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Park-Obama summit should send strong message to N. Korea

Park-Obama summit should send strong message to N. Korea

Posted May. 04, 2013 02:13,   


South Korean President Park Geun-hye and U.S. President Barack Obama are scheduled to hold their first summit in Washington D.C. on Tuesday. Park’s visit to the U.S. carries an important meaning in that it is the first overseas trip since her inauguration in late February and takes place in the 60th anniversary of the two countries’ alliance. Although this is not a state visit, Washington gave her an opportunity to deliver a speech at a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives. A large placard hung on the building of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul celebrates the 60 years of alliance and partnership, implicatively showing the expectations both allies have.

President Park has inherited the diplomatic assets of the previous Lee Myung-bak administration, which restored the bilateral relations. In the cold diplomatic arena, where each country seeks its own national interest, however, a friendly atmosphere is a necessary condition but not a sufficient one. The success of summit diplomacy depends on actual results it produces. President Park should make a successful debut in the first summit with President Obama, whom she will face in the international arena a number of times, in order to have a smooth four-year partnership with him.

The common challenge to the two allies is to defuse the security crisis created by North Korea. Pyongyang will likely watch the result of the upcoming summit. The leaders of South Korea and the U.S. should send a strong message to North Korea, urging the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to give up nuclear armament and provocations and return to the negotiation table. It is necessary to make Kim understand that it is the only way for the North’s survival. The value of the bilateral alliance will shine only if the two allies stand firmly together on North Korea.

The Seoul-Washington summit will also likely affect the future of East Asia. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is creating a stir in the region by whitewashing Japan’s wartime atrocities. Although Chinese President Xi Jinping has proposed a “new type of great power relationship,” he is agonizing over how to establish new relations with neighboring countries. Beijing and Tokyo will also watch the summit closely. President Park plans to explain to the U.S. president her North Korea policy called “Korean Peninsula trust-building process” and the “Seoul process,” her idea for peaceful cooperation in Northeast Asia. Her initiatives have some things in common with Obama’s “pivot to Asia." If the two leaders join hands, they can contribute to stability in Northeast Asia as well.

Presidents Park and Obama also have important bilateral issues to deal with. Seoul and Washington have recently agreed to extend the expiry of the Atomic Energy Agreement, which originally was to expire in 2014, and hold negotiations over proposed revision of the pact every three months from June. However, the plan is only a stopgap measure. The two leaders should seek a solution at this opportunity. President Park will be accompanied by an economic delegation composed of 51 people, the largest ever both quantitatively and qualitatively. We expect that the summit will produce a number of economic results that would celebrate the six decade of the alliance between South Korea and the U.S.