Obama could have tremendous influence on relations between the two Koreas
by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
Experts observe that the "team" of the government that the newly elected US president is selecting appears inclined to seek joint solutions with Pyongyang, and to resolve problems with direct talks. But this could cause problems in relations with Seoul.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - A possible "direct approach" in the diplomacy of newly elected U.S. president Barack Obama toward North Korea could create friction with Seoul. This is the opinion of Kim Seong-bae, an analyst at the South Korean Institute for National Security Strategy, who observes that there is a return "en masse" of "core figures who were deeply involved in North Korean policy during the Clinton administration."

Kim notes that Obama trusts Wendy R. Sherman, who played a key role under Clinton in reaching the "North Korea-U.S. Joint Communique" in October of 2000, aimed at normalizing relations between the two countries, and at halting the cold war on the Korean peninsula. She also accompanied secretary of state Madeleine Albright to North Korea, to meet with the "dear leader" Kim Jong-il (in the photo).

Moreover, former senator Sam Nunn, whom Obama has chosen as an informal adviser for the department of defense, together with senator Richard Lugar, created and implemented an assistance program for the former Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990's, with funds, technology, and equipment to adapt its nuclear technology to civilian use. The United States would also like to apply this program to Pyongyang.

Both are proponents of direct relations between Washington and Pyongyang, unlike the initial approach of President Bush, against resolving problems with direct talks between the two countries.

Obama's defense adviser, Michele A. Flournoy, previously deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and threat reduction in the Clinton administration, prefers joint solutions on the use of military force. The same is true of Albright and Jim Leach, an expert on North Korea for Clinton who participated in the G20 summit as an "envoy" from Obama.

Experts observe that "friction" is likely between South Korea and the United States over the best policy toward Pyongyang, because South Korean president Lee Myung-bak wants relations between the two Koreas to be improved in tandem with those between the United States and North Korea, but does not want to delay progress in these.