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Ensuring a good start for renewed Korea-U.S. ties

Posted February. 16, 2001 19:33,   


The forthcoming trip to the United States by President Kim Dae-Jung, which is to begin March 7, has very important implications. During his U.S. visit, Kim will hold a summit with his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush, head of a Republican administration whose philosophy differs markedly from that of former president Bill Clinton. Also notable is the volatile situation on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia. The Kim-Bush summit is expected to be highly significant in that the two leaders will make their first attempt at bilateral policy coordination.

The Bush administration is said to endorse the basic framework of the Seoul government`s "sunshine policy" of engagement with North Korea and the Clinton government`s overall North Korean policy, but there appears to be some disparity in their views of certain pending issues. The new U.S. government is still suspicious that North Korea may pose a serious military threat and may still be engaged in the development of nuclear, missile and other weapons of mass destruction.

Washington has declined to divulge its official position with regard to the perceived changes that are taking place in Pyongyang. Because its suspicions have not been cleared, officials of the Bush administration appear to favor maintaining a policy of strict reciprocity and verification toward the North.

Hence, the success of President Kim`s U.S. visit hinges on how effectively he can coordinate Washington`s North Korea policy with Seoul`s current inter-Korean policy line. The suspicions raised by the Bush administration are not a matter that can be resolved easily, despite the optimistic views of certain Korean government officials. From a global standpoint, Washington`s policies toward Pyongyang are not necessarily identical to Seoul`s.

Moreover, this Bush administration`s stance is probably an accurate reflection of U.S. public opinion. The conservative tendency in the U.S. could serve as good lesson to the Korean people.

The focus of the countries with the greatest influence on the Korean peninsula this spring will be on summit talks and diplomacy. The matter of utmost concern is the reciprocal visit to Seoul by North Korean Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-Il. The Bush administration is of the view that the North Korean leader`s Seoul projected visit is a symbol of the changes that are apparently taking place in the Stalinist state. One of President Kim`s missions for his U.S. trip is to preclude any misunderstandings or friction concerning the North Korean leader`s visit.

With the president`s forthcoming Washington trip as the momentum, the Seoul-Washington relationship of mutual coordination and cooperation ought to be reaffirmed and solidified, so that inter-Korean relations can continue to make smooth progress.