Roh's first foreign policy challenge is how to face the issue of relations with North Korea. Roh has held that Kim Dae Jung's "sunshine policy" of reconciliation with the North should be followed. After North Korea confirmed in October 2002 that it was engaged in a program to enrich uranium, withdrew from the Non-proliferation Treaty, reactivated its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, and expelled United Nations (UN) nuclear weapons inspectors, Roh reevaluated the South's policy toward its northern neighbor. Roh stated prior to his inauguration that South Korea had to keep the nuclear crisis from developing into a war on the Korean peninsula. Although Roh seemed to stake out a position on the situation that was different from that of the United States, he has maintained that the two countries should cooperate to resolve the crisis. He said, however, that "in no circumstances will we cut our dialogue with North Korea," a position contrasting with the U.S. policy of isolating North Korea.
Relations with the United States were strained in late 2002 due to a rise in anti-American protests. The protests were triggered when two U.S. soldiers, whose armored vehicle crushed two South Korean schoolgirls in an accident in June 2002, were acquitted of any wrongdoing in the incident. As tensions with North Korea heightened in February and March 2003, the United States sent new B-52 bombers to Guam to bolster its forces in the region.\
U.S. president George W. Bush and Roh were to meet 14 May 2003 to discuss how to deal with North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Even though Roh acknowledged minor differences between the United States and South Korea, he has stated that the two are allies united in solving the crisis peacefully.