WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 (Yonhap) -- Taking the baton from President Lee Myung-bak, South Korea's incoming leader, Park Geun-hye, will inherit not only the diplomatic asset of a robust alliance with the U.S. but also a heavy security burden -- a stand-off with North Korea.
When it comes to the foreign affairs and security front, many agree, Park's top priority will be crafting an effective policy on Pyongyang and coordinating its implementation with Washington.
They describe North Korea as a major challenge for the two sides as they seek to keep the alliance durable.
But Evans Revere, a renowned U.S. expert on Korea issues, is confident that Park will get along with President Barack Obama.
"The U.S.-ROK (South Korea) relationship has reached a historic high point in recent years, thanks to the excellent chemistry between our two leaders (Obama and Lee), but also due to the unprecedented level of policy coordination and trust between Seoul and Washington," he said Wednesday in an email interview.
"Madame Park's victory means that the two countries will almost certainly be able to build on this foundation going forward," he added.
Revere served as the principal deputy assistant secretary of state and acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs before retiring from the Foreign Service in 2007. He worked as president of the Korea Society for three years.
Revere said the U.S. will have no problem with Park's plan to reach out to Pyongyang.
Both Park and Obama have "no illusions" about North Korea, he pointed out.
"They also probably share a deep skepticism about Pyongyang's willingness to engage seriously in denuclearization, which remains the key stumbling block to better ties," he said. "As long as both sides coordinate well, stick to their principles, and refuse to accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, I believe the United States and the ROK (South Korea) will manage the North Korea problem well."
He was optimistic as well that Seoul and Washington will iron out some differences over pending bilateral issues such as talks on Seoul's pursuit of more non-military nuclear activity, sharing of costs for American troops in South Korea, relocation of their bases, and smooth implementation of a free trade pact.
"Some differences may arise, as they often do between friends and allies, but I strongly believe that the fundamental trust and confidence that the two governments have in each other will ensure that any differences are well and smoothly handled," he said.
Other than the North Korea and bilateral alliance issues, Revere said, finding ways to harmonize relations with Japan should be another priority for the Seoul-Washington discussions.
"Seoul's troubled ties with Tokyo complicate the security equation in the region, especially by undermining the shared efforts by the three countries to contend with the challenge posed by Pyongyang," he said.