Every congressman countsWhen reporters asked about U.S. Senator and minority whip Dick Durbin’s controversial comment on June 1, Blue House National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong said, “We cannot respond to the remarks of each U.S. Senator.” He was referring to the press report that Senator Durbin said if South Korea didn’t want the Thaad missile system, the United States can easily spend the money some other place. Chung is absolutely right. The Blue House cannot, and has no reason to, respond to each and every member of the U.S. Congress, 100 senators and 435 congressmen. While responses to individual opinions may be unnecessary, he hopefully didn’t mean to say that each and every one of the members is not important.
For instance, the importance of individual members was seen with the resolution on “comfort women,” which the U.S. House of Representatives passed in 2007. The resolution demanded the apology of the Japanese government, and while it began with the efforts of victims who moved the international community, it was made possible by the congressmen who pushed for the resolution. Congressmen Ed Royce, currently the chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Charles Rangel and Mike Honda lifted the banner and created the driving force to get through the resistance of the Japanese government and the protests of pro-Japan groups in the United States.
The U.S. Congress has already made a conclusion. On April 3, a resolution condemning North Korea’s development of multiple ICBMs was passed with 398 votes in support and three in opposition. It states that the House of Representatives welcomed the deployment of the Thaad system. If an environmental impact assessment delays the deployment, it is essential to explain the situation to the U.S. Congress to avoid an unnecessary misunderstanding.
Each and every member of Congress is important because of the cost of the Thaad system. As President Donald Trump is cornered because of the Russia scandal, he is likely to use Thaad expenses as proof of his accomplishment of “America First” policy. Here, the Korean government’s channel to persuade the United States is Congress. We need to inform members of Congress, one by one, that Korea is deploying Thaad despite China’s economic retaliations — and convince them that the cost should not our alliance.
One thing some American politicians worry about is whether the new Korean administration will reverse the Thaad deployment. We have a clear answer on how to respond. The Trump administration may be unpredictable and ignores past agreements, but the Moon Jae-in administration respects agreements and is predictable. It may take time, but we can prove it.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 5, Page 29
*The author is the Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.