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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 12)

2017/06/12 07:00

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Moon's diplomatic debut

Korea-US summit to test President on foreign affairs

Cheong Wa Dae's biggest priority in the coming weeks is the meeting between President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump.

There has been a long vacuum in the country's summit diplomacy due to the ousted former President Park Geun-hye's political troubles. With no proper diplomatic leadership for months, many Koreans were worried about Korea being left out in international talks on North Korea. Such concerns were reflected in the term "Korea passing," which often appeared in the domestic press.

Moon has a heavy responsibility to put to rest concerns about Korea's diplomatic isolation. Many people became more concerned about "Korea passing" under the Trump administration. Trump has already met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The world will be eyeing the Moon-Trump meeting, because the main topic will undoubtedly be North Korea.

The summit serves several purposes. Success or otherwise will depend on how much Moon can achieve them. First, Moon should make it clear that the two countries are on the same page in dealing with North Korea, which has already conducted several missile tests since he took office. Moon should show a firm stance on not embarking on any kind of talks or exchanges with North Korea unless Pyongyang responds to international calls to terminate its missile and nuclear provocations. The U.S. will support such a stance because Trump has also professed he would talk with North Korea only under "the right circumstances."

   Second, Moon should convince Trump that his administration is not reluctant about the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, which has emerged as a source of conflict between the two countries. Moon has ordered a proper environmental impact report on THAAD, which is expected to delay its deployment. This has triggered concern in Washington. Moon should reassure his counterpart that there is no disaccord on the need for THAAD deployment to defend Korea and U.S. troops against North Korea's increasing military provocations.

It is worrisome that domestic circumstances are not conducive to smooth preparations for the summit. Moon has been unable to appoint a foreign minister because of strong objections from the opposition parties to nominee Kang Kyung-wha.

After the Korea-U.S. summit, there are other diplomatic events awaiting President Moon, such as the G20 meeting in July. He is also likely to sit down soon with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two leaders have already spoken twice on the phone. During a meeting with National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun last week, Abe expressed a desire to hold an early Korea-Japan summit. Given these circumstances, it is crucial for a foreign minister to be appointed as soon as possible.

(END)

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