The Heritage Foundation

WebMemo #276 on Asia

May 16, 2003

May 16, 2003 | WebMemo on Asia

The Bush-Roh Summit: Where Do We Go From Here?

What Did the Summit Accomplish?

The overall tone of the summit was very positive. The two leaders chose to emphasize the positive aspects of the United States- Republic of Korea (ROK) bilateral relationship, stressing shared goals for promoting mutual security, and the continued importance of our economic relationship.

 

Both leaders confirmed that they share the same priority and commitment to rid North Korea of its nuclear programs. They also expressed confidence that this issue could be resolved peacefully through diplomatic measures.

 

Where Do We Go From Here?

What was left unresolved are the more complex issues of how to achieve progress on North Korea's denuclearization: the methods to be employed and the contingencies if diplomatic efforts fail.

 

The two Presidents also did not go into detail to address the differences between the U.S. and ROK approaches towards the North. But agreement and a positive attitude emphasizing a cooperative approach between the two leaders was an important precedent for establishing future direction of policy. It will now be the task of the policy-makers in each administration to iron out the details of any policy divergences that may remain.

 

Unity between the two allies is a critical message for North Korea. North Korea's goal over the decades has been to divide the alliance. If history is any predictor, Pyongyang will continue to act provocatively while simultaneously making conciliatory gestures designed to separate Washington from Seoul and Tokyo.

 

Peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the region, is still the primary goal for both the United States and South Korea. This first summit between the two leaders communicated that commitment clearly. It also set the stage for future meetings and additional diplomacy among regional players to coordinate strategy in attaining that goal.

 

For more, see this recent Executive Memorandum, Resolving the North Korean Nuclear Issue, also by Balbina Hwang.

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