President Lee Myung-bak Proposes Shuttle Diplomacy With N. Korea
President Lee Myung-bak proposed shuttle diplomacy with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il Tuesday expressing the hope that the leaders of the two Koreas will meet frequently whenever possible.He made the remark after getting a foreign policy briefing from Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hwan in Seoul.The President asked, ``Why can't leaders of the two Koreas meet as frequently as possible at a time when I meet U.S., Japanese and Chinese leaders through shuttle diplomacy?'' He said during his tenure, he wants to hold inter-Korean summits frequently.His remark is a delicate departure from the previous statement that he would consider meeting the North Korean leader only in Seoul. Lee also sought to tone down his emphasis on the improvement of human rights in North Korea. He said that his emphasis on North Korean human rights is in line with the universal standard of happiness, not part of a strategy on dealing with the communist country.``We're ready for sincere dialogue with North Korea,'' he said in a 90-minute talk with the foreign policymaker. But Lee pointed out that the two Koreas should change their attitudes toward each other as a prerequisite to continuation of inter-Korean dialogue.He also clarified his pragmatic policy directions Tuesday, stressing that the national interest should precede the alliance in Korea's relations with the United States."
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Apparently, President Lee is a conservative politician, and many people expected substantial change of North Korean policy with his presidency.
However, you can also find slight differences among conservatives. For example, Lee Hoechang, another conservative candidate of the last presidential election is more like a traditional conservative arguing more hostile approach toward North Korea. In comparison with him, President Lee is more like a neo-liberalist (conservative in economic sense) and his policy toward the North was not so rigid or hostile. (You may find that there are two standard deciding your political view in Korea: what do you think about 1. North Korea and 2. Neoliberalism ?)
Anyway, President Lee's comment was surprising. Is he going to be a Nixon in Korea? Or does he fundamentally misunderstand about North Korean motives and think too positive?
He also expressed a strong pragmatism and realism in foreign policy, saying "I am neither pro-American nor pro-Chinese. Korea can become an ally either with the United States or China as long as the two countries can maximize their national interests. In this age, there is no alliance unless each country's national interests are maximized.''
However, he also belated the staffs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) that they were not discreet in policies toward the U.S. and Japan. In other words, he criticized MOFAT's policy during President Roh that it did not pay enough effort to strengthen and maintain Korea-US, and Korea-Japan relations.
I found some inconsistencies between these two comments. What is his understanding of pragmatism? Does he really have some guts to be pro-Chinese instead of pro-American for national interests?