Strengthening allianceThe Korea-United States summit meeting that took place yesterday is significant in many ways. For one thing, it was an opportunity to refresh the turbulent political scene here due to the controversy over the resumption of U.S. beef imports. Second, it helped reaffirm the strength of the alliance between the two countries. Third, the meeting dealt with several timely issues, including Pyongyang’s nuclear program, the free trade agreement between the two countries and the newly enhanced exchange programs for college students in both countries.
However, the biggest accomplishment of the summit was that both Korea and the United States expressed the same stern stance on Pyongyang in a unified voice. The two leaders together urged Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program and join efforts to establish thorough verification frameworks to inspect the North’s declared nuclear items.
U.S. President George W. Bush warned that a failure to set up a proper verification framework may delay taking Pyongyang off the list of state sponsors of terrorism, reaffirming Washington’s stern stance on the North.
The two leaders also agreed that the normalization of diplomatic relations with Pyongyang should depend on improving its human rights record. It also indicates that the two countries are willing to separate human rights issues from negotiations on the North’s denuclearization. The two countries’ shared views on the North are likely to play a significantly positive role in solving issues regarding North Korea; these shared views should remain consistent no matter what.
The two leaders’ shared view on the role of the Korea-U.S. alliance and its future were also major achievements at the summit. The Korea-U.S. alliance, born to curb the North’s military threat, is now facing a daunting task: to adapt to new relations within a changing diplomatic landscape, including the end of the Cold War and reconciliation between the two Koreas.
This is why the two leaders stressed a need to “move forward by developing the alliance into a strategic and future-oriented structure to meet changes in the security environment and future needs in the 21st century.”
The issue here is that the two countries, while voicing the same words, may have different plans. The U.S., acting as the global police, hopes that Korea will help its military missions around the world.
If not, the U.S. may increase its “strategic flexibility,” meaning it may pull more troops out of Korea and deploy them elsewhere.
But Seoul doesn’t have the luxury to do so because of domestic politics and relations with Beijing. As a result, the two countries’ alliance lies in a precarious situation and may face friction in the future.
So the two countries will need to work harder to develop today’s agreement into a rock-solid pledge, one that can withstand the test of time and resist whatever challenges occur in the future.