|Map of Asia|
CIAO DATE: 03/02
June 2001 - Special Annual Issue
Full Issue (Download the complete issue in PDF format)
No one said managing the U.S.-South Korea alliance would ever be easy, but we seem to be going through a particularly challenging period at present. For much of this year, the focal point of the relationship has been the March 2001 summit between U.S. President George W. Bush and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. The summit left all involved feeling a little uneasy about the role the U.S. would be willing to play in inter-Korean relations. The delay in U.S.-DPRK contacts pending the recently concluded North Korea policy review did nothing to assuage the worriers.
During the summit, Mr. Bush made his suspicions of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il plain. The President's skepticism garnered undue attention. What was lost was Bush's endorsement of the South's engagement policy, his support for the 1994 Agreed Framework, and the recognition by both leaders of the importance of the U.S.-South Korea alliance. Nonetheless, the overall tone of the summit made the prospects of future inter-Korean talks seem bleak. Many feared that the negative summit outcome would produce a fundamental shift in expectations; questions were raised as to whether North Korea would participate in a cross-DMZ dialogue at all.
Amid the interplay of the various issues and the widely divergent perspectives that the different players bring to negotiations, it is easy to lose sight of the chief objective: reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Every country has clearly stated that peace on the Peninsula is the ultimate end. The hard part is getting there. And the challenges are made even more daunting by the competing visions of what a "peaceful" Peninsula would look like.
The U.S.-ROK relationship has been instrumental in promoting peace and stability on the Peninsula and promises to play a similar role in the future, provided both sides can agree on a common path toward a mutually-desired end.