America is too quick to criticize the AIIB, Powell says

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America is too quick to criticize the AIIB, Powell says

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Colin Powell, the former U.S. secretary of state, answers sensitive questions on April 25 from Kim Young-hie, a senior columnist for the JoongAng Ilbo, in an interview at the Trilateral Commission in Seoul. By Kim Choon-sik

Colin Powell, the former U.S. secretary of state and ex-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, is living proof that a man can rise from the depths of poverty. Born in Harlem, the son of an underprivileged Jamaican immigrant family, his rags-to-riches tale has garnered significant attention.

His life dramatically changed course when he joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) of the City College of New York. He distinguished himself as a honorable soldier when he was deployed to Vietnam, saving two comrades in combat.

In 1973 and 1974, he worked in South Korea as a battalion commander for the United States Forces Korea at a base in Dongducheon, northeastern Seoul. Between 1989 and 1993, he served as chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and became a Gulf War hero, leading the United States to victory in 1991. After 35 years of service, he retired from the military in 1993.

In 2001, Powell became the first African-American to hold the position of U.S. Secretary of State, setting a record by working under four presidents: Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

During his visit to Korea to attend the Trilateral Commission in Seoul on April 25, he sat down with the JoongAng Ilbo for an exclusive interview to tell his life story and explain his views on current events in Northeast Asia as well as North Korea.

The following are excerpts from the interview:



Q.In your biography, “My American Journey,” you said you have no regrets. But you were also referring to your most challenging moments. What were your best and toughest moments?

A. When I get this question I always have to think about it, because if I say, ‘That was my best,’ then something else is diminished. [Laughs] But I think one of the most challenging moments was when I was in Vietnam, my first engagement with the enemy.


Many people respect and admire you. But who is your role model?

There have been so many role models in my life. It’s hard to pick one. But if I had to identify anybody, it would be my parents. I was just a kid growing up in a very low income, not particularly good neighborhood, but my parents and other members of my family, aunts and uncles, told me that they had expectations for me. I had to do better than they did.


So you met their expectations.

Exactly. And didn’t bring shame on the family. For all of the youngsters in the family, you went to school not just to feel smarter, but to get a job. So education was all about getting a job. But I have to say that as I went through my career, many people came into my life. Some were senior, some were junior, and I had a lot of bosses I didn’t like, but I learned from all of them. So the role model could be a negative role model, as well as a positive role model. What I also learned is to do your best whether you like the job or not or whether you like your boss or not.


Your career in the military and diplomacy has been successful one. What made it so?

I worked hard, like a dog. I always tried to prepare myself for the position I had, the job I had, and whatever project I was working on. I always tried to show my boss complete loyalty, and let all of the people who work for me know that I appreciate what they do for me, I trusted them. What I like to use when I give speeches in leadership that a leadership has to be selfless. You always have to be thinking about what you are trying to accomplish for the organization and never be selfish. Every single day, I am doing my best. And if I do my best every day, then I’m satisfied. And you have to satisfy yourself before you satisfy anybody else. And if I did my best, someone is always watching.


Does that mean that you were always on alert or stressed?

Yeah . . . you’d better be alert all the time in the military.


Now my question will be a bit harder. Isn’t Washington encouraging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to get away without a sincere apology for imperialist Japan’s aggressions and its tendency toward historical revisionism?

I’m no longer part of the U.S. government. So it would be inappropriate for me to characterize what they are trying to communicate. My own view is that this is very a sensitive issue. Especially in terms of comfort women issue, it is extremely sensitive. And I know what Koreans would like to hear. But I’m trying to understand Mr. Abe’s problems and his saying at home. Once again, I think we should wait and see what he has to say at the Congress.


Is there any “Korea Fatigue” in Washington today?

I don’t think there is any fatigue. You won’t see any American politicians stand up and say, “Enough. We’re tired. We don’t want to support you.”


The U.S. and Japan are revising their defense guidelines and enhancing U.S.-Japan security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Are these measures aimed at restraining China’s rise?

I think they are based on something more fundamental. Because of its Constitution and the feelings of people, Japan has been reluctant to involve their military in international operations. And I think Prime Minister Abe has moved in a right direction and it is principally for self-defense. Should now it takes on a greater responsibility in a region and throughout the world, because it is a wealthy nation and is capable of military and it is part of international community. So what should not Japan consider taking on a larger role for international community?


Our concern is that you may be outsourcing security role too much to Japan.

We are not outsourcing anything. We are asking Japan to be a partner with us.


