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[Interview] Dr.Edwin Feulner, president of Heritage Foundation

[Interview] Dr.Edwin Feulner, president of Heritage Foundation

Posted February. 21, 2001 17:41,   


Dr.Edwin Feulner, president of the U.S. Heritage Foundation was responding by e-mail to questions from the Dong-a Ilbo ahead of his participation in an international forum in Seoul Thursday. The forum is to be held under the auspices of the Asia-Pacific Peace Foundation. The Heritage Foundation is a leading conservative think tank in the United States, known to be deeply involved in the foreign policy decisions of the Bush administration:-Ed.

Question: At the core of the foreign policy of the new Bush Administration will be military strength. President Bush wants to build national missile defense program in spite of oppositions from Russia and China. Europe and Asia are also reacting negatively to NMD in the fear of a sped-up arm race. Why is President Bush willing to go ahead with his missile program in spite of vehement decries from other nations? Do you think President Bush can find any compromising solution to quell allies` fears?

Answer: President Bush is committed to developing and deploying a defense against ballistic missiles. His commitment is based on an assessment of the expanding ballistic missile threat to U.S. and allied interests in Asia and elsewhere. As the ballistic missile threat continues to expand, the U.S. will have no choice but to provide some kind of defense against it. Much of the expression of concern about the Bush Administration`s determination to move forward with missile defenses among the allies, in my judgment, stems from the perception that the U.S. will deploy a missile defense system for the protection of its own territory, while leaving its allies vulnerable. This perception is inaccurate. President Bush wants to strengthen the relationships with U.S. allies. He can quell the fears of allies by proposing to deploy a global missile defense capability that will defend both the U.S. and its allies on essentially equal terms. This global capability will include sea-based and space-based components, in addition to land-based components.

Q: The recent statement of Deputy Secretary of State nominee Richard Armitage that the phrase `sunshine policy` should be dropped in the diplomatic circle has caused a havoc in South Korea. You would probably know that a large part of President Kim Dae-Jung`s Nobel Peace Prize last year can be attributed to his `sunshine policy.` Is it safe to say that Mr. Armitage`s statement carries a meaningful shift in US position in dealing with North Korea?

A: Deputy Secretary of State designee Richard Armitage has stated that the Bush Administration will continue to support Kim Dae Jung`s engagement or "sunshine policy" towards North Korea. The Bush Administration applauds Kim Dae Jung on his Nobel Peace Prize and supports President Kim`s efforts to work towards peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. The Bush Administration will also work to further relations with North Korea within the general parameters of the 1994 Agreed Framework. Armitage has, however, indicated that the US will also insist on making certain that the North comply with its responsibilities and duties as outlined in the Agreed Framework, and to live up to other pledges and promises the North has made. The Bush Administration will insist on reciprocal moves by the North to conciliatory gestures made by the ROK, the US and its allies, and the Administration will also work diligently to push North Korea to draw down its conventional armed forces on the border, and to provide verifiable proof of non-proliferation of the North`s missile and nuclear programs.

Q: Secretary of State Colin Powell mentioned that US relations with North Korea must be based on `reciprocity.` What does that mean? Some security experts analyze that the US is willing to play a `bad cop` role in dealing with North Korea, while delegating South Korea to the role of a `good cop.` What changes in US position can we expect in missile negotiations with North Korea?

A: When the Bush administration talks about reciprocity in the context of relations with North Korea, they are not talking about some artificial, pre-arranged, "good-cop, bad-cop" routine with South Korea. The United States and South Korea have common interests on the Korean Peninsula, but in some cases the policy approaches of each side may have some variance. Instead of "bad cop" the U.S. should to continue to pursue policies on the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia that reflect its role as the "honest broker" in the region. What "reciprocity" means is building a relationship based on a mutual exchange of actions that contributes to the building of cooperation and trust. This means that the US would like to see concrete responses by North Korea to initiatives from the South and its allies. Such responses should reflect mutual cooperation and contribute substantively to the reduction of tensions on the peninsula. For instance, a genuine, open exchange of

families who were separated by the war that is not a controlled group picked by North Korea. And the United States would like to see Kim Jong-Il keep his word and visit South Korea. Most important, since some 37,000 American military personnel are risking their lives and living separate from their families to guarantee the security of South Korea, the United States would like to see substantive action on the part of North Korea to reduce the

military forces deployed along the demilitarized zone against South Korean and US forces.

