[OUTLOOK]Spurning the U.S. alliance foolishThe United States and Japan have been building a bilateral alliance for the 21st century. If the U.S.-Japan alliance during the Cold War focused on the defense of Japan, it has attempted to form a regional one after the Cold War.
Since the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Japan has pursued the globalization of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi suggested making the bilateral alliance “the U.S.-Japan alliance in the world” as soon as U.S. President George W. Bush was re-elected.
The revised strategy of the U.S.-Japan alliance was laid out concretely in a joint statement issued after the two-plus-two talks between foreign and defense ministers of the United States and Japan on Feb. 19. The two countries set, in the joint statement, the “common strategic goals” for stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the international community.
What is remarkable first of all is “the globalization of the alliance.” The two countries emphasized partnership to improve the international security environment, including the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the prevention and eradication of international terrorism.
The countries confirmed their view that stability in the international community is directly connected to Japan’s peace and prosperity. They agreed to jointly contribute to peace-keeping activities in Afghanistan and Iraq and international disasters, including the recent tsunami disaster. They also confirmed their support for a democratic community through a joint pursuit of basic values, including democracy and human rights.
This means that the joint statement stressed strategic cooperation between the two countries that goes far beyond the framework of the existing U.S.-Japan alliance.
“Sharing a common regional strategy” is also particularly noteworthy. The United States and Japan urged China to resolve the Taiwan problem peacefully, and on the other hand asked the country to enhance transparency in its military and play a responsible and constructive role in the stability of the region and the world.
As common strategic goals, the two countries clearly stated latent threats from China and suggested the possibility of joint intervention in the Taiwan problem. They pressed North Korea for the peaceful resolution of specific current issues, including nuclear weapons, missiles and Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea. This is an extension of Japan’s new “Outline of Defense Plan” announced last year in which Japan named North Korea and China as possible threats.
The United States and Japan also agreed to review the joint use of military bases as part of defense cooperation following the relocation of U.S. military forces. This means that they began to introduce integrated operating roles, duties and capabilities while strengthening the ability of mutual cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military forces in Japan.
They have sought stable stationing of U.S. military forces in Japan through a proposal of cooperative realignment of military forces, including reducing burdens on military base areas, improvement of relations with the regional community and consideration of environment.
As such, Japan aims to transform its alliance with the United States facing up to the trends of the new international order that has developed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and reinforcing and deepening the bilateral alliance.
As far as the maintenance of alliance is concerned, Japan is a level ahead of us. Japan is worried over if it might be abandoned by the United States. But Japan is not a mere tool of the United States.
Japan acts knowing that it can have more space for international activities and raise its voice within the framework of the bilateral alliance. Japan praises the United States in front of others and delivers its requests quietly if it has any. For this reason, trust is accumulated between the two countries. When Japan, whose national strength is 10 times larger than our country, acts this way, South Korea has no reason to abandon its alliance with the United States. If it discards the alliance with the United States, South Korea will hardly be able to avoid being treated coldly by China, North Korea and Japan. The argument for abolishing the alliance is not realistic.
While being cautious of China, Japan chose the United States. Will South Korea opt for China as an alternative? No, it won’t. When China does not contend that the country is an alternative to the United States, South Korea does not need to choose China first. Even if South Korea relies on China, there is no guarantee that its security will become solid.
Therefore, we should pursue cooperation with China from many aspects, but China is not an alternative for our security strategy. Standing alone in the international community is even more difficult. Neutrality or self-reliance is a term that sounds good, but its creation and maintenance alike are not easy.
Taking a lesson from the example of Japan, South Korea should find a shortcut to maintaining a mature and balanced relationship with the United States. Raising our voice unconditionally and arguing for the difference in opinions will not strengthen South Korea’s stance. South Korea, still divided with North Korea, has no reason to distance China either.
South Korea had better deepen social, economic and diplomatic cooperation with China while remaining with the United States for military cooperation.
It will be beneficial to national interests to strengthen the U.S.-South Korea alliance until a framework of stable peace is formed by multilateral security in Northeast Asia.
* The writer is a professor of political science at the Graduate School of International Studies at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Park Cheol-hee