Don’t give in to NorthPresident Lee Myung-bak yesterday proposed that the two Koreas establish liaison offices in Seoul and Pyongyang. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice indicated that some sanctions on the North could be lifted before Pyongyang’s declaration of its nuclear programs is verified. That shows how determined Washington is to speed up the progress in resolving the nuclear crisis.
Lee’s proposal also shows he wants to improve inter-Korean relations, which are now entering a new phase along with the relationship between South Korea and the United States.
There is no chance that North Korea will accept Lee’s proposal. North Korea has already chosen the strategy of talking only to the United States. While it allowed the U.S. national anthem be played in its country, it did not allow the playing of the South Korean anthem.
After making a series of threats toward the South, including the launch of a missile, the North is now criticizing Lee, even calling him a “traitor.”
The Bush administration is showing unprecedented flexibility in its nuclear negotiations with the North. It is no wonder that Pyongyang has high hopes for its strategy of only talking to the United States. Tension between the two Koreas is expected to escalate for some time, while the frozen U.S.-North Korea relations will likely continue to thaw.
South Korea needs to accept that situation. As long as South Korea maintains its strong alliance with the United States, the deadlock in the inter-Korean relations is understandable.
And yet, the most desirable condition on the Korean Peninsula is the simultaneous improvements of inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korea relations. To this end, the U.S. role in the future is critical.
As soon as Lee took office, the United States began to put a stronger emphasis on the importance of its alliance with South Korea. Rice said there is no better ally.
Taking this opportunity, Seoul must not yield to Pyongyang for unconditional reconciliation. The Lee administration must tell North Korea clearly that the road from Pyongyang to Washington must go through Seoul.
It remains to be seen whether Washington will support such a stance. Shortly after the 1994 Geneva Agreed Framework was signed, Washington put all its efforts into improving its ties with Pyongyang, even disturbing its relations with Seoul. It is time for such deep wisdom and farsighted instead from the Lee administration.