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[Editorial] Independence May become Fragile without Alliance

[Editorial] Independence May become Fragile without Alliance

Posted January. 16, 2004 23:23,   


The Dong-A Ilbo published a series of New Year special articles that examined the true picture of the U.S.-ROK alliance and compared this situation to that of northeast Asia 100 years ago. The object of the articles was to suggest ways that we can maintain and strengthen our sovereignty in the rigorous international environment. I believe that President Roh Moo-hyun, the chief of South Korea’s foreign policy, also desires to stabilize our diplomatic situation in the international environment. However, the people are getting very anxious about the consequences of President Roh’s sudden dismissal of Foreign Affairs-Trade Minister Yoon Young-kwan.

President Roh said that he dismissed Yoon because he did not understand or share the philosophy of the participatory government’s foreign policy. But what is the real intention behind Cheong Wa Dae’s firing of Yoon who led South Korea’s foreign policy for the past year and drawing a line between dependent foreign policies and independent foreign policies?

In the meantime, Cheong Wa Dae strongly argues that the National Security Council has no conflicts with the foreign ministry. So is Cheong Wa Dae not responsible for creating such confusion? When will Cheong Wa Dae stop avoiding its mounting criticisms?

Disputes are escalating because the government defined the concept of independent foreign policy practices as the autonomous U.S.-dependent foreign policy practices. In other words, one can say that the South Korean government wants to have a considerable diplomatic distance from the United States and is willing to bear the conflicts inflicted because of its foreign policies decisions.

But we have to be conscious of the reality and the situation that South Korea is posed in the contemporary history. South Korea’s alliance with the United States has very special significance. Most of the major diplomatic issues since the launch of the participatory government, including North Korean nuclear crisis, dispatch of Korean soldiers to Iraq, relocation of the U.S. forces stationed in Korea were all connected to the U.S.-ROK alliance. If the government throws away existing foreign policy practices consolidated based on the past 50 years of the U.S.-ROK alliance for the sake of national interests, it may make a dramatic change in our diplomatic ties with the U.S.

As China and Japan are competing each other for supremacy over northeast Asia, the U.S.-ROK alliance is essential in realizing our long-cherished desire of the two Koreas’ unification. How can the government be so sure that it can protect its national interests in the international order where the law of the jungle applies? Yoon’s remark that he

emphasized in his farewell address about his time in office that practical relationship with the United States is different from blindly following the United States, tacitly criticizing some of government officials who insist on romantic, irrational, independent foreign policy.

Because of many internal environmental changes, the alliance between South Korea and the United States is in a critical moment. However, President Roh seems to be inordinately relaxed. For instance, he blindly said during his New Year address that “South Korea is having the strongest ties with the U.S. than at anytime before.” He also drew an indiscreet conclusion, saying it is an antique thought to insist that the U.N. headquarters of South Korea should remain in Seoul. But the president does not seem to be aware of the real motive of the U.S. military base and U.N. headquarters’ relocation plan, which is raising anti-U.S. sentiments. So, isn’t the President Roh’s remark threatening Korea’s security without any thoughts of the reality?

It is time to draw a blueprint for the next 50 years of the U.S.-ROK alliance. It is not the right time to emphasize (U.S.) independent foreign policy without considering the reality. Although it may be the president maneuvering to unite politicians against pro-American policies for the coming general elections, he should now face the reality and settle the chaos he created. For us, independence without alliance is too early to discuss.