[NOTEBOOK] Look Homeward, President Kim

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[NOTEBOOK] Look Homeward, President Kim

At their first White House meeting Wednesday (Washington time) President Kim Dae-jung and U.S. President George W. Bush discussed the U.S. national missile defense plan. To avoid discord beforehand, President Kim had said that Korea is not against it.

But one may question whether this issue can be so easily avoided.

In a nation without nuclear weapons, it is unusual that strange words such as anti-ballistic missiles and national missile defense should be the focus of controversy.
There are suspicions that the ultimate concern of the U.S. project is China. But officially it is justified by the missile threats from rogue states such as North Korea.
However, the threats from North Korea decreased after the North-South Summit last June. And the Clinton administration turned over the missile-defense decision to the next administration.

The Bush administration has resolved to push ahead with the missile-defense plan, and North Korea has warned that it may abrogate the 1994 Geneva nuclear agreement specifying that North Korea would stop development of nuclear weapons and testing. In this context, national missile defense, which presumes tension between North Korea and the United States, cannot be a foreign issue to Korea. After the furor raised by the Korea-Russia summit, Lee Joung-binn, minister of foreign affairs and trade explained that the Russian side had wanted an explicit reference to the missile-defense program in the joint statement, but Korea had refused.

He added that since the United States was a signatory to the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty there could be no problem in Korea's endorsing it. Whatever kind of plan the United States pursues is the business of the United States. The logic of countries that oppose the plan, including Russia and the European nations, is that a U.S.missile shield could contravene the ABM Treaty, which limits the deployment of anti-missile missiles, and could thus accelerate arms race. Did the Korean government really miss this fact?

Was the Korean government simply trying to achieve Russia's support in improving North-South relations? Considering the effects this issue could have on the Korean Peninsula, the joint statement which implied the implementation of the Geneva nuclear agreement between North Korea and the United States and the maintenance and strengthening of ABM, is difficult to see it as a one-sided acquiescence to Russia's demands. As early as last February Lee Joung-binn said at the National Assembly, isRemoval of the threats should precede implementation of NMD.lo This statement implies that North Korea™s missile threat can be resolved by negotiation,which is consistent with Clinton administration policy.

The problem is that the government has been reluctant to clarify its position to the Korean public. It says, iaThere is no relationship between ABM and NMD.While wooing Russia, persuading China and trying to resolve the misunderstanding.

of United States, the Korean government has failed to persuade domestic opinion. President Kim Dae-jung took a very positive attitude, in concert with then President Clinton,toward the issues of East Timor and Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar. He did his part as a Nobel Peace Prize winner in sending a letter to the United Nations protesting the destruction of Buddhist statues by the Taleban movement in Afghanistan.

Domestically, however, the government has failed to get support from the opposition on North-South issues. Since it is in power,the ruling party must take the blame for the failure to mould cross-partisan support for its North Korea policy. A U.S. think-tank strategist pointed out that the greatest threat to the sunshine policy is not North Korea, nor the United States, but South Korea.s internal problems. President Kim should show consideration for the opposition party, perhaps phoning the opposition leader Lee Hoi-chang, as he did before his departure to Washington.

by Kim Jin-kook

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