A pointless trip

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A pointless trip

 Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is on a visit to the United States. The Foreign Ministry said she would meet with diplomacy and security aides to President-elect Joe Biden to discuss bilateral issues following her meeting Monday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who invited Kang to Washington, according to the ministry. However, we cannot but wonder whether Kang’s trip to the United States at this moment is really appropriate.

Messages Kang delivered to Washington will not be different from what President Moon Jae-in said earlier. On Monday, Moon promised to do his best for the “precious achievements” he had made together with Donald Trump’s administration “to continue and advance further in a new U.S. administration.” Moon’s remarks reflect his hope for a continuation of Trump’s top-down approach to denuclearization of North Korea even under a Biden administration. Moon obviously wants to return to summit diplomacy by bringing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the international stage again on the occasion of the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Kang’s trip to the United States most likely has that purpose.

However, such a position will likely clash with the Biden camp’s thinking of the Korean Peninsula. In fact, Biden referred to the three extravagant summits between Trump and Kim as “failures” because they only helped Kim — Biden called him a “thug” in a TV debate — make a successful international debut without reaping any substantial results and ended up with the continued development of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. As Biden is expected to drastically roll back Trump’s North Korea policy, Moon’s hope for a continuation of Trump’s legacy will be dashed by Biden’s administration.

That’s not all. There are concerns that Kang will not be able to meet key aides of Biden this time due to his strict order not to meet officials from foreign countries — a hard-earned lesson from the Russian interference with the 2016 U.S. presidential election due to Trump’s contacts with Russian officials.

Biden’s camp is extra careful not to meet with foreign government officials to the extent of canceling its members’ trips to an international conference in Seoul. Therefore, our Foreign Ministry is keeping mum on whom Kang meets among members of the Biden camp. In other words, the possibility of Kang meeting with key figures of Biden’s camp is not high.

Her trip to the United States at a sensitive time raises questions about the purpose. What the Moon administration should do now is not reiterate its position on North Korea to Washington, but review its past policy to reconcile it with the strategies of a new U.S. government.
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