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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Sept. 16)

All News 06:51 September 16, 2022

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Diplomacy key to protect national interests

President Yoon Suk-yeol is to embark on a seven-day overseas trip Sunday to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, address the U.N. General Assembly and hold a bilateral summit in Canada. This trip will follow his diplomatic debut in Madrid, Spain, in June when he participated in the NATO summit there.

On behalf of South Korea and its people, Yoon will pay tribute to the British monarch who passed away Sept. 8 at the age of 96 after 70 years on the throne. He is scheduled to join other world leaders at her funeral to be held at Westminster Abbey in London. We hope his presence will contribute to strengthening ties with the United Kingdom.

His next stop is New York City where he will deliver a keynote speech to the U.N. session on Sept. 20. More than anything else, Yoon is expected to call for the denuclearization of North Korea. Drawing attention is whether he will unveil more details on his "audacious" initiative to offer Pyongyang economic assistance in return for taking steps toward denuclearization.

Yoon needs to step up cooperation with the international community to prod the Kim Jong-un regime to scrap its nuclear program and move toward peace. Yet the prospects for peace on the Korean Peninsula are getting grimmer as the North enacted a law on the use of its nuclear arsenal last week which enables the North to launch a preemptive nuclear strike. Kim has also vowed not to give up his nuclear ambitions.

In Canada, Yoon will meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss how to enhance collaboration in economic security. He must make efforts to secure resources such as lithium, nickel and cobalt ― key materials required for South Korea's production of electric vehicles and EV batteries. If Canada supplies such resources to Korean firms, we can reduce our heavy reliance on China for that matter.

Diplomacy is becoming more important than ever as the global geopolitical situation is changing rapidly. South Korea is facing a dilemma not least because of the escalating great power rivalry between the U.S. and China. The country finds it ever more difficult to strike a balance between the U.S., its security ally, and China, its largest trading partner for economic growth. Making matters worse, the U.S. is trying hard to protect its economic interests, even at the sacrifice of those of its allies.

In this circumstance, Yoon should go beyond diplomatic formalities to produce substantive results during his second overseas trip. First, he needs to ask the U.S. to allow Korean-made EVs to be eligible for tax subsidies under the newly enacted Inflation Reduction Law (IRA). If he meets President Joe Biden, Yoon must highlight the discriminatory nature of the IRA which could put the Korea-U.S. alliance at risk. So he should undertake pragmatic diplomacy to protect our national interests, while sharing values with our allies and partners.

Yoon is scheduled to hold a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the sidelines of the U.N. meeting. We hope the two leaders will make a breakthrough in stalled Seoul-Tokyo ties by finding a viable solution to the long-standing dispute over Japan's wartime forced labor.

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