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[Editorial] Presidential Candidates Need Plan to Mend Fences with U.S.

[Editorial] Presidential Candidates Need Plan to Mend Fences with U.S.

Posted October. 30, 2007 15:59,   


Widening differences between America and South Korea surrounding a peace treaty between the two Koreas seem serious. Alexander Vershbow, the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, made it clear on October 25 that the time to open a dialogue for a peace treaty would be after North Korea’s complete disablement of its nuclear program, adding, “Concluding a peace treaty would end the war legally and politically.”

Vershbow’s remark is seen as a counterargument against what Baek Jong-cheon, chief presidential secretary for National Security, said a day before: “The idea of a three-party summit or a four-party summit contained in the inter-Korean summit declaration is a politically symbolic move reflecting the wishes of neighboring countries to start peace negotiations.” This seems to capture the essence of uneasy U.S.-ROK relations.

It is said that some U.S. officials have circulated a report stressing the need to review the U.S.-ROK alliance, and the next two years will be the best time to do so as the Korean and U.S. governments will both see different administrations in that time. The report, produced by Washington-based think tank ‘Policy Research Group’ listed the differences between the U.S. and the ROK over the issue of North Korea as the prime challenge facing the U.S.-ROK alliance. It suggests a transformation of the alliance, meaning that micro adjustments will likely not do any good.

This assessment of the U.S.-ROK alliance would not have come out had there not been the accumulation of discord between the two countries after the start of the Roh administration. It is urgent to take steps to remedy that. Presidential candidates should feel the weight of this issue and offer concrete plans to strengthen the alliance. True, presidential nominee Lee Myung-bak of the Grand National Party and presidential nominee Chung Dong-young of the United New Democratic Party have planned a visit to the U.S. right after the presidential election out of awareness of the importance of the alliance to South Korea. Yet what is needed is a fundamental solution, not a one-time event.

The presidential candidates should learn a lesson from those that unnecessarily damaged the alliance based on the illusion of self-reliance, including the negotiations for the return of the wartime operational authority from the United States. It is self-contradictory that Chung disagrees with the extension of the dispatch of the Zaytun unit in Iraq, a decision that the government made after considering many things comprehensively, including the U.S.-ROK alliance, while saying, “I want the government to make further efforts to strengthen the U.S.-ROK alliance.”

Lee should not stop at a theoretical level of declaring, “the next government will put more emphasis on the relations between the U.S. and South Korea.” He should present a more detailed strategy that would restore and advance the alliance at the earliest possible time.

The U.S. is the principal participant in the six-party talks and dialogue concerning a Korean peace treaty. Utilizing the U.S. wisely is what Korea urgently needs. The candidates’ views and vision about the U.S.-ROK alliance should be a primary criteria for Korean voters on December 19.