An odd thing happened between South Korea and the U.S. after President Lee Myung-bak proposed a “grand bargain” of security guarantees and economic aid to North Korea in exchange for the scrapping of its nuclear weapons program. The proposal was made in a speech at the Korea Society in New York during Lee’s recent visit to U.S. for the G20 Summit.
When asked by reporters about Lee’s proposal, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Kurt Campbell said he was not aware of it, adding “Nothing of the sort came up in our session with South Korean counterparts” before Lee’s speech. U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly also said, “I think it’s really not for me to comment on the particulars because these are his policy and remarks.”
In fact, it was the U.S. government that first proposed a “comprehensive package” of political and military guarantees and economic assistance. That was the very program Campbell, who said he had never heard of it, brought with him during his visit to South Korea in July.
President Lee stressed in a recent media conference in Korea that he had sought understanding with U.S. President Barack Obama and the leaders of Russia, China and Japan over the “grand bargain” ahead of his announcement, dismissing speculation of discord between Seoul and Washington regarding the plan. Noting that South Korea’s voice has been absent in the decision-making process regarding inter-Korean issues, he accentuated he had made the grand bargain during his recent visit to the U.S.
We do not know what really happened in discussions between South Korea and the U.S. before Lee’s proposal. However, when considering Campbell’s comment that “The point that we tried to make was how careful we need to be at this juncture to be consolidated in our approach,” we are afraid there might be some conflicts of interest between the two allying countries on the North Korea issue, even if we understand the property of diplomacy.
We believe the current Korean government’s joint approach with the U.S, government on the North’s nuclear issue has been more successful than previous Korean governments. The two governments should not lose mutual trust in reaching the final goal of nuclear dismantlement of North Korea.