Former Envoy Criticizes all 3 SidesJames T. Laney, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, in a paper on recent inter-Korean relations said, "There have been misjudgments by all parties, including Seoul, Pyongyang and Washington," since the June 2000 inter-Korean summit. Mr. Laney presented the paper, titled "From Confrontation to Coexistence," at a conference Wednesday in Seoul for the Peace Forum.
At the conference, "Peace and Reconciliation in Northeast Asia," President Kim Dae-jung said, "Inter-Korean peace, reconciliation and cooperation are now flowing in a direction that no one can counter." He also defended the necessity of his "sunshine" policy.
But Mr. Laney said the sunshine policy lacked the support of the majority of South Koreans. "The public needed to see the summit as the culmination of attempts by every president, going back all the way to [former President] Park Chung Hee, to meet with the North's leader," he said. Mr. Laney added that the public needed to see the summit as an accomplishment for all South Koreans.
Pyongyang, meanwhile, makes "unrealistic, impossible demands" because it "seriously misjudged, and continues to underestimate, the constraints placed on leaders in a democracy in maintaining popular mandate," Mr. Laney said.
The Bush administration, in turn, is responsible for having taken too long to review its North Korea policy, and for not continuing the engagement policy of the Clinton administration, Mr. Laney said.
"By misjudging the gravity and urgency of the situation, this approach has undercut our staunch ally in Seoul and angered Pyongyang," leading inter-Korean relations back to "square one," he contended.
Mr. Laney advised the Kim administration to forge a consensus in favor of engagement with the North and urged North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to pay his return visit to Seoul soon, as South Korea's willingness to deal with Pyongyang is not forever granted.
As for Washington, he recommended it deal with Pyongyang at the highest level, throw its weight behind Seoul's engagement efforts and work closely with China and Russia to guarantee peace in the region.
Mr. Laney concluded his presentation by suggesting the resumption of contacts between Washington and Pyongyang at the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Shanghai in October.
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