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[Editorial] `Stick Instead of the Carrot` Diplomacy

Posted November. 20, 2008 07:28,   


The transition team of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has drawn up a detailed “Obama and (Vice President-elect Joseph) Biden’s Plan” announced earlier in the presidential campaign. The blueprint for the new U.S. administration includes Korea’s greatest concerns – North Korea’s nuclear program, the free trade agreement with the United States, and the basic direction of U.S. policy toward East Asia.

In a statement, Obama said he will seek tough and direct diplomacy without preconditions with all nations, friend or foe. This shows his determination not to make the same mistakes of the Bush administration, which has lost both its political causes and practical interests in the process of pushing its unilateral diplomacy under a “good versus evil” dichotomy. Not only Iran but also North Korea will also be subject to Obama’s diplomatic platform. He said he will use “tough diplomacy backed by real incentives and real pressure” to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and to verifiably shut down the North`s nuclear program. This might appear as a carrot-and-stick approach at face value, but is more of a warning against Pyongyang not to make the wrong judgment. Former South Korean Foreign Minister Han Seung-joo, who also served as Seoul’s ambassador to Washington, said the message is not to underestimate the Obama administration.

Obama’s stance on nuclear arms control shows he will strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty to make countries like North Korea and Iran automatically receive harsh sanctions if they violate nuclear agreements. Considering the strong global support for Obama, even China and Russia will have difficulty exercising their vetoes in the United Nations Security Council. Pyongyang must not commit the blunder of “facing a police station by trying to avoid a police box.”

On the economy, the new administration seeks to fight for trade policy and stand firm against agreements undermining U.S. economic security. On the North American Free Trade Agreement, Obama said the 15-year-old accord should be amended, saying, “Obama believes that NAFTA and its potential were oversold to the American people.” The position is no different from Obama’s position made in his presidential campaign that it is unfair for Korea to export about 700,000 cars per year to the United States while only importing 5,000 American cars. His administration has the potential to apply heavy pressure on Seoul over trade negotiations. Korea should take a careful yet flexible response on this.