[EDITORIALS]U.S. hardliners need reassuringThe chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on International Relations, Henry Hyde, has said that if South Korea expects military assistance from the United States, it should clearly state who its enemy is. Mr. Hyde’s strong remarks came during an oversight hearing dealing with the North Korean nuclear crisis. He said that the recent omission of the term “main enemy” from the South Korean Defense Ministry’s most recent white paper ―the designation that had usually been applied to North Korea before ―left in doubt the main reason for the U.S.-South Korea alliance.
Until now, strong anti-North Korea rhetoric in the United States ― even calls for an attack ― have come from neoconservatives, a few lawmakers and scholars. But Mr. Hyde’s remarks, made a month after Pyeongyang’s declaration that it had nuclear arms and would stay out of the six-party negotiations on the issue, comes as American public sentiment has been turning against Pyeongyang, regardless of political affiliation.
Earlier, in a contribution to a newspaper, Mr. Hyde criticized South Korea’s and China’s engagement policies toward the North, writing that the two nations should stop “showering” North Korea with support. Tom Lantos, a California congressman, also stressed that Seoul and Washington should reestablish a unified front when it comes to Pyeongyang.
Because of the power of the U.S. House of Representatives, we cannot simply dismiss such remarks as coming from a few “neocons.” Our own government has argued that it has no differences with the United States over Pyeongyang, but if that is true, there is no way to explain the negative atmosphere in the House of Representatives. The discontent is directed at North Korea, but our obscure engagement with the North can’t be exempted.
Thus, our government needs to make it clear that we do not pursue an unconditional engagement policy with the North, but one with strategic flexibility. There is a strong possibility that the longer the nuclear crisis is prolonged, the more voices like Mr. Hyde’s will emerge from the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress. Therefore, the government needs to work on its diplomacy toward the United States and let American politicians know that the principle of cooperation between their country and South Korea stands, so that we are not unnecessarily misunderstood.