[OUTLOOK]Forge alliance with U.S., ChinaU.S. Secretary of State Condolee-zza Rice will visit Korea, China and Japan for her first East Asian tour since her inauguration. There may be several issues that need to be solved between South Korea and the United States; however, despite all those pending issues, we have to use this opportunity as a chance to repair any damage in our relations and strengthen our alliance with the United States more than anything else.
In order to do this, it is necessary for us to show Ms. Rice that South Korea is an ally of the United States, and that we need the help of the United States. We have to make it clear that Korea agrees with and has supported the war on terror and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction policy of the United States, and that South Korea will support such efforts in the future too. We also have to let Washington understand that Korea is a representative Asian country that agrees with the major U.S. policies ― protection of freedom, democracy and human rights ― and also is a major ally of the United States. On top of that we must instill in the minds of Americans a trust that South Korea will remain an amicable ally of the United States even after unification.
The United States is currently worried that South Korea-U.S. relations are becoming estranged. The rise of China and India, while Japan is in stagnation, is shaking the strategic balance of Northeast Asia and Asia as a whole. Therefore, it isn’t good for South Korea, nor for the United States, that South Korea-U.S. relations should become estranged at this point.
The United States is a country that can play the role of a power balancer and control China, Russia and Japan from taking independent diplomatic and security actions to a certain extent. The Japan-U.S. alliance has been strengthened as part of the Northeast Asia strategy of the United States, and Japan is requesting the United States strengthen its influence in Northeast Asia. On issues related to the Korean Peninsula, including the North Korean nuclear problem, the United States and Japan have a common understanding and share common ideas on solutions, and the opinion of Japan is fully reflected in it.
Under such circumstances, Ms. Rice is going on her first tour of Northeast Asia. During her tour, apart from negotiations for coordinating the long-term strategy of the United States, she will try to coordinate the opinions of the U.S. allies in the region and major players of the issue over the North Korea nuclear problem. It seems that the United States and Japan do not believe North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons. Therefore, if China and Russia do not have the capability or will to stop North Korea from possessing nuclear weapons, they see that there is no other way but for the United States and Japan to put pressure on North Korea through economic sanctions. Of course, the decision for sanctions against North Korea made at the U.N. Security Council could be vetoed by China. If that is the case, will there be no other choice but to wait for North Korea to fall on its own?
If North Korea does not give up its nuclear weapons, there is no point in having the six-way talks. It is necessary to form a pact that will enforce non-proliferation of nuclear and mass-destruction weapons by gradually establishing a multilateral security system for Northeast Asia.
A few questions are raised in this case. Does a North Korea armed with nuclear weapons pose a threat to South Korea? Can South Korea continue to have exchanges with nuclear-armed North Korea on an equal footing? If we take into account possible damages from a war on the Korean Peninsula, there is a very low chance that a war will break out on the Korean Peninsula. However, North Korean nuclear weapons can be used as a means of threat, as well as for defense purposes. This is why South Korea cannot but choose the policy of inducing North Korea to reform and pursue an open-door policy, while preparing for unification in the long run. We have to let North Korea understand that accomplishing peace, stability and economic rehabilitation by giving up nuclear weapons and choosing reform and an open-door policy is the right way to enhance inter-Korean cooperation. We have to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear program that will lead the country to isolation and economic poverty and put North Korea under the danger of war.
In order to maintain good neighborly relations with regional powers in a long-term view, it is necessary for South Korea to maintain strategic neutrality diplomatically. There is no need to proclaim that we are going to maintain neutrality legally, but we carry out open and balanced good neighborly diplomacy to all surrounding countries. The point is that the Korean Peninsula will co-exist and flourish amidst the mutual restraint and cooperation of nearby powers.
Open neutrality means that we show balanced diplomacy to all countries. This goes for the South Korea-U.S. alliance, and also for our relationships with China and Japan. Strengthening our alliance with the United States and having a neutral diplomatic strategy are not contradictory to each other. In that respect, Korea maintaining an alliance with the United States while refusing to participate in any Northeast Asian disputes is an example of proclaiming diplomatic neutrality. The South Korea-U.S. alliance and cooperation between South Korea and China are both mutually beneficial and important. Korea must produce such a strategic consensus with the United States when Ms. Rice visits Seoul.
* The writer is a researcher at the Sejong Institute. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Soung-chul