[FORUM]Japan moves in as Korea lagsHollywood star Tom Cruise has been frequenting American television talk shows recently promoting “The Last Samurai,” in which he stars. Last week, he appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and this week, on NBC’s “Tonight Show” hosted by Jay Leno.
The movie is set in Japan’s Meiji era in the 1870s. The movie features the world of samurais, who confront the Imperial Army, which is equipped with modern firearms.
In the movie, a former American Civil War officer, Captain Nathan Algren, played by Tom Cruise, is invited to train the Japanese Imperial Army. Fascinated by the samurai spirit and Japanese fencing, however, he leaves the Imperial Army to join the samurais and learn the ways of a true soldier.
In his interviews, Cruise expressed his respect for Japanese culture. This may merely be a remark to promote his movie, but it is certain that this movie will raise more awareness about Japan in the United States. Many Americans see Japan as a comfortable, modern and familiar country in Asia.
Cruise added that he hopes that the United States and Japan would continue their harmonious cultural exchange and relationship. These words sounded significant to me because of the close relations of the two countries.
The two countries had friendly relations when former President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone were in office in the early 1980s. The present relations between George W. Bush and Junichiro Koizumi are more solid than those between their predecessors.
The United States counts Japan as the first country among allies in its war against terrorism and its handling of the North Korean nuclear problem. The conflict between South Korea and the United States over the North Korean nuclear issue has helped strengthen the alliance between the United States and Japan, paving the way for Japan to be a leading military power.
Until now, the obstacle to Japan’s rearmament was the South Korea-U. S. alliance. Through this alliance, South Korea could restrain Japan from becoming a major military power. As the bonds of the Korea-U.S. alliance weakened, the United States’ support for Japan’s rearmament grew.
With weaker naval forces than Japan’s, Korea can take no particular countermeasures even if Japan’s cutting-edge Izis warships sail around Tokto islet. Even though it failed to launch in its last attempt, Japan’s development of a surveillance satellite to watch over North Korea symbolizes its rearmament.
Japan has been able to take advantage of Korea’s drifting foreign policy. While our government was distracted with other things, such as mediating, instead of taking the lead in asking North Korea to scrap its nuclear program, Japan has enhanced its status. Also, China has already recovered its influence throughout the entire Korean Peninsula.
Japan remembers the power of alliance. It faithfully reviews its past history and learns for the future. The Anglo-Japanese alliance in 1902 upgraded Japan to the same rank of major powers and played a great part in bringing victory to Japan in its war against Russia.
We can hardly find a national vision in President Roh Moo-hyun’s foreign policy. He raises only such issues as the inter-Korean problems and national pride. But when it comes to dealing with the United States, no one can surpass the wisdom of former Presidents Syngman Rhee and Park Chung Hee.
Swallowing his hurt feelings and capitalizing on Korea’s ties to the United States, Mr. Park laid the groundwork for an independent national defense. The two presidents knew that the inter-Korean problem was not only a matter of independence or national pride but had delicate repercussions on the countries surrounding the Korean Peninsula and handled the situation well.
President Roh asserts, “I have examined the North Korean nuclear problem and carefully calculated its prospects. They are bright.”
However, his calculation ended up turning into a pro-Japanese policy by helping Japan change its military status. It is the sad result of his calculation, which lacked a strategic mind and historical imagination.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Park Bo-gyoon