Alarming divergenceSouth Korean lawmakers are heatedly engaged in diplomatic activities in Washington ahead of a second U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi, Vietnam. A bipartisan delegation, including National Assembly speaker Moon Hee-sang and leaders of five political parties, are meeting with U.S. think tanks, senior officials at the Department of State and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on their eight-day trip from Feb. 10. In a separate four-day trip starting Monday, another delegation, led by Rep. Na Kyung-won, floor leader of the opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), will be expressing concerns from conservatives to opinion leaders in the United States. On the surface, both delegations champion South Korea-U.S. cooperation to help settle peace on the Korean Peninsula. But their radically different approaches are cause for concern.
The ruling Democratic Party (DP) and more liberal Justice Party support the Moon Jae-in administration’s stance that the denuclearization of North Korea should be driven by eased international sanctions and active inter-Korean exchanges. They stress the need for U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to discuss resumption of business at the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mount Kumgang tours in their summit slated for Feb. 27 and 28. Before leaving the country, Rep. Na underscored the need to make an end-of-war declaration on the precondition of complete denuclearization and peace on the peninsula.
It is natural that political parties have different views. For the consistency of government policies, however, they must first build consensus before embarking on diplomatic trips overseas. When it comes to the North Korean issues, in particular, the ruling and opposition parties must have sincere discussions, narrow any gaps in their views, find a common denominator, and then declare them. That’s why voters elected them to their seats in the National Assembly.
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) last December, which requires sanctions on North Korea until it stops engaging in illegal activities. The Senate and House of Representatives passed five of 41 resolutions and bills on North Korea from 2017 to last year, when the 115th Congress convened.
Our legislature must establish key principles of law-making related to North Korea, which will surely help the executive branch implement policies and let our neighbors understand what South Korea wants. Political fights in the country must stop outside our borders.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 13, Page 34