We must reset our diplomacy

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We must reset our diplomacy

Export restrictions from Japan against chip-making materials bound for Korea over a wartime labor row has raised an alarm on the economic front. Tokyo must take back its retaliatory action over past issues. But in the meantime, Korea must come up with immediate solutions so as not to cause manufacturing unrest and corporate damages. Litigation with the World Trade Organization (WTO) could take years.

The government must deal with the looming crisis. The National Security Office (NSO) of the Blue House last month denied that the relationship with Japan was the worst it had ever been. Instead, it claimed bilateral ties had always been rocky. The government stayed casual even as it tried to arrange a separate meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the G-20 Summit in Osaka last week. The government doubted the host country could be so rude towards its guest. Seoul scrambled till the last minute after receiving no invitation for separate talks, but got nothing more than a photo session with the host.

Korea’s dignity has hit the ground. During the talks on the sidelines of G-20 Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping called upon President Moon Jae-in to solve the problem of a U.S. antimissile system installed in Korea. Xi brought up the issue once again although Seoul has complied with Beijing’s demands and promised not to bring in more antimissile shields or join a tripartite missile front with the United States and Japan. Xi happily agreed when Abe asked him to visit Tokyo during the cherry blossom season next spring. But Xi kept mum on Moon’s request for a visit to Seoul.

The relationship with Washington also has stayed ceremonious. Moon just got two minutes of U.S. President Donald Trump’s time when he flew to Washington in April. Washington is said to be reluctant to share intelligence with Seoul. Regardless of the showy historic three-way meeting with the two Korean leaders and U.S. president in the truce village of Panmunjom, the denuclearization process remains uncertain, as their approach to solving the North Korean nuclear issue differ.

While the government has been all out in its engagement of Pyongyang, a North Korean vessel stealthily entered South Korean waters without any restrictions. Most people are stunned to learn how insecure South Korean borders have become. Peace cannot be guaranteed just because North Korea vowed nonaggression through a military agreement in September last year. The Blue House is trying to wrap up the issue with an apology from the defense minister and a warning to the NSO. But there should be a thorough investigation into the matter to ease public anxieties over security.

The impotence of chiefs on the security and diplomatic fronts must be re-examined. The foreign and security affairs team, including the NSO head Chung Eui-yong, failed to show any insight, expertise and sense of balance. There are talks of a cabinet reshuffle. The Blue House must replace the foreign and security team with more competent people to restore dignity and help our national interests.

JoongAng Sunday, July 6-7, Page 30
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