[FOUNTAIN]Double visionIn May 1981, the heads of state of the United States and Japan first used the expression “alliance” in a joint statement. It came during a summit meeting between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Japanese Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki. It took the two nations 30 years to describe themselves as an alliance after signing a security pact.
Mr. Suzuki had a hard time explaining himself after returning to Tokyo. He claimed that the joint statement did not reflect the meeting properly and did not have any military meaning. A deputy minister called an alliance that does not include military relations nonsense. The prime minister was enraged by the opposition. In the end, Minister of Foreign Affairs Masayoshi Ito took responsibility and resigned.
Less than two years later, in January 1983, the U.S.-Japan alliance was reinvented with a summit meeting between President Reagan and Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone. The two heads of state got on a first-name basis with each other. The so-called “Ron-Yasu” era opened. Mr. Nakasone decided to participate in President Reagan’s strategic defense plan, using lasers for the destruction of missiles, and abolished the limit that kept defense expenses within 1 percent of the gross national product.
The relationship between U.S. President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who had their final summit meeting last week, is a repetition of the Ron-Yasu relationship. The summit was a meticulously staged honeymoon, filled with dramatic performances and rhetoric. However, we took the joint statement for granted. It is titled, “The Japan-U.S. Alliance of the New Century.” The new statement got rid of the boundary set by the security pact, signed by Bill Clinton and Ryotaro Hashimoto a decade ago, which limited the alliance between Japan and the United States to the Asia-Pacific region. It is the fruit of a triple jump, which started with Nakasone’s hop and Hashimoto’s skip and ended with Koizumi’s final jump.
Korea and the United States are currently working on the Korea-U.S. alliance. It is a project of compiling all the changes and revisions made since the joint security pact was signed in 1953. Drawing up a blueprint for the future is not an easy task. Should the Korea-U.S. alliance be a defense-oriented localized alliance? Washington would never want such a thing. If it becomes a regional alliance, Korea would be pressured by China. Despite the differences in positions, it is urgent that the two nations come up with a vision. An alliance can evolve when it lives on vision and trust.
by Oh Young-hwan
The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.