U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Seoul Thursday on her first visit to South Korea in her new capacity as U.S. Secretary of State. South Koreans have anticipated her arrival--and the establishment of the Obama administration's policy for the Korean Peninsula--with a mixture of anxiety and anticipation.
This mood has been fed by a rapid deterioration in inter-Korean relations, increasingly strident North Korean military threats toward the South, and preparations to launch a long-range missile.
The agenda for the visit is broad--suggesting that the U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) alliance is now positioned to make contributions beyond the peninsula--but the core preoccupation will remain how to deal with North Korea.
Initial Obama administration pronouncements dealt with North Korea exclusively in the context of nonproliferation. However, many Koreans had (erroneously) interpreted Obama campaign statements as implying that he would pursue an American version of Kim Dae-jung's Sunshine Policy toward the North.
Although Clinton has criticized the Bush administration harshly for abandoning the Agreed Framework, her speech at the New York-based Asia Society prior to her departure for Asia emphasized continuity with the foundations laid by the second Bush administration, with the September 2005 six-party joint statement serving as the foundation for a framework that will combine multilateral and bilateral negotiations.
Her speech affirmed that the United States will pursue diplomatic normalization, a peace agreement and economic development in North Korea, but also that such possibilities are linked to North Korea's denuclearization.