[OUTLOOK]U.S. must seek peace in East AsiaOne year has passed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, and the vivid horror of ground zero seems to have faded somewhat from our memories. One ponders, as the year passes, what has the Sept. 11 attack left and what will it mean for the future?
This incident profoundly changed people all over the world, and the most marked change came from the policymakers in the Bush administration. In a speech last April, Richard Haass, the U.S. State Department's director of policy, emphasized the significance of the "post-post Cold War." According to Mr. Haass's speech, contemporary history after the Sept. 11 terror attack could be divided, not into Cold War and post Cold War, but into three phases: Cold War, transient post Cold War and post-post Cold War. This means putting the historical significance of the Sept. 11 attack on par with that of the dismantling of socialism.
The Cold War order of one world -- centered on the United States and the Soviet Union -- entered a transient post Cold War period with the fall of socialism, only to be thrust into a world of terrorists and a world of anti-terrorists after Sept. 11.
The Sept. 11 incident created a war on terrorism that the United States is leading. Contrary to earlier expectations, the Bush administration succeeded in striking out the core of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda force and the Taliban government in Afghanistan. President Bush has forecast that acts of terrorism in the future will be committed with weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Bush has branded the potential suppliers of such weapons, Iraq, Iran and North Korea, as part of an "axis of evil." And the main enemy in the second phase of the war against terrorism has been expanded to include producer states of weapons of mass destruction, along with terrorist networks and supporters of terrorist groups. Weapons of mass destruction have become a top priority in the United States' homeland security issue.
The Bush administration is pursing its war against the "axis of evil" from six dimensions: military, political, diplomatic, economic, legal and informational. The first target is Iraq. The specific outlines of these six dimensions depend on whether a consensus on military action against Saddam Hussein can be reached nationally and internationally. Depending on the outcome of that consensus, the United States will decide whether to lean to a political strategy or conduct a military attack.
Getting consensus, inside and out of the United States, on the war against the main culprits behind the Sept. 11 attack was fairly easy. Based on this consensus, the United States was able to lead a successful military campaign in Afghanistan. However, the second phase of the war on terrorism, attacking Iraq, has raised criticism and concerns of American unilateralism. The Bush administration is having difficulty garnering support for a military campaign. Should the United States irrationally insist on unilateralism, it could make the 21st century a parade of tragedies for itself and the world.
After Iraq, the most likely place to feel the aftershocks of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack is the Korean Peninsula. Last January, President Bush classified North Korea as a member of the "axis of evil." Unless a satisfactory agreement is reached regarding the inspection of North Korea's nuclear facilities and its export and development of missiles, the Korean Peninsula has a high risk of experiencing a fourth crisis following the three crises of the 1990s.
Once the crisis starts this time, it will be of a completely different nature than the past. The United States will not treat North Korea's nuclear weapons from the perspective of nuclear proliferation or a long-term concern for U.S. security: It will treat them as an immediate issue of concern for its homeland security. If North Korea tries any brinkmanship diplomacy, as it has in the 1990s, the United States would deal with the threat with its six-dimension war.
A doubling of efforts is urgently needed to ensure that the aftereffects of Sept. 11 will not reach the Korean Peninsula after crossing Afghanistan and Iraq. First, we must learn to face the new reality of post-post Cold War. Secondly, North Korea must be able to pursue a new policy toward the United States after the Sept. 11 attack.
Last but not least, the United States should not treat the problems of North Korea's missiles and weapons of mass destruction solely as problems of its homeland security, but consider the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the East Asian region as well. The United States must cooperate with South Korea and its neighboring countries to seek a speedy solution.
The writer is a professor of international relations at Seoul National University.
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