True allies?

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True allies?

The summit between President Lee Myung-bak and President George W. Bush tomorrow in Seoul is interesting on several levels.

It will make clear whether the Korea-U.S. alliance, which was damaged because of the U.S. beef import dispute, is secure once more, and it will be a chance to discuss other concerns, including how to share the cost of national defense and wartime control over Korean troops.

We believe both countries should use the summit as a chance to enhance cooperation regarding the killing of a South Korean tourist at Mount Kumgang and to discuss North Korea’s nuclear issue.

The U.S. policy for improving relations with North Korea makes sense. The normalization of U.S.-North Korean relations through the resolution of the North’s nuclear issue guarantees peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Ever since former President Roh Tae-woo made his July 7, 1988 Declaration reaching out to North Korea as a partner, Seoul has taken this stance. Therefore, it is heartening that the United States has made overtures to the North recently through massive food aid and approving the New York Philharmonic’s historic concert in Pyongyang, for instance.

The problem is the pace and timing of the moves. North Korea hasn’t expressed any regret about the murder at Mount Kumgang, and it isn’t offering to cooperate in a proposed joint investigation. North Korea stubbornly refuses to help, without explaining why.

North Korea’s nuclear issue raises similar problems. Some progress has been made thanks to the U.S.-North Korea negotiations. For example, North Korea’s nuclear facility has been disabled, or so it seems, and it has declared the amount of plutonium that it extracted.

However, Washington ignored its original principles and compromised with North Korea. For instance, it set aside the question about the North’s uranium enrichment program and suspicions that North Korea worked with Syria’s suspected nuclear program.

Some observers even argue that President Bush has made concessions to ensure a degree of diplomatic achievement in the twilight of his term.

True allies help each other when the other is in trouble. The Korea-U.S. alliance is more than 50 years old and this principle is still valid. But after a citizen of its allied country is killed on enemy territory, the United States gives the impression that it is defending North Korea rather than understanding its ally’s stance.

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