중앙데일리

Force is called a tool of diplomacy

Apr 14,2003
Former Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Strobe Talbott warns against ruling out the use of force against North Korea as the international community tries to contain the nuclear problem.
The potential use of force is a critical element in deterring enemy threat, Mr. Talbott said, adding that the United States is concerned that the Korean public and the Roh Moo-hyun administration do not understand this point. But he said that Washington is very much aware that North Korea should be treated differently from the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.
In Seoul to attend a meeting of the Trilateral Commission that wraps up today, Mr. Talbott spoke with the JoongAng Ilbo and JoongAng Daily last week. He served as deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration, and also as ambassador-at-large for the new independent states of the former Soviet Union. He is currently president of the Brookings Institute.

Did the United States accomplish in Iraq what it set out to do?
In terms of a clearly defined political objective, which was regime change, and a brilliantly and successfully executed military operation in support of that, the war has been a success. But there is the objective to put in place in Iraq a sensible and sustainable administrative authority that will have a strong security component, which in due course will transition to a genuinely and indigenously Iraqi authority. There is the question of the region, which includes Turkey and the Kurds and making sure they don’t take on some troubled dimension. There is also the Middle East peace process, which will have to be jump-started.
Will the U.S. victory in Iraq lead to consolidation of the so-called unipolar system?
I know that is on the Korean people’s mind, and it is also on the minds of people in Washington. There are different views in the U.S. administration on this. There are those who feel that the unilateral model should be applied elsewhere, to Syria, for example, if Damascus doesn’t behave itself. Obviously, the situation in the Korean Peninsula is the most suspenseful and important test of the future direction of American foreign policy. But I don’t think that the administration as a whole, and President Bush individually, yet have a clear path forward.
Will North Korea be the next military target?
I don’t agree with that. I don’t know of any responsible person in Washington who thinks that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is meaningfully and operationally similar to the one in the Persian Gulf. North Korea is not Iraq. It is an extremely problematic, dangerous, threatening regime. But there is a friendly allied nation ― South Korea ― living side by side with the troublesome nation. The stake in Korea is so vast and your relationship with the United States so deeply rooted that unilateralism simply isn’t an option for the United States.
What is the justification for not ruling out the use of force against North Korea, when that could trigger a war here?
At the very core of this situation is a paradox. The lesson from the Cold War is that in order effectively to keep your potential enemy from attacking you, you had to threaten terrible destruction, which means you had to accept the danger that you yourself might be subject to terrible destruction. But there is some concern in Washington that some South Koreans have let themselves be checkmated by the North because the North is more brutal, more willing to threaten force, and therefore get away with what it wants to do. There is concern in Washington that South Korea and its new leadership are pulling back from the very fundamental idea that, for diplomacy to be effective, it has to be backed by the credible threat of force.
Some people in Korea say it is time for a change to the alliance with the United States.
I’m all for the evolution of alliances. NATO changed be-cause the Soviet Union ceased to exist. But the U.S.-ROK alliance is in a different category. Russia has changed and China has changed. But North Korea has not. There are indications of the North looking for a transformation. But it is still a tyranny and poses a military threat. For that reason, there is less geopolitical rationale for a fundamental transformation in the U.S.-ROK alliance than, say, in NATO.
What is your outlook for the summit between President Roh and President Bush?
It is going to be an extraordinarily important, timely meeting, the principle of which is to synchronize as much as possible the attitudes and policies towards the threat posed by the North. I hope the chemistry between the two men will be good. I’ve seen a number of examples in presidencies where chemistry really matters a lot. President Bush trusts his instincts about people. It is also important that the summit produce a recommitment to the fundamentals of the U.S.-ROK relationship.


by Kim Young-sae


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