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[Opinion] Bush’s Inner Circle

Posted May. 30, 2003 22:04,   


President Roh talked with George W. Bush on the phone four times already after he took office earlier this year. The latest phone conversation between the two, which took place in the evening of May 26, was reportedly made upon Roh`s request. The previous three were proposed by Bush. Is phone diplomacy between the two leaders, then, finding equal par? It is relieving that Roh seems to have gained confidence enough to initiate a call after the summit two weeks ago. The fact that the two leaders often talk to each other on the phone despite the time difference is a good sign for the relationship between the two countries.

The amicable relationship between the two was in fact hinted at the press conference held in the Rose Garden at the White House on May 14. Bush was wearing a smile as he listened to Roh. He was almost putting his arm around Roh`s shoulder and patting Roh`s back when the two entered and exited the garden. Although it would have been better for Roh to do the same to his U.S. counterpart, the scene was not bad at all. As Roh now says he was exaggerating a bit, speaking about his praising remarks during the visit, the friendly gesture must have influenced the mood in the White House. If Bush was not satisfied with the talks with the new South Korean president, however, he could not have acted that way.

Yet, it is not good enough. According to a New York Times report, Bush sets certain standards before he meets with a foreign visitor. He uses summit talks as an opportunity to build his inner circle of true allies. “Bush treats exceptionally well those leaders cooperating with his war campaigns against terror and fight to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, with the aim that clear signs that cooperation will pay off handsomely.” Exceptional treatment is having a meeting at Bush`s ranch or having a big dinner at the White House. It seems a long way for Roh, who just had his first summit with Bush, to become a part of the inner circle.

Some might oppose the idea of seeking a spot inside the Bush`s inner circle. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi were, in fact, criticized back at home for lopsided diplomacy although they won seats inside the circle. Considering the agenda Bush talks with his inner circle buddies, however, it is not just about a matter of dignity or humiliation. The key issue now is the North Korean nuclear program. You don’t have to bend your knees necessarily, but when it is a matter of who decides the fate of the peninsula, you at least have to try to avoid being an outsider if not more qualified for inner circle membership.

Bang Hyung-nam, Editorial Wirter, hnbhang@donga.com