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Korea-U.S. summit needed

May 11,2017
In an inaugural address on Wednesday, President Moon Jae-in said he would immediately fly to Washington if the need arises. He also said he would go to Beijing and Tokyo, not to mention Pyongyang, although he specified that “circumstances” would have to permit that trip. Given the grim geopolitical reality facing the Korean Peninsula, we welcome his remarks.

South Korea is at a crossroads with unprecedented diplomatic challenges involving the United States, China and Japan. A critical lack of summit diplomacy over the last five months since the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye over an abuse of power scandal rings loud alarm bells about our diplomatic relations.

We hope the new president tackles the daunting challenges by having face-to-face meetings with the leaders of major countries as soon as possible to fill the leadership vacuum and build friendly personal relations with them. The most urgent meeting of all is a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in order to first resolve different views about the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and discrepancies over South Korea’s share in defense costs for the U.S. Forces here. Washington can also play a key role in addressing the conflicts over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, China’s retaliations for the joint deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system, and the unmitigated friction between Seoul and Tokyo over the wartime sex slaves issue. That’s why President Moon must have a summit with Trump soon.

After the launch of the new government, the liberal administration in South Korea faces a potentially dangerous situation in which it must deal with a conservative — and hawkish — administration in the U.S. Without sufficient communication, both sides could turn against each other.

Some conservative media outlets in the U.S. reported that the decade-old alliance could break if Moon pushes forward what they called the “Moonshine Policy” — a twist on former president Kim Dae-jung’s “Sunshine Policy” of engagement with North Korea. They warned of the possibility of a rupture in the joint front against the North if the new Seoul administration pursues a rapprochement with Pyongyang. We hope Moon meets with Trump as soon as possible to ease such concerns.

But there are concerns that a possible lack of preparations for a summit with Trump could lead to failure. Our diplomatic authorities must fully prepare.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 11, Page 34