[GLOBAL EYE]U.S.-bashing would boomerangI think two weeks is long enough to prove that the presidency is a tough job. Historic moments when we were forced to make hard decisions stick in our memories, but I’ve never been more afraid of a second war on the Korean Peninsula than I am today. Although the United States drew up a plan to attack North Korea in 1994 to settle the North Korea nuclear crisis, we Koreans were not aware of the plan at that time. But the circumstances are different this time. An increasing number of analysts and officials in Washington are talking about military options to resolve North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, and North Korea is rushing toward a collision. Five years ago, all the people of Korea had to accept a painful decision to overcome the financial crisis. Now we are facing the moment when we have to worry about a war that we don’t even want to think about.
I would like to trust our officials who maintain, “There cannot be a war on the Korean Peninsula if we oppose it.” But it is frustrating for me to learn that senior officials in the Bush administration and their aides whom I met there seemed to have thoughts far different from our hopes.
There are some ideas that the president should consider in advance, before he faces an agonizing choice in the future.
First of all, Mr. Roh should see the United States in a different way. The United States changed dramatically after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland, a watershed in American history. The world view of U.S. citizens has also changed dramatically in a new situation where indiscriminate attacks on Americans in their home towns is now within the bounds of possibility.
In addition, Mr. Roh should not take lightly the fact that U.S. President George W. Bush has a personality that can drive extreme changes. He is almost a Christian fundamentalist who sees the world in terms of good and evil. He also shows impatience around people who do not agree with his judgment. Mr. Roh must, for the sake of our national interests, contemplate the way he will approach a leader like Mr. Bush. Mr. Bush is not a man who can be easily persuaded by logic. An open mind and soothing words are also necessary. Mr. Roh will not have time to judge Mr. Bush before meeting him at the summit, and judging him after the meeting is too late. The White House is abuzz with thoughts that the United States will deal with North Korea after the war with Iraq.
Second, the South Korea-U.S. alliance should be changed to reflect the changes in our society. But it is a pipe dream to expect that the United States, which will move according to its own national interests, will accede to those demands. And anti-U.S. sentiment in Korea is just as important as the relocation of U.S. troops here. I don’t want to exaggerate the seriousness of that anti-U.S. sentiment, but American businessmen don’t invest their money in a country where people express strong anti-U.S. sentiments. U.S. companies with investments in Korea show signs of wavering. Americans who cancel scheduled visits to Korea are on the increase. Mr. Roh may win some people’s favor with remarks complaining of U.S. actions. But the result may be a big blow to our economy. That’s the reality.
The logic that South Korea’s diplomatic attitudes and its leader’s defiance of the United States will induce North Korea to approach the South will not work in Washington. If Mr. Roh believed that Pyeongyang will cozy up to Seoul because it has challenged the United States, he would be inviting a rupture with our strongest ally and only contempt from Pyeongyang.
Change and reform in international relations are not the same as their domestic equivalent. Nations pursue their national interests, and North Korean policy is only one aspect of our foreign policy. That’s our situation. I look forward to a cool-headed decision to overcome this crisis and to relieve the people’s minds.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kil Jeong-woo