[FOUNTAIN]Get chummy to advance our interests

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[FOUNTAIN]Get chummy to advance our interests

A Korea-Japan summit is to be held in Kagoshima, the origin of the Meiji-era movement to invade Korea, and the public is divided over whether the choice of location is appropriate. But let’s change the perspective a little.
Kagoshima is the birthplace of Junya Koizumi, the father of the Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi. The family had lived in Kagoshima for generations until the prime minister’s father married into his wife’s family and relocated to Tokyo.
When the Japanese prime minister chose Kagoshima for the summit, his intention was to invite the Korean leader to his family’s home.
The meeting will be held in a spa. Some Western leaders sometimes talk diplomacy in the intimate setting of a sauna, but Asians are not accustomed to getting naked with others. So the prime minister chose Ibusuki Onsen, famous for sand baths.
The concept of the meeting is to treat the president like a friend. If the hospitality actually makes President Roh Moo-hyun and Prime Minister Koizumi true friends, it would greatly help the relation with the neighbor.
U.S. President George W. Bush invites foreign leaders to his Crawford ranch to treat them like friends with unreserved, friendly hospitality. The foreign leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Mr. Koizumi have all been invited to the ranch and formed intimate friendships with the U.S. president.
While visiting Los Angeles on Nov. 13, President Roh said that Korea and America are best friends, but President Roh has never been invited to the ranch by the U.S. president. The two nations might be best friends, but the two leaders cannot be called good friends on a personal level.
Peter Beck, the International Crisis Group’s North East Asia Project director, suggested that President Roh should form a personal relationship with Mr. Bush to ease working relations. If the president could become a confidante of the U.S. president, who wields unmatched power on the North Korean nuclear issue, and the prime minister of Japan, the economic giant, the president should not pay attention to criticism about being pro-Japanese or pro-American. He would be acting in Korea’s best interests.

by Ahn Sung-kyoo

The writer is a political news deputy editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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