The Korea-U.S. summitThe first Korea-U.S. summit meeting for the new Lee Myung-bak administration heralded closer bilateral ties, and brought about noticeable agreements. President Lee and President George W. Bush shared the view that they will join efforts to promote Korea-U.S. relations to a higher rank of “strategic alliance,” with a view to expand shared interests based on value, trust and peace, derived from their “traditional friendship.”
They also agreed that U.S. Forces in Korea will remain at the current troop level of 28,500 soldiers.
They shared views not to conduct further reduction of troop levels as scheduled. They will also make great efforts to gain legislative ratification of the Korea-U.S. FTA within this year.
And they agreed to facilitate preparatory steps for a no-visa requirement or a simple visitor visa for traveling to the U.S. in the near future, perhaps within this year.
However, they decided to “improve” the institution of sharing defense fees provided to the U.S troops in Korea.
In fact, it poses a bigger possibilities of raising the military fees. In addition, there has been no official comment regarding agenda items of disagreement, such as missile defense, the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) against weapons of mass destruction and sending new troops to Afghanistan.
It indicates that the two nations have fundamental conflicts of interest regarding those pending issues.
Foremost, the meeting provided an excellent opportunity to restore South Korea’s alliance relationship with the United States, as it had been somewhat damaged in the past.
Of course, one round of a summit meeting will not provide a solution to all the questions.
The United States has not made any official comment on crucial issues such as the missile defense system. However, it might raise the issue officially in the near future.
These are complex and complicated issues with no simple solutions.
However, if the solutions are actively sought with negotiations based on firmly rooted trust and cooperation, I hope the leaders will find a resolution to all the problems.
In particular, it is our sincere hope that the United States will take a cautious attitude toward agenda items which might likely affect Korean public sentiment.
Sending troops to Afghanistan or the expansion of strategic flexibility for the United States troops in Korea are prime examples.