Solidifying U.S. alliancePresident Lee Myung-bak today boards a plane for a summit meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama. The meeting scheduled for Tuesday at the White House comes at a time of heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula.
The United Nations Security Council unanimously voted on the toughest sanctions yet against the recalcitrant state following its May 25 second nuclear test. North Korea further defied the international community by declaring its decision to embark on a program to enrich uranium and reprocess the existing plutonium stockpiles to produce atomic warheads.
By denouncing the UN resolution as a war-provoking action, the isolated state is playing a high-risk game of chicken with the international community, a movement that now has the support of the North’s former allies: China and Russia. The two leaders have to reaffirm the principles of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula while at the same time display a level of determination that will calm things down.
In a symbolic gesture, South Korea and the U.S. have already agreed to include the U.S. offer of “extended deterrence,” a broader defense mechanism including a nuclear umbrella, in their joint statement after the summit meeting.
Without clarifying the nuclear umbrella issue, there’s no knowing where talk in Korea and Japan on nuclear self-protection will lead.
The Korean Peninsula does not solely involve South Korea, but at the same time no discussion about the region can progress without involving the South.
President Lee must draw up a U.S. pledge that South Korea won’t be excluded in any further U.S.-North Korean talks. There has been speculation that the U.S., China and Japan will hold senior talks in Washington next month. President Lee, as he mentioned in an interview with the U.S. media, can propose resumption of the six-party talks without North Korea.
We hope the two leaders will produce serious discussions in mapping out a broader vision for the Korean Peninsula. President Lee should represent a big picture of a peaceful Korean Peninsula firmly rooted in democracy and a market economy that offers no security threat to its neighbors and draw full-fledged support from the U.S. president.
The two allies should concoct a clever strategy to entice North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions and veer toward reform and transparency.
The two could also discuss the problem of sending senior envoys to North Korea. President Obama should place the North Korean problem as his top priority in foreign affairs. Making him do so is entirely up to President Lee.