[OUTLOOK]Roh should look to KoizumiDavid Straub was the director of Korean affairs and then director of Japanese affairs in the U.S. Department of State from 2002 to 2006. As an expert on North Korean matters for the George W. Bush administration, he knows about how U.S. measures are designed and carried out. In a lecture in Washington D.C., last September, he explained how North Korea makes a decision to test-fire its missiles.
In the lecture he outlined three points. First, the Bush administration has said since it came into power that all options were open when dealing with the North. By indicating that using force was included in the considerations, the administration worsened South Korea-U.S. relations as well as its ties with the North. Second, Washington interpreted the joint statement from the six-party talks released last September in Beijing in its own way, and so brought on further resistance from the North. Third, after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice ordered Christopher Hill, an assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the U.S. lead negotiator to the talks, not to have direct talks with Pyongyang, North Korean issues have been deadlocked.
The Bush Doctrine shows clearly the meaning of having all options open on North Korea, as it says that Washington can make a pre-emptive attack on the North’s nuclear facilities. Although U.S. officials including President George W. Bush emphasize that there won’t be any attacks on the North, Pyongyang can’t abandon its suspicion that Washington’s North Korean measures are aimed at a collapse of the communist regime or a power shift in the country.
Regarding the joint statement in Beijing, Christopher Hill said right after its release that providing a light-water reactor would be discussed only after the North dismantled its nuclear facilities completely. Pyongyang responded that it would never give up its nuclear development programs before it was provided with a light-water reactor.
When U.S. negotiators shunned North Korean delegates, North Korea’s pride was badly hurt. North Korea naturally suspects that Washington had no intention of abiding by the joint statement. Adding to this suspicion, Mr. Hill has hardly appeared in the media since the joint statement was released. Instead, a U.S. ambassador to Korea who is a hard-liner on North Korea often makes public remarks on North Korean issues. It seems to be the result of strong resistance from hardliners in Washington.
Despite the Bush Doctrine, six-party talks were held and a joint statement was successfully made. Likewise, even though Washington caused conflict with North Korea, if there had been talks between Washington and Pyongyang, the flurry of missiles would have been deterred.
As Mark Fitzpatrick, a former acting deputy assistant secretary of state for nuclear nonproliferation, pointed out, President Bush’s rigid conviction that dialogue with rogue states grants legitimacy to such countries, has deepened problems over North Korea. As Mr. Fitzpatrick said, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il fired expensive missiles ― as many as seven of them ― as a way to display his determination not to kneel down under pressure from Washington. President Bush will likely intensify pressure on Pyongyang in order to show that his country will never fall to its knees because of Pyongyang’s missile threats. Mr. Kim might then fire more missiles and even start developing nuclear arms. The firing of the North’s seventh missile hints at this scenario.
If this vicious circle continues, three major problems will result. First, South Korea-U.S. ties will worsen. Second, tensions on the Korean Peninsula will intensify. Third, Northeast Asian countries will increase their expenditure on developing and purchasing weaponry.
This cycle will be cut only when Washington has dialogue with Pyongyang, whether inside or outside the six-party talks. North Korea is unlikely to return to the table. The United States has driven North Korea into a corner, citing its production of counterfeit bills and violations of human rights, so Pyongyang needs a good excuse to come back to the multinational talks.
It is a pity that the Roh administration has lost its leverage to persuade Washington, while pursuing self-reliance and cooperation with the North. As President Roh Moo-hyun has emphasized self-reliance, he has lost the trust of President Bush.
In November 2004, in Los Angeles, President Roh said that North Korea developed nuclear weapons for self-defense. In February 2005, North Korea declared its possession of nuclear arms. In May, in Mongolia, the South Korean president promised to provide more to the North with no preconditions. North Korea has now responded to that kindness with missile launches.
Seoul has lost its ground if it wants to persuade Washington. South Korea-U.S. ties stay afloat at a level below ministerial. Only people inside the Blue House believe that there is no problem with Seoul-Washington relations. What should we do? There is an answer. First, South Korea-U.S. relations should be restored. Second, South Korea-Japan ties should be improved.
If Mr. Roh wants a summit meeting with Mr. Bush in September, he should examine why and how Japan's prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, won Mr. Bush’s heart, trying hard and even performing an impression of Elvis Presley.
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie