President Donald Trump sent President Moon Jae-in an official invitation to attend a South Korea-U.S. summit, which is soon to be held. It was long awaited in a time when the international atmosphere is far from cordial.
South Korea is currently experiencing diplomatic complications that not only concern North Korea but also our three powerful neighbors: the U.S., China and Japan. In such times, former President Park Geun-hye's impeachment and the five-month absence of normal diplomacy has dealt significant damage to South Korea.
In order to bridge the gap, President Moon must meet the leaders of major powers starting with Trump, building personal relationships, and at the same time, resolving the complicated web of diplomatic matters. Meeting with the head of each country is important, but of utmost priority is the South Korea-U.S. summit. The United States is not only important with regard to its military presence and the KORUS FTA*, but it also has a lot of say in the North Korean nuclear issue, in our conflict with China over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system and in our conflict with Japan over consensus on comfort women.
Now that the new administration is in office, South Korea's progressive regime and the conservative U.S. administration must cooperate for the first time in nine years. Without sufficient communication, dissonance is sure to arise.
Some right-wing U.S. media have reported that President Moon may experience friction with the U.S. as he pursues a “Moonshine Policy,” which takes after the “Sunshine Policy.” In circumstances where the international community, headed by the United States, is maximizing pressure on North Korea, South Korea’s sudden change to a policy of engagement toward North Korea will undermine their joint effort to pressure and isolate the country. In order to eradicate this misperception, President Moon expects to have a deep and honest dialogue with Trump.
One worry is that a lack of time may not properly prepare Moon for the summit, which could then be catastrophic. To prevent such an unfortunate outcome, our diplomatic authorities should focus all their resources on preparing for the summit. More specifically, as President Moon has proposed dispatching a special envoy to the U.S. and Trump has promised to send a senior advisory board, the two allies will have to utilize these channels to successfully coordinate policy decisions.
*Editor’s note: KORUS FTA stands for the Korea-U.S Free Trade Agreement.