&#91OUTLOOK&#93Waiting for the bird to sing

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[OUTLOOK]Waiting for the bird to sing

Whenever Japanese discuss people, they always seem to mention three prototypes: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, who vied with one another during the feudal age of Japan. The distinct personalities of these three warriors are described in an anecdote of how each of them tried to make a silent bird sing. Oda slew any bird that would not sing while Tokugawa waited for whatever length of time it took for the bird to sing on its own account. Toyotomi devised a strategy to make the bird sing. The one who conquered feudal Japan was patient Tokugawa.
The columnist Yoichi Funabashi of Japan’s Asahi Shinbun wrote that there is a struggle going on between the Odas and the Tokugawas of modern-day Japanese politics on the issue of North Korea’s nuclear program. With the “neocons” of Washington lending strength to Oda’s “kill them” option, the Blue House’s “sunshine Taliban” want to wait it out like Tokugawa.
The problem is that time is running out for the Tokugawan strategists. While waiting for the bird to sing, North Korea admitted to its uranium enrichment program. This, Mr. Funabashi wrote, is where the Toyotomis step in. After all, it is starting to look like a strategy of “talk and pressure” to make the bird sing might be more desirable than sitting around doing nothing. After their summit meeting, President Roh Moo-hyun and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi presented “talk and pressure” as the framework of their policy towards North Korea. Thus, the North Korea policy, which has drifted until now, has taken the clear shape of a “common strategy” among South Korea, Japan and the United States.
This, of course, leaves the question of whether the emphasis is on the “talk” or the “pressure.” Every time the weight tips to either side, the “common strategy” will take on a new turn and bend in the future.
Despite President Roh’s remark that he found “no significant differences” in the policies of the two countries on North Korea during his conversation with Prime Minister Koizumi, Japan has edged closer to the hard-line stance of the United States. President Roh’s favorable disposition to Japan is known to be quite strong for a Korean politician. As the president-elect, Mr. Roh once said he believed Korea-Japan relations would become closer than Korea-U.S. relations. In an appearance on Japanese television last Saturday, the president pointed to Japan as Korea’s closest friend without hesitation. Mr. Roh wants to be a Tokugawa who can deter the Odas’ hard-line voices in the process of seeking a solution for the North Korean nuclear problem together with the Japan he envisaged.
Such expectations might have been too much from the start. Of course, Japan had also tried to stay away from the Oda way and try the Tokugawa’s patience in waiting for a solution to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. In a sense, Prime Minister Koizumi’s visit to Pyeongyang last September was an example of Japan’s resorting to the Tokugawa formula. But Japan has now promised the United States a step further than South Korea’s “additional measures” in agreeing with President Bush’s call for “tougher measures.” Japan also somehow thought it should pass the “emergency situation bills” allowing it more room for military maneuvers on the same day that President Roh arrived for his three-day visit. President Roh’s visit almost seemed like an expression of support for the recent hard-line drive in Japan.
Under such circumstances, we should ask whether “talk and pressure” would succeed in making North Korea “sing.” North Korea has not sung until now and it may never sing. This would make the United States and Japan lose all interest in talks and concentrate on putting pressure on North Korea. Pressure could instantly transform Toyotomi’s strategy into Oda’s coercion. This is what we must stop from happening. We cannot go on chanting “That’s right!” when this happens.
It was a much talked-about visit to Japan. Despite all the furor, however, President Roh should be given credit for tentatively stopping any “further” or “tougher” measures from taking concrete form. This “success” must continue and this means that Tokugawa’s patience and diplomacy must be maintained. If not, we might never hear North Korea sing until it is singing its death song.

* The writer is a professor of political science at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Chang Dal-joong
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