No question: A summit is neededSouth Korea, the United States and Japan are considering a tripartite summit on the sidelines of the March 24-25 Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague. Diplomatic sources say the ball is in our court after Washington and Tokyo reached an agreement on the summit. Our government discussed the issue in a National Security Council meeting yesterday. If such a rare trilateral meeting is held, it would be the first since the inauguration of the President Park Geun-hye and Shinzo Abe governments.
The Japanese prime minister requested a one-on-one summit with Park, though it is not likely to be held during the nuclear summit. Despite Abe’s promise to respect the Kono and Murayama statements - which apologized for Japan’s invasion of Korea and the mobilization of so-called comfort women during World War II - and Park’s positive appraisal of his announcement, it still fell short of addressing fully the issue of the sex slaves.
The tripartite summit is desirable. If it cannot be held due to our government’s opposition, Seoul will bear responsibility as it will give the impression that the meeting was thwarted by Korea’s opposition despite Washington’s pleas for improved Seoul-Tokyo relations. Since Abe has vowed to back up his predecessors’ statements - and considering U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Seoul in April - Korea is better positioned for accepting the tripartite summit.
North Korea’s nuclear threat raises the need for a joint response. Pyongyang has suggested the possibility of conducting another nuclear test or firing long-range missiles. The Monday visit of Wu Dawei, China’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs, to Pyongyang is related to that danger. A new Cold War in Europe amid the Ukrainian crisis also forces our government to assess the ramifications of Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
The tripartite meeting could offer an opportunity for the government to build a foundation for unification and its Northeast Peace and Cooperation Initiatives. Without cooperation among the three allies, the government’s efforts to promote reunification and take advantage of a “jackpot” will be an empty slogan. It’s time to take the initiative. If it adheres to a two-dimensional way of thinking that the summit will damage cooperation with Beijing, it cannot open a new horizon for diplomacy. Flexibility always helps us to have greater leverage.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 20, Page 30