[FORUM]Seoul on the outside looking inThe United States Military Academy at West Point is located about a 90-minute drive north of New York. The commencement ceremony was held on May 31 this year. There were 846 graduates who received their commissions in the U.S. Army, and among them were 31 Korean-American cadets, the largest minority group after black Americans. About 30,000 family members and acquaintances gathered in Michie Stadium for the ceremony. The stadium was brimming with pride in the academy that, under the motto “Duty, Honor, Country,” has helped to keep the United States the world’s most powerful country. The place was also full of expectations and trust in the U.S. military forces, which became even stronger after the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars.
According to a recent Gallup poll, 79 percent of Americans trusted the U.S. military; that trust was a mere 30 percent in 1975, after the country’s failure in the Vietnam War. The atmosphere was heightened by the commencement address of Vice President Dick Cheney. The previous year, President George W. Bush had articulated his doctrine of preemption against the United States’ enemies. Mr. Cheney pointed out that the essence of that doctrine was to regard any country supporting terrorists or offering shelter to them as a terrorist nation itself. Mr. Cheney said, “If there is any person who questions the sincerity of the Bush Doctrine, I would emphasize this: Don’t forget the destiny of the Taliban regime and the fall of Saddam Hussein.” At that moment, loud applause broke out, and that applause seemed to imply the determination of Americans that they would not tolerate any terror or nuclear weapons threats. Mr. Cheney did not mention North Korea, but his remarks were clearly a warning to the Kim Jong-il regime.
Mr. Cheney’s speech gave the impression that a scenario for the removal of the North Korean nuclear program was under way on a huge scale. The scenario involves blocking the sources of funds for the development of nuclear weapons and missiles, stopping and searching the North’s vessels and aircraft and withdrawing the U. S. Army from near the Demilitarized Zone. The United States wants Japan to play a greater military role and demands that China and Russia join its effort to put North Korea under pressure. Japan is actively cooperating with a plan to stop and search the North’s Mangyongbong ferry.
In this scenario, there is a current of distrust and discontent against South Korea. Mark Willy, an insurance manager who came from Florida to celebrate his son’s graduation, said, “To remove the North Korean nuclear threats, negotiations should come first. But if there’s no progress, other alternatives should be sought. It is not convincing for the South Korean government to continue to insist on dialogue.” He quoted the experience of his son’s friend who had been a trainee platoon leader at Camp Casey, the 2d Infantry Division in Dongducheon. Because of the death of the middle school girls last year, training was canceled and the troops were confined to their base, so his stay here was a miserable one. “The GI was wrong, and I understand Koreans’ sentiment. But the cadets won’t forget Korean demonstrators shouting, “No alliance! U.S. forces go home!”
Nothing could be better than dialogue for the resolution of the North Korean nuclear problem. Regrettably, the Roh Moo-hyun administration just goes on talking about a peaceful resolution of the nuclear problem without having any capability to make it happen. In order for a peaceful resolution to work, our economy should be prosperous enough to give North Korea lavish sums of money to make it give up its nuclear program, or our military power should far exceed that of North Korea. The people should unite, and cooperation with the United States and Japan should be solid. But the economy is about to collapse and national opinion is divided. President Roh claims, “Cooperation among South Korea, the United States and Japan for a peaceful resolution is strong.” But the United States and Japan are prepared to exclude South Korea if the Roh administration does not cooperate with their pressure against North Korea.
In this context, the Kim Jong-il regime has no reason to listen to Mr. Roh. Until now, North Korea has been preoccupied with brinkmanship. Led by nationalism, anti-American activities by pro-North Korea leftists have become even more sophisticated. A peaceful resolution cannot be found just by good intentions. It should be supported by power and capabilities. We should be prepared for this contingency if negotiations fail.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Park Bo-gyun