[GLOBAL EYE]Acrobatic diplomacy"How can South Koreans dare to protest against America?" a close Japanese friend asked me not long ago. He didn't understand why South Korea has been so anti-America recently.
Most of my Japanese friends and acquaintances that I met while working in Washington, D.C. and in Tokyo think that U.S.-Japan relations are abnormal. They either criticize the United States, which persists in a unilateral foreign policy, or they think that Japan has a subservient diplomacy that is heavily influenced by the United States. But they all seem to understand well the power struggles in the world. Japan has learned how to bend itself to the satisfaction of mighty America. Japan has also learned, my friends say, how to voice its opinions without getting on Washington's nerves.
How dangerous will South Korean diplomacy toward the United States look in the eyes of the shrewd Japanese? South Korea, which is surrounded by four heavyweights －－ the United States, Japan, China and Russia －－ lacks the capability to do acrobatics within that group. Moreover, the United States, which supports liberal democracy and a market economy, is South Korea's closest ally. The recklessness of South Koreans, who confront the United States without fear, therefore, seems strange to the Japanese.
Japan regrets that it does not receive sufficient respect from the United States, even long after Japan became the world's No. 2 economic power. Meanwhile, the Japanese think that South Korea has never been trusted by the United States, let alone respected. And this is why Japanese think that Korea is a strange country in terms of its diplomacy with the United States.
Karen House, president of Dow Jones International, which publishes the Wall Street Journal, recently pointed out after visiting South Korea that the South fears U.S. President George Bush much more than the North's leader Kim Jong-il. Ms. House's comment embarrassed us, for it was as if a deep secret had been revealed.
In our view, there is a strong distortion clouding U.S.-South Korean relations. It is a double standard for us to regard the United States as a bully who distresses North Korea when we are heavily dependent on the United States in our national security.
Many Japanese regard relations with the United States as the most precious diplomatic asset Japan has had since World War II.
Some South Koreans take pride in the stubborn North Korean diplomacy that threatens the United States. Furthermore, some think that after reunification, the North's nuclear arms will belong to the South as well, and that China is a more intimate friend of South Korea than the United States or Japan. No presidential candidates give us clear answers on South Korea's choice for the future. We need direction from one of those candidates that the United States is closer to us than any other country.
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kil Jeong-woo