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Back to the summits

May 17,2017
South Korea’s summit diplomacy kicks off after a five-month hiatus following the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye over an unprecedented abuse of power scandal. On Tuesday, the new Moon Jae-in administration’s task force on diplomacy and security agreed to a summit between Moon and U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington next month after meeting with Matthew Pottinger, senior director for Asia at the National Security Council. We welcome both sides’ prompt action to fix a date for the June summit after the two leaders’ telephone conversation last week.

South Korea has experienced a critical leadership vacuum over the past five months after Park was removed from office by a Constitutional Court trial over her involvement in the Choi Soon-sil scandal. Even though former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn played the role of acting president during the period, our diplomacy was hurt by a critical lack of summit diplomacy. It was very rare for Seoul and Washington not to have a summit even three months after the launch of the Trump administration in the U.S. During that time, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Trump twice to build mutual trust as an ally.

Diplomacy is affected by the political, economic and security conditions of any two nations. But personal relationships between two heads of state also play a big part in the realm of diplomacy. Moon must establish close ties with Trump in the summit. Our diplomatic authorities must do their best to prepare for the meeting to make up for lost time and momentum.

Moon explained his diplomatic blueprint to special envoys he’s sending to the U.S., China, Japan, Russia, the European Union and Germany. As Moon said, the nation faces grim realities on both the diplomatic and security fronts. South Korea has to tackle such thorny issues as raising our share of defense costs for U.S. forces here and a renegotiation of a free trade deal with the U.S. The new government also must address the conflict with China over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system and the friction with Japan over the sex slave issue. The government must draw cooperation from Russia and the EU on several issues, including the ever-growing nuclear threat from North Korea.

Summits can provide breakthroughs. Moon’s decision to send emissaries to our important partners is the first step in achieving that goal. We urge the new government to exert all efforts for Moon to have successful summits.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 17, Page 30