[EDITORIALS]Stop the stupidityU.S. President George W. Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi boasted about their closest of friendships during a summit that ended last weekend. This display of camaraderie is perhaps a matter of course, especially when one considers the basis of Mr. Koizumi’s foreign policy during his five years in power. He has operated on the firm principle of doing all it takes to strengthen ties with the United States, even at the cost of exacerbating conflicts with its neighbors, South Korea and China.
We Koreans have mixed feelings as we watch this strengthening of the U.S.-Japan alliance, all the more because the U.S.-Korea alliance, with the discord produced by issues in the East Asian balance of power, has not been in very good condition.
Mitchell Reiss, former director of policy planning at the U.S. Department of State, has even said, “The division between South Korea and the United States poses a greater danger than North Korean missiles.”
Of course, Japan and Korea are in completely different circumstances. Japan considers North Korea an enemy, but South Korea cannot afford to forget that North Korea is also a partner with whom we must find ways of reconciliation and cooperation.
Even so, it would be counter to Korean national interests for the U.S.-Korea alliance to continually lag behind the ever-strengthening U.S.-Japan alliance. As a country surrounded by four major powers, it would be impossible for us to command respect from them if we do not maintain a genuine alliance with the United States. Currently, long-pending issues such as environmental responsibilities in connection with the transfer of American Army bases and securing land for U.S. military training grounds have been meandering around indefinitely.
The government needs to stop claiming that there are “no problems” with the U.S.-Korea alliance, and must start showing the will to address these alliance issues in a timely fashion.
For the past three years, the current administration has come out with countless displays of anti-American bravado, but in reality has quietly acquiesced to all American demands. The deployment of troops to Iraq, the acknowledgement of strategic flexibility and the negotiating process for the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement are all prime examples of this.
At this rate, we will only succeed in losing respect from the United States and creating more controversy at home. This stupidity must stop.