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[Editorial] The Importance of the S. Korea-US Summit

Posted June. 10, 2009 09:49,   


The South Korea-U.S. summit in Washington next week comes amid heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula due to North Korea’s rocket launch and its second nuclear test. Pyongyang will probably pay keen attention to the meeting because U.S. President Barack Obama says he will deter the North and Iran from possessing nuclear weapons under the name of the international community. Presidents Lee Myung-bak and Obama must come up with concrete measures to stop the communist country’s nuclear ambition while sending a stern warning to it.

The Obama administration has distanced itself from its predecessor’s unilateral diplomacy since its inauguration, pursuing active cooperation with allies. As shown by troop deployments to Iraq and Lebanon and joining an international anti-piracy drive in Somali waters, South Korea is also active in efforts to keep world peace. Last year, Seoul and Washington pledged to develop bilateral relations, which had focused on security, into a 21st-century alliance that contributes to world peace and stability. They agreed to expand their partnership to areas such as politics, economy, society and culture. Hopefully, next week’s summit will pave the way for strengthening this alliance.

The two nations have united in responding to the North’s continued provocations. President Obama said he will not reward the North for its provocations. President Lee also reiterated that he will not allow Pyongyang to possess nuclear weapons. If the U.N. Security Council passes a new resolution condemning the North for its nuclear test, the two leaders should do their utmost to effectively implement sanctions of the resolution. Separate from the resolution, they also need additional measures to punish the communist country for its misbehavior.

In preparation for a worst case scenario, the summit should also draw up contingency security measures. For his part, President Obama needs to declare his determination to protect South Korea from a North Korean nuclear attack under the U.S. nuclear umbrella and recognize Seoul’s fears over the transfer of wartime operational command. At a time when the North is stepping up its threats against the South, the United States must heed growing public opinion in the South over the delay of wartime operational command.

President Obama should also take responsibility by laying the groundwork for approval of the free trade deal. South Korea has submitted the agreement for ratification to its National Assembly. The summit will ring hollow if it fails to show the two leaders’ determination to live up to bilateral agreements such as the one on free trade.

Seoul and Washington must closely cooperate to deal with the North Korean nuclear issue and build a future-oriented alliance. Presidents Lee and Obama will work together for four years until the end of their respective terms. They should remember that a lot of hope is pinned on them.