Park on the tightrope

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Park on the tightrope

President Park Geun-hye kicks off an 8-day trip to Russia, China and Laos from Friday in the middle of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and the controversy over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system.

The president has a long road ahead of her. First, she will have a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum from September 2 to 3 in Vladivostok. After that, she flies to Hangzhou, China, to participate in the G-20 summit from Sept. 4 to 5. Though not confirmed yet, Park will likely meet with Chinese president Xi Jinping for a summit followed by the Asean Summit in Laos on Sept. 7 to 8.

Her trip is aimed at finding a breakthrough in the nuclear deadlock and easing resistance from China and Russia over the Thaad deployment. The situation around the Korean Peninsula is getting more precarious than ever as a result of the North’s brazen campaign to develop its nuclear and missile capabilities.

One of the solutions to prevent Pyongyang from further developing its nuclear weapons and missiles is seeking Beijing and Moscow’s support. At a recent cabinet meeting, Park mentioned a strong need to take advantage of the trip to address our security and economic concerns.

The president must ask for concessions from China over the Thaad deployment. China has vehemently opposed it, but changed its position, albeit subtly, after North Korea’s successful firing on August 24 of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). Beijing did not object to a new UN Security Council resolution denouncing the missile test. Park must reassure Beijing that Thaad will not pose any threat to China, while offering additional measures, if necessary, to help ease China’s concerns. That will help get Seoul-Beijing relations off of the roller coaster.

Park must seek Russia’s understanding on the deployment and urge Moscow to strongly react to the North’s new threat with tangible actions. At the same time, she must discuss with Putin practical ways to cooperate to develop Russia’s Far East. Russia has been eager to develop the vast area by investing a whopping $337.4 billion in more than 300 projects by 2025.

As discussed in the six-day Peace Odyssey 2016 organized by the JoongAng Ilbo, we can have more leverage in resolving the crisis thanks to a lack of territorial disputes with Russia — a definite advantage. Russia also wants to build an industrial complex like the one in Kaesong. We hope Park adroitly demonstrates leadership on this trip.

*JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 1, Page 34
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