South Korea's next president says he will approach North Korea with patience and honesty. Lee Myung-bak also says he will focus on the future in dealing with Japan, rather than emphasizing past grievances between the two countries. VOA's Kurt Achin has more from Seoul.
President-elect Lee Myung-bak outlined his foreign policy agenda for international correspondents in Seoul Thursday, vowing to make the elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons his main priority.
Lee says even though the process of dismantling North Korea's nuclear programs has recently been delayed, his administration will remain patient and careful in addressing the issue.
Years of multinational diplomacy aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs failed to prevent Pyongyang from testing a nuclear bomb in October 2006. North Korea has taken some recent steps toward disabling its nuclear facilities, but has not yet fulfilled a promise to fully declare its nuclear activities.
Lee says he will keep trying to persuade North Korea that giving up nuclear weapons is in its best interest. He repeated his campaign pledge Thursday to make investments in the North aimed at roughly tripling per capita income there to three thousand dollars a year, if it scraps its nuclear weapons.
Lee also vowed an "honest and open" dialogue with the Stalinist government in Pyongyang on its human rights abuses.
He dismissed criticism that his plan to close South Korea's Unification Ministry signifies less cooperation with Pyongyang.
He says North-South cooperation has expanded far beyond the range of just one ministry, and that virtually all South Korean ministries will need specialists who handle relations with the North.
North and South Korea remain technically at war. The United States keeps about 28,000 forces here to deter a repeat of the North's 1950 invasion and uphold the terms of a 1953 armistice. Lee said Thursday his administration will "creatively revamp" the alliance, which many experts say has become weaker due to differing perceptions of the North between Washington and current South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun.
Lee says he will deepen relations with China, South Korea's biggest trading partner. He also vowed a pragmatic approach toward historical rival Japan.
He says he will pursue a "future-oriented" policy with Japan, and has no personal intention of "going back to the past," by asking Tokyo for apologies.
Japan subjected Koreans to harsh colonial rule when it occupied the peninsula during the first half of the 20th century. Many Koreans feel Tokyo has not shown enough remorse for those abuses, and accuse Japan of glorifying its imperial past in shrines and school textbooks.