[VIEWPOINT]A trying four years for Korea

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[VIEWPOINT]A trying four years for Korea

The inauguration ceremony for U.S. President George W. Bush’s second term was held in full splendor in front of Capitol Hill despite the chilly weather.
With the full transcript of the nomination hearings of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state on my laptop screen, I was up at 2 a.m. watching live coverage of President Bush taking the presidential oath on CNN. It was with a heavy heart that I pictured the next four years for the Korean Peninsula.
The president’s inauguration speech that summarized the direction the U.S. administration is going to take throughout his second term held a simple and clear message.
The most urgent task for President Bush, whose victories in the retaliation for the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the war in Iraq came by a narrow margin, is conducting the war against terrorism under more domestic and international blessings during his second term.
The president’s inauguration speech presented “liberty” as the key to gaining this blessing; peace can be achieved by spreading “freedom in all the world.”
“It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world,” the president stated.
He also reminded “the rulers of outlaw regimes” of Abraham Lincoln’s words that “those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.” The president went on to emphasize that “the concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies’ defeat.”
As President Bush will soon give his 2005 State of the Union address, the inauguration speech only stated the basic principles for a policy of promoting liberty to end tyranny. A more detailed framework can be found in the remarks given by Ms. Rice at her nomination hearing.
Ms. Rice said that U.S. diplomacy has three great tasks: the unity of the community of democracies, the reinforcement of this community of democracy and the spreading of freedom and democracy throughout the world.
Ms. Rice’s words were not mere rhetoric. They imply the formation of three concentric circles of freedom. The first circle includes the European and East Asian ally countries that can share an American-style free democracy. The second circle includes those countries that have chosen and are pursuing free democracy. The United States supports the efforts of these countries. The last circle refers to the outposts of tyranny, namely Cuba, Burma, North Korea, Iran, Belarus and Zimbabwe. The United States will pursue spreading freedom and democracy to these countries as well.
What effect will the confrontation between President Bush’s “holy war of liberty” in his second term and North Korea’s “military-first policy” led by Kim Jong-il have on the North Korean nuclear issue and the overall future of the Korean Peninsula?
One needs to compare the significance of the phrases “axis of evil” in the first term and the “outposts of tyranny” in the second term of the Bush administration. The U.S. position that it will search for a primary solution in persuading North Korea to accept the “Libyan model” through the six-party talks framework remains the same.
The Bush administration had considered initiating economic sanctions if North Korea refused to accept this solution. In its second term, it seems likely that efforts will first be made to draw North Korea away from the outpost of tyranny into the second circle through the “holy war of liberty.”
This means that the focus of the North Korean issue shifts from the abolition of its nuclear program to the establishment of its liberty.
Labeling North Korea an “outpost of tyranny” allows for a greater possibility of gaining domestic and international support for implementing changes in North Korean leadership than “axis of evil.”
Therefore, in North Korea’s position, the spreading of liberty could be more threatening than economic sanctions. Pyeongyang must now start to think in earnest about the uncertain future of its regime facing the lonely and rocky crossroads of nuclear abolition and freedom.
The development of relations between Washington and Pyeongyang in President Bush’s second term could make things tricky for our government. It has been hoping that the lull in its North Korea policies hinted by the U.S. government in a meeting in Santiago last December would last for some time.
It would be difficult for us to oppose the U.S. policy to spread freedom to North Korea in case of a stalemate in the six-party talks. Equally, it will be difficult for us to support it.
While we remain in agony as a “gray state of history,” the Korean Peninsula in its Cold War state could take a turn in history that we didn’t expect.

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

by Ha Young-sun
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