Seoul courted trouble with two-faced policy
Few experts, even in the government, refute the Lee Myung-bak administration’s North Korea policy has all but failed. Except for the President, who recently recalled he has succeeded in ``correcting” the wrong framework of inter-Korean relations with his hard-line policy.
Many South Koreans, remembering Seoul’s failed, behind-the-scenes attempt in May 2011 to hold an inter-Korean summit, tilted their heads with disbelief. What happened between South and North Korean diplomats in the United States last week reaffirmed their doubts were right.
At an eight-nation workshop on the Korean Peninsula organized by Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, N.Y., South Korean participants, led by Lim Sung-nam, President Lee’s top nuclear envoy, persistently tried to have talks with their North Korean counterparts, but failed because of the latter’s refusal. The reason for such anxiety: Pyongyang’s possible sidelining of Seoul in the trilateral relationship with Washington.
North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho even avoided sitting at the same table with Lim as foreigners looked on. It was an insult added to injury in the wake of the Feb. 29 agreement, in which the communist regime would halt some of its nuclear activities in return for the U.S. food aid. It’s a small surprise then, considering Seoul, which had not been invited, reportedly attempted to scuttle the workshop by asking Washington to deny visa issuance to the North Koreans.
No less embarrassing to see was Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, who looked content to hear his U.S. counterpart repeat diplomatic rhetoric that ``any effort to drive a wedge between the United States and the Republic of Korea will fail.”
Until when South Koreans should wait before President Lee and his diplomatic team realize no alliance can take precedence to national interests in the tough world of international politics? In the Feb. 29 accord, the U.S. did not make improved inter-Korean relations a precondition for restarting the six-party talks but regarded it as a ``homework.”
Pride might also be a factor for a while in the long rivalry between the Koreas.
But at stake should be the self-determination of the Koreans, and the protection of Korean interests and property, both in the South and North. Which country in the world would place its fate in others’ hands and watch their faces?
That the belated dispatch of Lim was not the decision of the foreign ministry but Cheong Wa Dae comes as cold comfort.