Q: Former Secretary of State James Baker recently recommended in an exclusive interview with the Dong-A Daily News that US policy toward North Korea be based on three principles - 1)Bolstering relations with South Korea 2)Prohibiting the expansion of mass destruction weapons of North Korea 3)Certifying all agreements with North Korea in written forms. Do you expect the Bush team to stick to these rules?

A: These three principles outlined by Secretary Baker provide a solid and fundamental basis for the Bush Administration`s Korean peninsula policy and are essential to ensuring the success of the engagement policy. The ROK has been and will continue to be one of the most important American allies in Asia. Continuation of this close and special relationship which began a half century ago and was cemented by the blood of tens of thousands of Americans who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the South Korean people, and will continue to be a priority of US foreign policy in Asia. Ensuring non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is critical to US global policy and has implications far beyond the Asia region. Finally, insisting on written agreements by North Korea is prudent policy and contributes to the principle of reciprocity.

Q: The Bush Administration raised concerns about the reduction of conventional military forces of North Korea. Do they pose as serious a threat to regional security as nuclear weapons or missiles?

A: The dangerous deployment of large numbers of North Korean infantry, armor, artillery and rockets along the border with South Korea presents a constant and credible threat to peace and stability on the Peninsula. The conventional forces of North Korea may not have the ability to project themselves into the region as do the ballistic missile and nuclear weapons capability in the North, but they are equally dangerous. In the event North Korea starts another war, missile and nuclear forces may well be used against targets in Japan and Guam to interdict supporting logistics sites or other US forces. Thus, both the conventional and nuclear/missile forces of North Korea are dangerous. Moreover, North Korea`s willingness to use special operations forces for clandestine insertions into South Korea and to kidnap people or perform other terrorist acts is dangerous behavior that must be stopped.

Q: President Kim Jong-Il of North Korea has recently visited China for the second time in two years. He seemed very impressed by Shanghai`s smooth integration of capitalism under its socialist fabric. Do you think President Kim will try to accept, though limitedly, capitalistic economic activities in his own country in the foreseeable future?

A: I believe that Chairman Kim Jong-Il is carefully examining his options about initiating some privatization and controlled market incentives in the economy. Remember that market mechanisms were introduced in China over an extended and controlled period beginning in 1978. I would not expect a rapid commercialization or privatization to take place in North Korea. Instead, I would expect some experimentation in government-private joint ventures and some gradual shift to market mechanisms. To answer your question directly, in the foreseeable future I do expect Kim Jong-Il to permit a limited shift to a market economy. It may be deceptive to view Kim Jong-Il`s indication of interest in economic reform as a signal of fundamental weakness. Rather, it is likely that he has consolidated his power and is in greater control of his regime than at any time since he assumed power. He is most likely contemplating restructuring of the North Korea economy because he feels secure of his ability to control the outcome, and because he knows he needs to look at the market alternative favorably.

Q: Recently Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld mentioned that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty between the US and the former Soviet Union is "ancient history." Vice President Dick Cheney also said that the treaty ought not to inhibit a country from building defensive missile capabilities. Won`t the possible US withdrawal from the treaty lead to confrontation with Russia?

A: Secretary Rumsfeld was correct in describing the ABM Treaty as "ancient history." Not only does the strategic environment for which the treaty was drafted no longer exist, the country with which the treaty was signed also no longer exists. When the Soviet Union collapsed in late 1991, the ABM Treaty became void by force of international law. Thus, there is no treaty to abrogate. Regarding Russia, it has never been a party to the ABM Treaty. Certainly, it is possible that Russia will complain if the Bush Administration opts to discontinue the Clinton Administration policy of observing ABM Treaty restrictions on a unilateral basis. I believe, however, that the U.S. should be willing to address legitimate Russian security concerns at negotiations that take place outside the legal context of the ABM Treaty. The earlier Bush Administration was engaged in such talks with Russia in 1992, called the Defense and Space Talks, before the Clinton Administration terminated them. The Defense and Space Talks should be revived and the U.S. and Russia can use them to seek a common understanding about the deployment of missile defenses.

Q: Some of Bush`s advisers have said that President Bush won`t devote as much time as his predecessor Clinton did to fostering nation-building in places like the Balkans. However, outgoing Secretary of State Madeline Albright has warned that it`s impossible for the US to just close its eyes to what`s going on in the world. Is the Bush Administration willing to focus on key countries like Russia and China at the expense of smaller hot spots? How will the `big powers` policy of the Bush Administration play on the global stage?

