[VIEWPOINT]What Bush Two means for KoreaThe second George W. Bush administration was launched with the U.S. president’s inauguration Thursday. His emphasis on freedom during his inaugural speech was a way of speaking for the classic liberalism of traditional conservatives; it also signifies the pursuit of neo-liberalism.
Liberalism is about protecting and expanding liberal democracy and free- market economics, both domestically and internationally. The standard for liberal democracy is whether competition and participation exist in an election, and whether or not basic human rights, based on freedom, are guaranteed.
It was based on those standards that Bush’s new choice for secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, labeled North Korea one of the “outposts of tyranny.”
If the first Bush administration focused its foreign policy efforts on eliminating the “axis of evil” through the use of military power, the second Bush administration is now focusing on the growth of democracy and the elimination of dictatorships through diplomatic efforts to transform such regimes.
The first administration had to be engaged in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, so there is very little chance that Bush will begin a major war in his second term.
The new administration is going to finish up the Iraq war, which defeated the dictator Saddam Hussein, and will work on establishing a liberal democratic political system there.
The Korean Peninsula is not a priority for the Bush administration. As long as North Korea does not sell weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, there is no reason for the United States to rush in solving the nuclear standoff.
It is China and Japan that are, in fact, more serious about the North Korean nuclear problem.
If the North has nuclear weapons, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan could move in that direction too, and China, which considers this as the worst possible scenario, is in a position to actively prevent nuclear proliferation. The important point here is whether China can keep North Korea from possessing such weapons or not.
The Korean Peninsula is situated in a region where the interests not just of the United States but of China, Japan and Russia are in sharp conflict. There were several wars among the surrounding superpowers from the 19th century up until the Korean War, and the resulting division of the peninsula, of course, still exists today. North Korea is under the influence of China and Russia; South Korea is influenced by the United States and Japan. Sustaining the division of Korea may be in the interest of its powerful neighbors.
The United States cannot easily attack North Korea militarily as long as North Korea remains under the influence of China and Russia. Therefore, Washington seeks to resolve the nuclear issue through diplomacy, within the framework of the six-nation talks. The two-stage settlement proposal that was presented during the third round of talks can be revised and presented as a more inclusive plan in the fourth round.
In the view of the United States, North Korea is a country that supports terrorism and develops nuclear weapons ― a part of the “axis of evil,” an “outpost of tyranny” and a rogue state that does not guarantee human rights.
If Democratic candidate John Kerry was correct in asserting, during last year’s presidential campaign, that North Korea had reprocessed enough plutonium to make six or seven nuclear bombs while the United States simply waited for the regime to fall, then Washington can’t afford to ignore the North Korean nuclear problem any longer. The appointment of Victor Cha, a Korean-American scholar, at the National Security Council (NSC) shows that the Bush administration intends to delve into the problem.
In Washington’s view, solving the North Korean nuclear problem diplomatically means China, Japan and South Korea settling the issue within the framework of the six-nation talks, while the United States oversees the process comprehensively. The idea is to develop the six-way talks into a multilateral security system for Northeast Asia.
The United States can also pursue a strategy of waiting for regime change in the North by supporting defectors through the North Korean human rights law that Bush signed last fall. Washington can also seek a United Nations resolution imposing economic sanctions.
From an economic point of view, North Korea is not worth investing in, whereas South Korea is an attractive country for investment and is of strategic importance in confronting China and Russia.
Therefore, making sure South Korea does not tilt toward North Korea or China is a part of U.S. strategy.
Along with the North Korean nuclear problem, another important issue for the United States is the possibility of both Koreas coming under the influence of China, as a result of expanded inter-Korean exchange and increased trade with China. This is a problem that Japan also cannot afford to overlook.
The United States overlooked Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1905 (as shown in the Taft-Katsura Memorandum), divided the peninsula with Russia after World War II and participated in the Korean War. Therefore, the United States must be more actively engaged, with a sense of responsibility, in the problems of the Korean Peninsula, and must contribute to Korea’s stability and prosperity.
The direction in which the Korean Peninsula will go after reunification is a point of interest for the surrounding superpowers. In order to achieve reunification, Korea must consider adopting a strategically neutral position, keeping equal distance from our powerful neighbors.
* The writer is a researcher at the Sejong Institute.
by Kim Soung-chul