Delicacy in D.C.President Park Geun-hye embarks on a four-day trip to the United States on Tuesday to discuss pending issues between Seoul and Washington with U.S. President Barack Obama. Though she has to orchestrate a tripartite summit among Korea, China and Japan in the near future, a summit with Obama scheduled for Oct. 16 will most likely serve as a watershed in her summit diplomacy in the latter part of 2015, because it could greatly affect Korea-China relations.
Therefore, Park needs to effectively coordinate with Obama issues of contention as well as reaffirm the solid alliance with Uncle Sam.
Needless to say, the main priority for Park’s summit should be North Korea policy. Defying conventional wisdom, North Korea tried to refrain from provoking the South shortly before and after the large-scale celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of Workers’ Party in Pyongyang. Most experts in North Korean matters forecasted that leader Kim Jong-un would test-fire an advanced long-range missile or conduct another nuclear test in a bid to show off its military power.
But that prediction was wrong because North Korea had no intent to provoke the South this time. First Chairman of the National Defense Commission Kim Jong-un didn’t do anything to provoke us or even say anything to provoke us, which helped South Korea gain momentum to build an atmosphere for rapprochement after its Aug. 25 agreement with the North. In order to maintain an opportunity to create an environment for the enhancement of inter-Korean cooperation, the U.S. government should cooperate.
However, the Obama administration appears to be busy wrapping up its Iranian nuclear deal and preparing for next year’s presidential election. Therefore, it is very important for Park to turn Obama’s attention to the Korean Peninsula to draw from him cooperation on such a significant issue.
At the same time, the government should not give the impression to Americans that South Korea is now bent on making China its main benefactor. President Park attended China’s Victory Day ceremonies in Beijing despite America’s nervous reaction. The United States can easily start to feel a rivalry with China vis a vis South Korea. Therefore, Park must reassure Obama that the Korea-U.S. alliance will never be weakened down the road regardless of very warm ties with Beijing.
Also, economic issues are just as important as diplomatic and security issues. Korea has lost a chance to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a founding member - which was agreed to by 12 member countries - out of concerns about China’s reaction. It is fortunate that the government decided to participate, albeit belatedly, in the largest global trade pact. We urge Park to secure America’s cooperation in the run-up to obtaining full membership so that Korea does not face disadvantages as a late joiner.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 13, Page 34