Hopes for 2-plus-2 talks
Clinton advises N. Korea to `feed your people’
South Korea and the United States ended their second ``two-plus-two’’ talks in Washington Friday after exchanging a wide range of views on issues of mutual concern including North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats.
The joint talks ― attended by Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Kim Sung-hwan and Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin from the Korean side and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Minister Leon Panetta from the United States ― have become the key dialogue channel through which discussion on the comprehensive strategic alliance pursued by the two countries occurs.
When first held in Seoul two years ago, the talks mostly addressed measures to counter North Korean threats but the Washington meeting covered a variety of issues concerning not only neighboring countries such as China and Japan but also distant states such as Myanmar and Afghanistan.
Given Korea’s enhanced presence in the international community, we see the expanded scope of the talks as an encouraging sign and believe that the allies will use the four-way forum to discuss ways of promoting international cooperation. Specifically, their agreement to jointly tackle terrorism, organized crime, drugs, poverty and other international problems deserves applause.
Of course, the most outstanding issue of the latest talks was North Korea’s long-range missile development and the possibility of a new nuclear test and therefore top priority was given to mapping out countermeasures. In particular, the allies agreed to strengthen their combined defenses against North Korean missiles.
With regard to the issue of empowering South Korea’s missile development capability, Seoul and Washington reacted differently. Panetta expressed optimism about talks with South Korea on extending the South’s missile range, saying, ``We are making good progress, and our hope is that we can arrive at an agreeable solution soon,’’ but his South Korean counterpart, Defense Minister Kim, said the missile range issue was ``not raised as an agenda item.’’
Given their remarks, the two countries seem to have working-level consultations on this matter, but it remains to be seen whether the United States will give South Korea the range extension before President Lee Myung-bak’s term ends in February. Seoul is barred from possessing ballistic missiles with a range of more than 300 kilometers and a payload heavier than 500 kilograms under a 2001 agreement with Washington.
Drawing our particular attention is that they agreed to coordinate against cyber attacks by North Korea, reflecting changes in modern warfare. A joint statement released after the talks said, ``A proactive and whole-government approach is needed to address the increasing threats in cyberspace, which may put the infrastructure of both our nations at great risk.’’ Seoul says the North has an elite team of hackers and often stages cyber-attacks on websites of its government agencies and financial institutions.
Also noteworthy was Clinton’s direct appeal to North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un: ``Rather than invest in implements of war, feed your people.’’ She said, ``This young man, should he make a choice that would help bring North Korea into the 21st century, could go down in history as a transformative leader or he can continue the model of the past.’’ We fully support Clinton’s ``sincere’’ advice and urge the North to tread a ``path to rejoin the international community’’ by refraining from provocation and taking concrete steps to give up nuclear weapons.
We positively assess the results from the latest talks and Seoul and Washington may have to consider regularizing them.