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[Editorial] Roh’s Charisma Not Enough

Posted September. 02, 2006 07:00,   


Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon said yesterday in a meeting organized by Gwanhun Club, a fraternity of senior journalists, “Sadly, many differences exist in views between Korea and the United States. However, the issues should not be uttered but need to be addressed immediately.” In stark contrast, President Roh Moo-hyun reiterated that there is no problem in the bilateral relationship in a KBS news conference the day before yesterday. Accepting whatever problem as it is opens a way to a solution. In this regard, Ban’s forthcoming attitude will be more helpful for restoring the ROK-U.S. alliance than Roh looking the other way.

This month a Korea-U.S. summit is scheduled on September 14 and Shinzo Abe is expected to succeed Koizumi in Japan on September 20, which is perfect timing to re-examine this nation’s diplomacy, which has been swayed by President Roh’s strategy highlighting “independent diplomacy.”

The Korea-U.S. summit should serve as an opportunity to narrow the huge gap between the two countries’ stances on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, counterfeit money, and human rights issues. The two leaders should openly discuss wartime command transfer and FTA negotiations in the shared vision of the ROK-U.S. alliance. The alliance should be based on a common response against external threats. Thus, the two allies must reach a middle ground this time in one way or another. The summit should not stop at a photo-op or a customary one. This means President Roh has no time to lose.

Recently Japanese participants in the 14th round of a Korea-Japan forum in Awajishima on August 29 to 31 cited the different point of views on North Korea as a major reason for the strained Korea-Japan ties, which is worth noting regarding the current situation.

Tokyo has to take its own share of responsibility for the spat over territorial disputes concerning the Dokdo islets and controversial visits to Yasukuni Shrine by its political leaders. However, the Roh administration’s North Korean policy also contributed to the diplomatic fallout.

Once Abe takes the helm of the cabinet, Japan might have a summit meeting with China over Korea, Never before has Tokyo had chosen Beijing over Seoul as a summit meeting partner since the normalization of ties between Korea and Japan.

Now it is time for the two countries to resolve the conflicts fueled on and off by their leaders. As it happens, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Shotaro Yachi is going to visit Korea this week to attend a strategic dialogue, and Abe Shinzo also plans to make a phone call to Roh shortly after his inauguration.

The Korean government was informed by China, not by its closer allies, about the details of UN Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang. It should no longer let the soured relationship with the U.S. and Japan go uncared for.

Korea, sandwiched between superpowers, cannot stand alone without cooperative ties with other countries. Presidential “chutzpah” cannot restore diplomacy in the nation’s interests.