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[FOUNTAIN]Diplomatic timing critical

Sept 27,2006
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton issued Presidential Decision Directive I on the day of his inauguration in January 1993, regarding a reorganization of the National Security Counsel. Four days later, the National Economic Council was created to deal with domestic and foreign economic issues. The council was headed by Robert Rubin. Mr. Rubin was co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, one of the most prestigious investment banks in the world. In January 1995, Mr. Rubin was appointed as Secretary of the Treasury, beginning the era of Rubinomics. Mr. Rubin was on the frontline of economic diplomacy. As the economic crisis hit Asia, the United States moved closer to China. The age of strategic companionship between the United States and China opened. To the United States, China was a regional stabilizer and Japan a passive bystander. What represented the newly defined relationship between the United States and China was the hotline between Mr. Rubin and then-Vice Premier Zhu Rongji, who became the Premier of the People’s Republic of China in 1998. It was speculated that Japan had no place in U.S. foreign policy, and the Clinton Administration had virtually sold Taiwan off.
Lately, the ice is thawing between Washington and Beijing.
The main player this time is Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson. Like Mr. Rubin, Mr. Paulson worked for Goldman Sachs as the chairman before joining the White House in July. Having visited China on more than 70 occasions, he is very knowledgeable about the country. During his visit to China last week, the United States and China agreed to start a dialogue on economic strategies. Mr. Paulson’s counterpart is Vice Premier Wu Yi. Nicknamed the “Iron Lady of China,” Ms. Wu is an economic expert. Mr. Paulson had a chance to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao alone for 20 minutes, a gesture of Beijing’s special respect for Mr. Paulson. The secretary has reportedly pressured China on its revaluation of Chinese yuan, but referred to China as a “responsible stakeholder,” rather than a “strategic competitor,” as the Bush Administration had defined it in the early days.
The timing of Mr. Paulson is also delicate. Right before visiting China, he met with President Roh Moo-hyun and learned of his East Asian plans. In Japan, Shinzo Abe’s new cabinet has just been launched. In an entangled Northeast Asia, a new trend is about to begin. We desperately need a constructive idea to mend the Korea-Japan relationship and build a bridge between China and Japan. After all, the beauty of diplomacy is in the timing.


by Oh Young-hwan

The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.


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