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Growing Deterioration in South Korea-U.S. Relations

Posted February. 17, 2003 22:21,   


The core at the U.S. plans for sanctions against North Korea, which was reported by the New York Times, can be interpreted that Washington will stringently cut off money sent to North Korea.

Although the U.S. expressed its willingness to put more weights on diplomatic solutions to the latest nuclear standoff between the U.S. and North Korea by putting more pressures on Pyongyang, there is a subtle difference in the position taken by the South Korean government that is emphasizing diplomatic solutions through resuming talks between the U.S. and North Korea.

That`s why the President-elect Roh Moo-hyun`s camp is showing a cautious action by saying that it is unnecessary to immediately respond to the U.S. press report. The President Roh Moo-hyun will take office one week later.

In response, a key official at the Roh`s camp said, “The President-elect`s fundamental position regarding the latest U.S-North nuclear standoff is to settle the issue peacefully through dialogue. At this moment, the Seoul government has not been officially notified of the U.S. sanction plan against the North, and the issue is a thing that should be discussed and fine-tuned with the U.S. administration after the new administration is inaugurated Feb.25.”

The new administration under the leadership of Roh Moo-hyun, who will take office Feb.25, faces battles ahead. Along with the settlement of the nuclear standoff caused by the North, Roh`s administration is faced with taunting tasks to be done, such as redefining the South Korea-U.S alliance and relocating or reducing U.S. forces in Korea.

However, in the event that if the U.S. starts placing an emphasis on sanctions against the North as a means to end the nuclear standoff, mending ties with the U.S. is likely to emerge as a pressing issue the new government has to address promptly other than the settlement of the North Korea`s nuclear issue.

On the South Korea`s economic support for the communist country, the President-elect Feb.13 made it clear, “If necessary, the Seoul government will offer more economic aids to the North than what the Kim Dae-jung`s government has provided. Although there are some difficulties expected if the U.S. opposes to the idea, Koreans should demonstrate a firm resolve concerning economic support for North Korea.” Unlike the U.S, which seems to move to stop providing food aids to the North, the Roh`s government seems to take a different approach to deal with the North.

Experts analyzed that since chances are slim that the New York Times-reported U.S. plans for sanctions against North Korea are put into action, the level of deterioration in relations between Seoul and Washington is not causing an immediate concern on the Korean Peninsular. Despite of that, Tailored sanction, which is a modified version of tailored containment circulated in the media for a while, is drawing an attention. The tailored sanction is demonstrating the U.S. intentions of putting maximum pressures on North Korean with two options, dialogue or sanction, on the table. Fortunately, as neighboring counties, including Russia and China, are expressing their oppositions to place sanctions against North Korea, the U.S. is expected to face some difficulties in pushing forward with the plan.

And yet, many analysts believe that the U.S. is moving to focus on cutting off money sent to the North, because it took into consideration the view of U.S. hardliners who insisted that the Hyundai`s secret cash payment was diverted to buy weapons.

On the other hand, it seems that the U.S. is showing its strong opposition of providing financial supports for the North to the new government in Seoul, by sending a strong “warning” message that the Seoul government should not provide the North with cash.

Young-Sik Kim spear@donga.com