[OUTLOOK]Summit leaves further questionsThe political sector is showing sharply divided views of the results of the summit talks between presidents Roh Moo-hyun and George W. Bush. This means that ordinary people in the nation are feeling further frustration as the politicians they voted in to improve relations with North Korea and the United States and eventually bring prosperity to the nation are failing at even forecasting the immediate future.
Let us take a look at the “common and broad approach” that was supposedly agreed on to bring North Korea back to the six-party talks. Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the announcement of the joint statement from the six-party talks that were held in Beijing. We held our hopes and dreams high, calling it an important victory for Korean diplomacy, but the situation today reflects the cold truth. Let’s look at the United States. We must find out what the government officials with smiles on their faces at the summit meeting are discussing among themselves behind closed doors. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, one of the most influential figures in U.S. diplomacy, met with reporters on July 26 and confessed that the basis of the Bush administration’s policy on North Korea is to maintain and strengthen the July 15 decision by the United Nations Security Council to prevent any support for Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
If Washington’s plans are met with opposition in China and South Korea, it is likely that the United States will strengthen the Treasury Department’s role and have the defense and state departments, along with intelligence agencies, take on a quieter role. During a speech at the American Enterprise Institute last week, Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey explained the new role his department has been playing in the nation’s security after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He especially emphasized the justification and effectiveness of methods targeting specific groups or nations compared with full-fledged economic sanctions in the past. Mr. Levey cited North Korea as a successful case of the new approach. The Treasury Department has been isolating companies suspected of involvement in North Korea’s efforts to produce weapons of mass destruction and financial institutions charged with laundering cash, like Banco Delta Asia in Macao, from the U.S. and world financial stage.
In a statement by the spokesperson of its foreign ministry on August 28, Pyongyang said that canceling the financial sanctions and abiding by the joint statement from last year’s six-party talks will act as indexes in judging whether there has been a change of heart by the Bush administration. It added that the Stalinist nation would never return to six-party talks with the current sanctions in effect. Under these circumstances, it seems highly unlikely that the “common and broad approach” will have any effect. North Korea’s change in strategy will come from a different route than the one expected by the South. Next is the political evaluation that some of the uncertainty has been cleared as both nations re-identified the continued importance of stationing U.S. troops and of their deployment in emergency situations in Korea even after the transfer of wartime military command to Seoul. The “re-identification” requires evaluation itself. Mr. Roh wore a smile when Mr. Bush made a political statement that the transfer of wartime command must not be used politically. But the smile also symbolizes the start of “the dependency of self-reliance.” The transfer from a combined defense system to a joint one weakens the systematic intimacy, so we must continue to appreciate the “re-identification” of the alliance by Washington. In comparison, Seoul has decided to voluntarily cancel its credit cards and run the unstable road of sticking to its cash reserves and occasional loans. So it’s natural that we keep watch to guarantee that the loans will take place when necessary.
A larger problem surrounds South Korea’s situation during emergency situations. The hope that we will be able to independently decide on our security and relations with North Korea under the framework laid by a self-reliant defense system is only a dream at best. During the past 200 years, Korea had to fight its way through a regional conflict (the Sino-Japanese War) and a large-scale violent confrontation (the Russo-Japanese War), to mention just two, due to its geographic positioning. Unlike Europe, South Korea must continue to prepare for regional, local and peninsula-wide emergencies in the 21st century. In order to minimize damages should an emergency occur, we must prepare a combined military foundation which exceeds cooperative self-reliant defense. As a result, wartime command must be reevaluated with a compound viewpoint and not through a self-reliant one.
* The writer is a professor of international relations, Seoul National University. Translation by JoongAng Daily staff.
by Ha Young-sun