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The Big Four

May 13,2017
President Moon Jae-in had a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday night. That wrapped up Moon’s phone conversations with leaders of the four most important countries for Korea, which also include the U.S., China, and Japan. (Moon broke with precedent by also chatting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.)

What attracts our attention is that he “frankly” exchanged views on sensitive issues with the leaders instead of having pure courtesy calls.

In Thursday’s phone conversation with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Moon candidly described the Korean people’s dissatisfaction with the deal struck between the Park Geun-hye administration and Japan over the volatile sex slave issue. In his talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping the same day, Moon called on him to stop China’s retaliations for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system.

Moon’s conversations with the four leaders laid bare the grim reality facing the Korean Peninsula. Now Moon must return to the kind of summit diplomacy the government could not engage in after the impeachment of former president Park.

His first step is to restore our standing with the four major powers so vital to our security. From that perspective, the new government has made the right decision to send presidential emissaries to Washington, Beijing, Tokyo and Moscow. The government also needs to carefully weigh its priorities in our diplomatic agenda. Needless to say, the top priority should be put on resolving the threats from North Korea.

At a hearing by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who made a secret trip to Seoul last month, warned of the possibility that a conventional war could break out on the peninsula. That’s remarkable because he made those remarks shortly after the CIA announced the establishment of a Korea Mission Center dedicated to dealing with North Korea. That reflects Uncle Sam’s deepening security concerns about the nuclear threat from Pyongyang.

Beijing, too, says it cannot put up with a speedy “fermentation” of the North Korean nuclear threat. This rare united front between Washington and Beijing in bringing pressure on Pyongyang is aimed at dragging the recalcitrant state to the negotiation table. President Moon is determined to play a key role in addressing the issue. To achieve that goal, he must have close cooperation from — and build friendly personal relations with — the four leaders.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 13, Page 26