[INSIGHT]The supposed embodiment of good

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[INSIGHT]The supposed embodiment of good

"I'm confident in this man's leadership ability," U.S. President George W. Bush said of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. "I'm confident in his strategy. And I'm confident in his desire to implement that strategy."

Mr. Koizumi said, "The Koizumi administration has been working on structural reform, and President Bush has shown his understanding toward this and has expressed his strong support for this policy of mine."

What was it that Mr. Koizumi was trying to gain, even by bending his head for the U.S. president? During the press conference Mr. Koizumi said, "I received encouragement" from Mr. Bush, and he repeated his praise. Afterward, however, Mr. Koizumi told members of his party that Mr. Bush talked too much, and that it worried him.

Bush dialogues are not just words but power. Before his tour to China, South Korea and Japan, Mr. Bush said he would mention to President Kim Dae-jung in a formal manner that for North Korea to join the global community it must halt its development of weapons of mass destruction.

I am not sure what the formal manner might have been, but Mr. Bush's message could only be useful if President Kim had no knowledge of the moral sentiments of the global community in regards to these weapons or if he opposed the community's will.

Mr. Bush at the press conference in Japan said, "On the one side of the [38th] parallel we've got people starving to death, because a nation chooses to build weapons of mass destruction. And on the other side there's freedom. And it's important for those of us who love freedom to work with nations to convince them to choose freedom." He need not have come so far just to deliver this message, for there are no Koreans who do not value the freedom Mr. Bush speaks of.

Basically Mr. Bush is saying that he is a bearcat who has faith in freedom and strongly supports it, but he feels heavy-hearted that North Korea does not understand.

I don't think Mr. Bush is "evil incarnate," as some of this week's protesters declared, but I am rather worried that he believes himself the embodiment of good.

He said, "Any people that live under a despotic regime have our sympathy. We have great sympathy and empathy with North Korean people." Looking back on Mr. Bush's political record, one wonders when he started to feel sympathy toward North Koreans deprived of freedom and suffering from hunger.

But the U.S. president deserves to be applauded for continuing to send food supplies to Pyeongyang. The problem lies in his unbending views. For example, Mr. Bush commented that there can be no peace in the peninsula when a loaded pistol is pointed at someone's head. Why does he not understand that the same reasoning could be applied in the other direction as well?

The peninsula's 50 years of Cold War is the result of such confrontational reasoning. Mr. Bush's unfortunate diplomacy of fine words is a confusion of good intention and complacency. His method is telling others to follow his practice of virtue. Mr. Bush avoids hearing other opinions. He said it was important that both countries hold an honest dialogue on North Korea's weapons of mass destruction. It seemed that Mr. Bush was saying that since South Korea doesn't take his concern over the issue seriously, he would ask with sincerity. After concluding that North Korea participates in an "axis of evil," demanding a direct answer is forcing Seoul to follow his policy.

As important as what Mr. Bush did say during his visit is what he did not say. During the press conference he said, "We have no intention of invading North Korea. South Korea has no intention of invading North Korea." We are glad that a war is not on in Korea, but Mr. Bush's harsh stance will not change. At the Dorasan station he repeated that "We must not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most dangerous weapons."

But he did not repeat the words "axis of evil," and he did not address the issue of conventional warfare. In other words, though the issues remain very much alive, the U.S. president would like to leave them be for the moment. It is uncertain whether this gave strength or encouragement to President Kim.

Mr. Bush recalled that former President Ronald Reagan during the Cold War was able to have a constructive dialogue with Russia after referring to it as the "evil empire." It is most likely that though Bush may want dialogue with members of the "axis of evil," his thought is to bring down such regimes.

The Korean people would like to say a word about reducing the tension on the peninsula. If the idea of the sunshine policy is to let others hear our voice, however, it seems we will not be able to speak out for quite some time.


writer -----------------------------------------------------------------------

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Joseph W. Chung

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