A: This sets up an artificial choice: that not committing troops to many operations around the world means closing one`s eyes to what is going on in the world. This is not true. Other tools of U.S. foreign policy can be used in smaller hot spots. Furthermore, to the extent that it does not detract from war fighting abilities, the United States can help support its allies in operations that those allies feel are important. The point is that The United States military can do one thing that no nation on Earth can do: deter large-scale aggression in regions of vital national interest and win wars should deterrence fail. But it can not do that alone and it certainly can not do so if it is stretched out all over the world in operations other than warfare. This is why the United States armed forces must concentrate on war fighting. If in the above question, by "time" it is meant "military resources", then I do not think Bush will focus as much "time" on "fostering nation-building". But if by "time" it is meant "diplomatic energy", then I think Bush will spend adequate "time". Certainly, however, Bush`s foreign policy team will understand how different nations affect the United States and will prioritize how it expends its foreign policy capital accordingly.

The key to a successful national security strategy for the Bush Administration is for it to be part of a coherent foreign policy based on national interest. It must understand that the United States is the most powerful nation in the world, but God does not ordain its power. To maintain that power the United States must nurture its alliances and expend its limited resources wisely to protect its interests, while its friends and allies take the lead in protecting less important regional interests. This policy will prevent large-scale war from erupting in any region of vital national interest, which should be the ultimate goal of any foreign policy.

I think it is fair to say the new Bush team will be skeptical of nation-building (see the last decades writings of Powell, Rice, and Cheney), avoiding as Cheney said "sending the military into [intractable] situations because we can`t think of anything else to do." But I do not necessarily think a great powers strategy will supersede the dying doctrine of humanitarian intervention. While a geopolitical approach will be more in evidence, I think that strengthening alliances will form the core of the new global strategy. For example, rather than flying past Tokyo to meet with Beijing, the Bush team will spend more time shoring up the long-established US-Japan relationship, and ties with pro-US members of ASEAN. In Europe this means worrying less about the Russians and more about recalibrating NATO to meet the needs of the post-cold war era, as well as establishing an alliance based missile system, with the input of the western Europeans.

Q: At the State Department, many high-level posts are yet to be filled. Some people worry that the US-South Korea Summit won`t produce any tangible results because of power vacuum. What is your assessment?

A: As you know, the transition period between the Clinton and Bush administrations was drastically shortened due to the unusual circumstances of this past election. As such, the Bush Administration has had a very short period of time to get into place all the staff of the various agencies that coordinate foreign policy. Nevertheless, President Bush has already selected with admirable efficiency all the key members of his staff, and so there is no power vacuum. In addition, the basic orientation of US foreign policy is set by the President, the Secretaries of State and Defense, and the National Security Adviser. I believe that there can and will be tangible results from a U.S.- ROK summit. The two presidents will be able to coordinate their policies toward the North, and to consult on common matters such as financial reform and transparency, the continuance of the consultation process with Japan, and policies toward Taiwan and China.

Q: There has been a growing interest in the role of think tanks in shaping national policies in South Korea. US Presidents and think tanks across the political spectrum have been closely collaborating since the early 20th century. To what extent the policy proposals of think tanks are expected to get reflected in the Bush agenda?

A: In the American policy-making process, think tanks play a vital role by developing innovative ideas for national, state, and local governments. The Heritage Foundation has been very successful in communicating its ideas to presidents and Members of Congress representing both major political parties. Heritage has gained prominence on U.S.-Korea policy because its papers and studies are taken very seriously by U.S. officials, and read carefully by journalists and business leaders for their insights and recommendations. Of course, other Washington think tanks and research institutes will also distribute their reports to the Bush administration. But we expect Heritage`s proposals and views to receive special consideration because Heritage is seen as especially knowledgeable and effective, and maintains close ties to those in The White House and Congress who will make the final policy decisions.

Q: It is widely expected that the Heritage Foundation, as one of leading conservative think tanks in Washington, will affect the policies of the Bush Administration in meaningful ways. What policy proposals has Heritage made to the administration?

A: We have very recently published and delivered to the White House our book "Priorities for the President." It is also available on our website: www.heritage.org

This manual provides a guide to the key issues that we feel are the most important priorities of the new administration, namely: health care reform, social security and Medicare, tax policy, free trade, welfare, education, military readiness, missile defense, and foreign relations.

Chung Mi-Kyoung mickey@donga.com