Korea-U.S.-Japan security cooperation is crucial for Asia-Pacific security for the United States, but Korea-Japan friction on history is standing on its way. Has Washington used up its clout or influence to have the two countries move toward the Modus vivendi?

This is not really an issue for the United States to resolve. This is an issue for two allies to resolve.


But the given security interest of the United States, you may want to put some pressure on Japan and/ or Korea.

One thing we have to be careful about is it is a delicate diplomatic matter. It is like a family disagreement. If you take the side of the husband, the wife gets mad. Sometimes, you get in the middle, sometimes you help and give an advice. But ultimately, the two parties have to resolve.


U.S. and North Korean issues have been in limbo for years. Has the Barack Obama administration lost interest in North Korea, including the nuclear problem?

I don’t think so. I don’t speak for the Obama Administration, but my own view watching and talking to people within the administration is not they lost the interest. It’s difficult to see way forward at the moment with this young leader who doesn’t seem to be acting very rationally. My own experience, I created the six-party frame work, and I have negotiated with North Koreans, and they are very difficult to pin down. They are always looking for advantage. Every time we moved forward, we offered something. And they grabbed it, but they didn’t give us anything in return.


President Obama’s policy in dealing with North Korea is known as “strategic patience.” Do you think strategic patience is a policy?

Yes. I always prefer to see if we can solve something through peaceful means, and strategic patience sometimes pays off. Strategic impatience is sometimes not helpful. If every time Kim Jong-un does something we start moving forces around, he enjoys that. So if I was back in the government right now, I would say “everybody relaxed.” When he does something, let’s not feel we have to constantly react.


There is consensus on Iran’s nuclear programs and sweeping changes are now under way with U.S.-Cuba relations. Will this affect relations between Washington and Pyongyang?

I don’t think so. I think if Iran gives up all in its nuclear program, I think that would be a great example to the world and North Korea, but I don’t think North Koreans would feel they have to do anything about it. I think they sit and are thinking, “if we didn’t have a nuclear weapon, no body would even answer our phone call.”


But do we have to talk to them?

Well, when I was the secretary, for first several months we talked to them. Then in 2002, by President George W Bush, I was sent to an Apec meeting in Brunei. I met with the North Korean foreign minister there and had a coffee. And I said, “You need to understand, please, President Bush has no hatreds of North Korea nor he has any fear of North Korea. President Bush is concerned of the welfare of North Koreans.” To help North Korean people, I created this six party frame work, but North Koreans frustrated us in return.


China has launched the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) along with its new maritime Silk Road plan. What’s your take on Xi
Jinping’s vision for China?


I think AIIB is a good proposal. I think America is too quick to criticize it. At the same time, we were criticizing so many of our friends with joining it. My view was “what’s wrong with this?” China has a wealth, an important position in Asia, and you can’t ignore this. Now the American administration should stop condemning it. China is now making incredible investments for Asia, Latin America, and other parts of the world. China is getting ready to invest $45 billion in transit from southern ports of Pakistan, all the way through connecting silkroad going through Russia. They will build roads, electricity, and communications. This is very impressive. How can I condemn it?


Aren’t you concerned about a Sino-centric world order?

China always has a view itself as centre of the world. But they have not been the nation that has been going around and invading people. When North Korean invaded the South, the car made through Incheon, the North Korean army started to go back, China didn’t do anything. With the end of the Cold War, economic development in all over the world, and lots of democratic nations doing well, it’s hard to say any nation can be the centric for the whole world anymore. It is not like the Cold War days when the two nations can say we are the centric of the world, the United States and the Soviet Union. I don’t think those days are here any more.


As you are well aware, Korea faces a dilemma in regard to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense [Thaad]. How would you convince China that the target of Thaad is not China, but North Korea?

This is an air defense missile. It is not an offensive weapon, not ballistic missile going toward China or Russia. The only possible sensible use for Patriot or Thaad is missiles coming from North Korea. Russia and China have always paranoid about their security. I remember when the Cold War was still on, with President Reagan, we went to visit Russia. And a Russian Marshal took out a map of the world and there was Russia with 11 times zones in the middle, and he said, “look how you are always surrounding us.” “Surround you? How can I surround you?” “You have bases in Japan, Germay, Korea, Turkey…and you have 12 aircraft carriers.“ I said, “You have 11 times zones. Our aircraft carriers might launch a few airplanes that could get more than a hundred miles since arriving in Russia..” But they have this fear of being surrounded. All the China has to do the same, looking the map, and think this [Thaad] is all for defending against North Korea.

BY KIM YOUNG-HIE [kim.heejin@joongang.co.kr]



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