Specifics needed on foreign policy

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Specifics needed on foreign policy

The president elected in December will be in office from 2013 to 2017. This will likely be a turbulent time in Northeast Asia. The region could be the stage for conflict between a rising China and the United States. As recent territorial disputes have shown, the relationships among the Koreas, China and Japan have never been so shaky and unpredictable.

The U.S. presidential election is set for early next month, and China is on the brink of a once-in-a-decade power transition. Japanese politics is increasingly veering toward the right. As the geopolitical climate is in its most vulnerable state since the cold war, we need a competent captain more than ever to navigate through these unfavorable and unpredictable seas. Yet each presidential candidate appears to be too relaxed and unconcerned in spite of the urgent and serious state of foreign affairs and national security.

With the election just 60 days away, Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party, Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party and independent Ahn Cheol-soo are busy campaigning. They talk about improving economic inequalities and increasing social welfare spending. But we hear nothing about national security. Foreign affairs should be a top priority for a nation sandwiched between global powers and still technically at war with a nuclear-armed North Korea. But we know neither their philosophies, visions, policies nor solutions regarding foreign affairs and national security. The policies the candidates have brought forth are incoherent. They commonly stress balancing diplomacy with two superpowers, improving ties with Pyongyang and solving the North Korean nuclear issue. They criticize the foreign and North Korea policies of the incumbent Lee Myung-bak administration but cannot specifically say what is wrong or how they plan to fix them.

Park and Ahn stopped at a forum celebrating the first anniversary of the Korea-China-Japan Cooperative Secretariat Office on Monday. Park called for partnership and responsibility of the three nations toward the goal of peace in Northeast Asia, but fell short of expectations. The comments from the two candidates failed to move beyond general views. They may be surrounded by experts, but if they do not make concrete statements of their own, the ideas and opinions will come across as hollow and uninspiring.

Candidates must first develop concrete philosophies and visions on international and inter-Korean affairs, and then speak about their own plans step by step.

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