[FOUNTAIN]Better bilateral understandingOn Feb. 10, 2001, the USS Greenville, a 110-meter nuclear attack submarine, collided in the ocean near Hawaii with the Ehime Maru, operated by the Uwajima Fisheries High School and used to train Japanese students. Nine people, including four fisheries students, are missing and presumed dead.
The U.S. government responded quickly. Officials of the U.S. Department of State, including Thomas Hubbard, now U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and the Department of Defense phoned the Japanese ambassador. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called Yohei Kono, the Japanese minister for foreign affairs.
The next day, Thomas Foley, then U.S. ambassador to Japan, visited Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and went to Kansai International Airport, where he met the victims' families who were leaving for Hawaii. He bowed deeply, saying that they were the persons to whom he should really apologize. The anger of the Japanese people slowly died down as the United States sincerely settled the accident.
Thomas Foley was U.S. ambassador to Japan from November 1997 to April 2001, after serving as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Because he represented Washington state in the House, he had a deep interest in Japan because of geographical proximity and extensive trade relations.
But Mr. Foley's participation in the Shimoda Conference, a private forum on U.S.-Japan bilateral relations, also shaped his attitudes. The conference began in 1967 in Shimoda in Shizuoka prefecture. Once every several years, dozens of politicians, economists and academics of the two nations discuss bilateral relations. The conference helped end the 27 year-occupation of Okinawa by U.S. armed forces in 1972. Mr. Foley first joined the second Shimoda Conference in 1969.
South Korea has been embroiled in controversy over pro-United States and anti-United States attitudes since last year. But it is doubtful whether influential figures here and in the United States have a deep mutual understanding. The Korea-Japan Forum, which began in 1993, was modeled on the Shimoda Conference. South Korea and the United States should have a chance to talk that way. I hope prominent academics, such as those in the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, can establish such a forum.
by Noh Jae-hyun
The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.