Dealing With a New White House

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Dealing With a New White House

Brows dripped with sweat and hands got clammy as the count of American ballots went on and on with no clear winner even hours after the polls had closed. As we went to press, it remained unclear who would be the next president of the United States. It was a dogfight right down to the wire, with campaigners on both sides working the phones to the last minute, and it resulted in one of the closest elections in American history. The closeness of the vote shows what a difficult choice the American voters had before them. Should they go with the party that was in office during the biggest, longest-lasting economic boom in American history? Or should they vote for change after eight years of administration by the Democrats? The voters were split right down the middle. Which candidate will ultimately emerge as the winner depends on the outcome of the vote in Florida, where the razor-thin margin that Governor George W. Bush clung to on Tuesday night will require a recount.

Regardless of who becomes the 43d president of the United States, America''s foreign policy will be reviewed and rethought. Understandably, we will be paying close attention to see what direction the new administration will take and what effects it will have on the Korean Peninsula and our neighboring countries. Mr. Bush has said that he would rethink the Clinton administration''s policy of close, active involvement in world affairs. In particular, he is known to have misgivings about the current policy of dangling carrots before North Korea in order to entice it into the open embrace of the outside world and favors a much stricter approach. If Vice President Al Gore moves into the White House, he is expected to be tougher toward the North than his boss, President Bill Clinton, has been.

Nevertheless, in view of the way such decisions are made in Washington, with group expertise providing input from both inside and outside the administration, we do not foresee any fundamental change in United States policy toward Korea. In other words, it would be difficult for the new administration to lay aside the Perry Report, which has been the Clinton administration''s manual for conducting relations with Pyongyang.

Still, it does appear that the new White House will move away from the Clinton style, which has been characterized by appeasement, and it is quite likely that this will bring about some adjustment in the speed at which relations with the North progress. This seems all the more probable if Mr. Bush is elected. He is surrounded by conservatives with military connections, and they would be likely to fill the most important positions in a Bush administration as advisors on foreign policy and national security. A Gore administration is also likely to include foreign policy experts with a tougher frame approach than the Clinton administration has pursued.

As we face the possibility of a second economic crisis, more and more voices here are demanding that we slow down our efforts toward rapprochement with North Korea. Our government must consider carefully what having a new president in the White House would mean for us in order to choose the wisest course in the conduct of relations with both the United States and North Korea.

Having gotten used to working with the Clinton administration in dealing with the North, our government may find it a bit awkward to work with an unfamiliar new American administration at first. The government should seek and find ways to minimize the period of adjustment and continue our long history of friendly relations with the United States.
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