Pragmatic diplomacyPresident Lee Myung-bak has ordered the Foreign Ministry to roll out “pragmatic diplomacy” based solely on national interests.
In a meeting with Foreign Ministry senior officials yesterday, Lee said “no such things as pro-America or pro-Chinese policies” exist today.
“Anyone can be allies when both sides’ interests meet, and there will be no allies when national interests clash,” he said.
Pragmatic diplomacy that only takes into account tangible national interest is the fundamental principle under which the new administration, and the international community, operates.
Nevertheless, President Lee’s request rings truer than ever, given the bitter memories of life under the administration that has just been replaced.
The “independent diplomacy” advocated by former President Roh Moo-hyun for the past five years eventually turned the Korea-U.S. alliance upside down, while Korea-Japan relations remain deadlocked.
In the meantime, North Korea has even conducted nuclear tests.
Based on lessons learned the hard way, Lee is now ordering the ministry to roll out diplomacy based solely on pragmatism. The Foreign Ministry announced its three major goals ― diplomacy to strengthen national security, diplomacy to revive the economy and diplomacy to contribute to the international community.
In order to achieve these goals, the ministry said it would restore the Korea-U.S. alliance, expand diplomatic ties with resource-rich countries and expand efforts to forge free trade agreements with more countries.
These principles look fine at first sight, but it remains to be seen how the Foreign Ministry will correct problems caused by the former administration.
After all, how many times did the ministry look away to keep pace with the former administration’s ideological agenda?
Ministry officials have to ask themselves how many times they prioritized personal gain and the ministry’s political standing over the national interests.
And that is why President Lee expressed his frustration by telling the Foreign Ministry that it “did not perform its role.”
Diplomacy can never be achieved with words alone. Rather than try to avoid uncomfortable situations with pretty words and meaningless rhetoric and rather than talk about pragmatic diplomacy, show us tangible results.