Ties with U.S., Japan are key

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Ties with U.S., Japan are key

Global scholars and former statesmen shared their wisdom on the North Korean nuclear problem and geopolitical situation in Korea during the 14th Jeju Forum for Peace & Prosperity. Joseph Yun, the former U.S. special representative for North Korea, praised South Korean President Moon Jae-in for his efforts to draw the United States and North Korea to the dialogue table.

Still he relayed Washington’s concerns on Seoul’s policy on North Korea. He claimed sanctions had been “very effective” and thought more factors should be employed to strengthen sanctions. He said North Korean missile capacity should not be underestimated and was doubtful about South Korea’s humanitarian aid plan, since North Korea does not want it.

The government must pay heed to outside concerns about its policy. Seoul should be credited with easing tensions on the brink of a war-like situation. But its over indulgence of Pyongyang has lessened Seoul’s diplomatic maneuvering room.

Asia has become the venue for diplomacy at the height of U.S.-China competition and uncertainties over the North Korean nuclear issue. The Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier security summit, kicked off in Singapore on Friday. The G-20 summit conference will be held in Japan on June 28-29. Korean President Moon Jae-in may find himself as an outsider among global powers.

Except for U.S. President Donald Trump’s brief stop in Seoul on the sidelines of the Osaka summit, the government has failed to arrange separate summit talks while global leaders are in the neighborhood. Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly turned down a request to visit Seoul. Whether Moon can meet with his Japanese counterpart is also uncertain. Japan, meanwhile, has cemented “treasured alliance” with the United States and also has been improving ties with China. It will be holding three-way talks with the United States and India instead of South Korea to accelerate its pivot to the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting.

Seoul must face reality. It must reconfirm its alliance with the United States and try to mend ties with Japan. Its diplomacy cannot work unless it has the backing of the United States and cooperation from Japan.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 31, Page 30
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