It’s up to KoreaSouth Korea and the United States on Friday reaffirmed commitment to the goal of achieving verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea in a rare separate joint statement on North Korea. The statement following the summit talks of President Park Geun-hye and her U.S. counterpart Barack Obama during her visit to Washington underscored the two allies’ unwavering commitment to address the North Korean nuclear problem with “utmost urgency and determination.” The assertive tone from Washington may suggest a shift from its passive “strategic patience” toward Pyongyang. Many have been questioning if the U.S. was still interested in dismantling North Korea’s weapons program. The renewed show of unity and will from Seoul and Washington could provide impetus to a multilateral process to denuclearize North Korea.
Washington positively evaluated Seoul’s persistent efforts to engage North Korea regardless of the latter’s provocations. The statement emphasized that the two countries want to solve the nuclear problem through dialogue. Through its show of support for “President Park’s vision of a peacefully unified Korean Peninsula,” Washington made it clear that it would be Seoul that takes initiative in addressing and solving inter-Korean issues including the nuclear problem, and that it would play a supporting role.
Washington arranged for President Park’s visit to the Pentagon to affirm the two countries’ close security alliance. She was greeted by a full honor parade and she shook hands with soldiers, thanking them for the “dynamic South Korea-U.S. alliance.” The officers shouted back to her cheers of “We go together.” She quelled some worries about Seoul’s titling toward China following her attendance of the military parade in Beijing last month to mark the end of World War II.
Still, the much-anticipated summit talks have not produced a meaningful outcome. Although the joint statement clearly said the two countries are open to dialogue with North Korea, they fell short of specifying detailed actions to draw Pyongyang back to denuclearization talks. They also failed to come up with an outline to encourage opening and reform in the reclusive state. The fact that President Obama only has a year left in his tenure also dilutes the possibility of real action from Washington to follow up on its strong words. Some are even worried that Washington instead could nag Seoul to improve ties with Tokyo to form united front against North Korean nuclear policy. At the end of the day, it is up to Korea to take action.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 19, Page 34