A 'super diplomacy week' continues for South Korea with a pile of issues at hand from dispatch of troops to the Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions in the Middle East to defense cost-sharing talks with the U.S.
This, on top of North Korea's denuclearization issue and inter-Korean challenges which are being discussed in Washington in back-to-back meetings held by top South Korean and U.S. officials this week.
Could South Korea find a way through remaining hurdles while not hurting the Seoul-Washington alliance?
Let's get some clues with Dr. Woo Jung-yeop from the Sejong Institute joining me in the studio tonight.
1. President Moon Jae-in, in his New Year's address and New Year's press conference, stressed the need to enhance inter-Korean cooperation that is at a standstill at the moment. And FM Kang Kyung-wha who met with her U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo in Washington this week, raised the issue of inter-Korean tourism reportedly clarifying it doesn't violate UN sanctions. We haven't heard about Washington's official response to that but could there have been a disagreement on the issue between Seoul and Washington?
2. Kang: There will be times when North Korea-U.S. relations come first and when inter-Korean relations must come first doubling down on President Moon's drive to speed up inter-Korean cooperation. What does this imply to the two Koreas and the U.S.?
3. Back-to-back meetings continue in the U.S. with South Korea's top nuclear envoy Lee Do-hoon set to discuss North Korea issues with his U.S. counterpart. What would you say are the necessary steps to re-engage North Korea in talks?
4. Now to the issue of deploying South Korean troops to the Strait of Hormuz. U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo has told Foreign Minister Kang that all nations that hold economic interest in the region should participate in joint defense. Could this be seen as an open request to Seoul to dispatch troops in the region?
5. South Korea is yet to make an official decision on that. The government remains cautious saying its needs to consider the safety of South Korean nationals and companies in the region, as well as its relations with Iran. Tehran is an important business partner for Seoul. What would be a prudent call for South Korea?
6. We're also waiting for an agreement between Seoul and Washington on their defense cost-sharing negotiations. South Korea's foreign ministry stated differences still remain between the two sides. Could the U.S. be linking the burden sharing issue with dispatching of South Korean troops to the Strait of Hormuz?
7. As an expert who has been following every single detail of the burden sharing talks for a very long time what would you say is the best feasible approach to narrow their gap and reach a deal?
8. A South Korea-Japan FM meeting was also held in the U.S. but not much progress was made. Japan's top diplomat only reiterated Tokyo's request to Seoul to come up with a better solution to the compensation issue of Japan's wartime forced labor. How do you analyze Seoul-Tokyo relations and what solutions are needed?
9. At the signing ceremony of the so-called phase one trade deal with China U.S. President Trump made an unexpected remark on North Korea. He said "China is helping us with North Korea. You don’t see in a deal, but they have been very helpful with respect to Kim Jong-un, who has great respect for President Xi." How do you interpret this?