[OUTLOOK]Infidelity in Diplomacy Is Not a Sin

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[OUTLOOK]Infidelity in Diplomacy Is Not a Sin

We Koreans from time to time say strange things, such as "It is infidelity if others do it. However, it becomes a romantic love story if I am involved." Can I have fun imagining a wildly romantic infidelity when it comes to decision making in diplomacy? This came to my mind when I attended the 8th Korea-China Forum for the Future held by the Korea Foundation in Kyongju last week. I was pondering China's innermost feelings about standing against the United States.

Our ancestors in the 19th Century tried to be friendly to China while searching for cooperation with the United States. They wanted to enrich and strengthen their country by getting assistance from the United States while not provoking China. However, the Choson Dynasty could not respond properly to the rivalry among the powers over the Korean peninsula, a strategic point. As a result, the Choson Dynasty lost the nation's sovereignty.

Let's look at the Korean peninsula 100 years later. North Korea is trying to maintain friendly ties with China, while searching for cooperation from the United States to open up to the world and reform itself. South Korea is trying to maintain friendly relations with the United States, while searching for cooperation from China. The Koreas are facing a new international order. Can we overcome the dilemma our ancestors faced? Can we build new relations with China and the United States more independently than our ancestors did?

If a man can take care of his wife as well as his mistress without making them jealous of each other, and if he has the merit and attractiveness to make them understand the inevitability of the situation, it may be said that he deserves to enjoy a romantic infidelity. His attractions should be something beyond money and appearances. He would need limitless patience to mitigate the jealousy with highly sophisticated manners and a broadmindedness.

Let me put it differently. If infidelity happens and it is done openly, the slightest changes of expressions of both the wife and the mistress should be studied very carefully. If one of the two feels neglected compared with treatment of the other, this dangerous situation cannot be sustained for a prolonged period of time.

What would be the attraction of the Korean peninsula to China and the United States? When the United States asked South Korea to participate in the plan to build a missile defense shield, South Korea simply expressed its understanding, withholding a clear stance because of the strategic vagueness. The missile defense shield by the United States is supposed to be against "rogue states," including North Korea. Taking the future of inter-Korean rapprochement into consideration, South Korea can not completely ignore North Korean opposition to the American plan. Korea has to also take into consideration the Chinese position that the eventual target of the missile defense shield is, in fact, China. Thus, South Korea should embrace China and the United States with opposite policies while being conscious of North Korean reaction. Furthermore, South Korea's foreign policy should have attractions to make the North, China and the United States feel sympathetic to its tiring situation as explained above.

A plain and unilateral foreign policy can not represent the interest of the Korean peninsula sufficiently in a rapidly changing international environment in the 21st Century. We have to take advantage of the opposite views of China and the United States, while ensuring both are friends. If we would like to make them acknowledge the inevitability of our diplomatic infidelity, we need to bring out their compassion for us while trying to make them understand our position of recognizing their respective policies.

China has not hesitated to make such bold remarks as "the United States is solely responsible for the deterioration in Sino-U.S. relations and the suspension of the inter-Korean dialogue." Washington's demands are caught in a strong current of anti-Americanism in China, which has been growing since the inauguration of the Bush administration. If we don't take the U.S.-South Korea alliance as basic pillars of our foreign policy, rapprochement between North and South Korea will be slowed. However, we can not unilaterally support the United States, ignoring complaints by North Korea and China. We can not persuade the United States to listen to us by saying the hard-line policy toward North Korea will only bring about anti-American feelings in South Korea. We have to be patient in overcoming our hardship now by appealing to both countries. We should tell them that the deterioration of the relation between China and the United States will not only weaken the position of South Korea but also harm the interests of both countries.

We can make the relationship with our spouse healthier by provoking a slight jealousy. However, it is very difficult to cultivate attractions that enables you to keep both the spouse and a mistress at the same time. This is the dilemma in the foreign policy of South Korea.


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The writer is a professor of international relations at Korea University.


by Ahn Yinhay

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