplomacy, Russia must not be overlooked.
The status of the Chinese ambassador to Korea is relatively lower than others. There have been cases when past ambassadors have been made deputy mayors of provincial cities in China after their stint in Korea. This reflects how China views Korea as well. When we consider that it will take some time for China to become the next superpower in place of the United States, we know the key to our diplomacy lies in the relationship with the United States. The Lee Myung-bak administration should be clear in its diplomacy principles.
There’s a saying that diplomacy should be about befriending distant states and antagonizing neighbors. When the Korea - U.S. alliance is strong, we can have good relations with China, Japan and Russia.
Restoring the Korea and U.S. alliance is the beginning of strengthening four-powers diplomacy.