중앙데일리

Prime minister seeks strategic independence

Mar 30,2005
In a meeting with top Foreign Ministry officials yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan said the time had come for Korea to establish an independent geo-political policy that would move beyond old Cold-War prescriptions that sought to contain China and North Korea. Mr. Lee’s statement was endorsed by President Roh Moo-hyun.
The Foreign Ministry briefed Mr. Lee and Mr. Roh on current issues yesterday at the Blue House. At the end of the report, Mr. Roh turned to Mr. Lee and said, “You need to say something.” Mr. Lee then told Foreign Ministry officials, “The ministry should get rid of the containment mindset against the continent.” Mr. Roh added, “The prime minister’s comment is right.”
While Mr. Roh and Mr. Lee did not explain what was meant by “containment mindset against the continent,” analysts said yesterday that the reference was to policies in line with those of the United States and Japan that have sought to limit the international sway of China and North Korea.
Mr. Lee’s remark follows a March 22 address by Mr. Roh in which the president said, “South Korea will play the role of a stabilizer not only for the Korean Peninsula but for the whole East Asian region. Depending on what kind of choices we make in the future, the power relations of East Asia will change.”
The speech at a commencement ceremony of the Korea Third Military Academy stirred debate over an apparent effort by the administration to edge away from its long-standing alliances with Japan and the United States.
Those alliances were established to confront the communist states of China, the Soviet Union and North Korea.
A top government official who asked for anonymity said yesterday, “The trading volume between South Korea and China has reached $100 billion year. There is no way for the Korean economy to survive if it joins the U.S.-Japan alliance that is arrayed against China.”
The top official also said, “Mr. Roh thinks that the expression of South Korea-Japan-United States alliance is too broad. Korea is only allied with the United States, and Japan and the United States are allied.”
The official elaborated on what Mr. Roh meant by Korea playing a stabilizing role.
“Korea is a traditional force of peace that has never pursued a war and thus can promote peace confidently. Also, it secured economic power and is strengthening independent defense capabilities,” he said.
When asked whether South Korea is trying to lean more toward China than the United States, the official denied the change by saying, “Korea’s stabilizer role is based on the South Korea-U.S. alliance. The two countries’ alliance will develop in line with the future of East Asia.”
Kim Tae-hyo, politics professor at Sungkyunkwan University, said yesterday, “Ultimately ― I mean after reunification ― it is partly right for Korea to ally with China. But currently, Korea has more to lose if it openly declares such a foreign policy.”


by Ahn Sung-kyu, Min Seong-jae


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