Park’s supine diplomacyPresident Park Geun-hye is set to visit Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan for five days from April 16 to 21. The three Central Asian nations are crucial cooperation partners for the “Eurasian Initiative” that President Park proposed last October. Her trip will hopefully reactivate the president’s successful summit diplomacy, which was interrupted by the tragic Sewol ferry sinking in April.
Given the gravity of the ramifications from the Sewol disaster, some may raise questions about the timing of her visit. But the president’s summit diplomacy itself can hardly be criticized. The problem is whether Korean diplomacy is in full gear for an opaque future.
Since the ferry disaster, Korea’s diplomacy nearly shuddered to a halt. Diplomatic efforts to curb North Korea’s ever-expanding nuclear ambitions have stopped. It is not too much to say that our government is only passively waiting for a fourth nuclear test and another long-range missile test by the North. The government is not making any efforts to avert another provocation or resume the stalled nuclear talks. By merely reiterating, “The ball is now in the North’s court,” the government is passively praying that the North changes its course. Inter-Korean relations are no exception. Despite Pyongyang’s denigration of President Park’s “Reunification as a jackpot” comment and her Dresden Declaration as an attempt to one day absorb the regime, the government does not do anything.
The government has also given up on its diplomacy over the tricky issues of the comfort women and Japan’s bad attitude toward its past misdeeds. In the meantime, Tokyo accelerates cooperation with Pyongyang to settle its abductees issue. Japan’s determination to continue dialogue with North Korea portends a perilous schism in the united front among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo. Regardless of repeated remarks from Washington hinting at the possibility of South Korea joining a U.S.-led missile defense system, the government’s official position is still indecipherable.
The president’s security and diplomacy team is not established yet, as seen in the alarming vacancy at the top of the National Intelligence Service. It is futile to expect creative and flexible diplomacy under such circumstances. It is not only the economy that must get back to business. We urge the president to focus on diplomacy.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 10, Page 34