It is quite unfortunate that the White House showed explicit discomfort toward the South Korean government’s proposal for a South-North military dialogue. On July 17, White House press secretary Sean Spicer replied to a request to offer an opinion on the issue by stating that the question should be asked of the South Korean government. He then added, “I think [President Trump] has made clear in the past, with respect, that any type of conditions that would have to be met [for dialogue with North Korea] are clearly far away from where we are now.” This implies clear disapproval of the suggestion for dialogue. Similarly, Japan strongly protested the idea.The spokesperson for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlighted the fact that now is a time to pressure North Korea, not a time for communication.
When the U.S. and Japan’s cold reaction to the idea became known, government officials explained that there was “enough communication beforehand through diplomatic channels and more.” However, it is somewhat doubtful that this explanation is true, based on the fact that the U.S. almost never responded like this to our North Korea policy when there was prior communication between Korea and the U.S. It seems that even if our government thoroughly explained the idea beforehand, it was not able to secure proper agreement with the Trump administration.
Whatever the explanation, it is quite unfortunate that there is disagreement between the two nations in desperate times like these, when U.S.-South Korean cooperation is more important than ever. It is true that President Trump agreed that South Korea should take the leading role in shaping the mood for a peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula during last month’s U.S.-South Korea summit. However, our government cannot assume that this was an agreement to pursue its independent North Korea policy without any prior significant consent from the U.S.
Whether the South Korean government imposes harsh sanctions or attempts to ease tensions through new dialogue, one thing can be certain: It is crucial that it must cooperate with the U.S. and the international community. If different North Korean policies are pursued by South Korea, Japan and the U.S., neither side will achieve any effective results. Our government should always keep this in mind in the future to avoid repeating the same mistakes.