Experts call for S. Korea consultations

Dec. 20, 2012 at 1:03 AM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- The United States should speed up talks with Seoul on issues such as North Korea with the election of Park Geun-hye as South Korean president, experts said.

Park became South Korea's first elected woman president after Wednesday's polls and in his congratulatory message, U.S. President Barack Obama said he looked forward to "working closely" with her administration to further enhance "our extensive cooperation" on a wide range of important bilateral, regional and global issues. He said the U.S.-South Korea alliance "serves as a linchpin of peace and security in the Asia Pacific and our two nations share a global partnership with deep economic, security, and people-to-people ties."

South Korea's Yonhap News quoted Korean Peninsula experts as saying the Obama administration should start consultations with Park before she takes office Feb. 25.

"Foremost on the security agenda is how to fashion a successful strategy of engagement, deterrence and readiness for managing North Korea," Patrick Cronin, a senior analyst at the Center for the New American Security, told Yonhap. He called for drawing up a "sustained, expert-level dialogue with her trusted advisers" during Park's five-year term.

Cronin said the two sides also need to coordinate efforts to strengthen trilateral cooperation involving Japan, which will now be led by its new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Yonhap said Michael Green, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, also called for early consultations on how to handle North Korea amid speculation that the communist country may conduct another nuclear test after firing off a long-range rocket last week.

"Washington will have high confidence in Madame Park's alliance credentials," Green said.

The New York Times said Park is from the same ruling conservative Saenuri party as her predecessor Lee Myung-bak, which should help ensure the close ties with the United States are maintained.

The Times said her election indicated the voters wanted stability instead of radical changes in how South Korea deals with new challenges such as new North Korean threats, slowing economic growth and widening wealth gap.

"This is a victory for the people's wish to overcome crises and revive the economy," the 60-year-old new leader was quoted as telling her supporters.

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